I've been chatting recently to a couple of author friends of mine, and we've been discussing the Dreaded Second Novel. 

In case you've not heard of Second Novel Syndrome, it strikes an author whose first book is taken on, published, made a fuss of  - and then the crowds melt away, and suddenly the author is left with a blank computer screen and the expectation that they will be able to pull the rabbit out of the hat once more.

They panic.  They panic because their audience (now that they have one that's larger than their immediate family) want the same, only different.  They want what they liked in the first book to be in the second book, but they don't want an identikit book, they'd like some different bits, but they couldn't tell you what different bits.

If the second novel is too samey, the audience complain 'this author only knows how to write one book.'  If the second novel goes in too much of a different direction, the audience sulk 'this isn't the sort of book I was expecting from this author.'

It's enough to make you panic isn't it?  My advice to authors in this situation is simple to give (and probably impossible to follow).  Don't worry about your audience - just write the book.

The second problem starts at this point.  The author can't understand why the first book came out so easily and the second book is so DAMN HARD TO WRITE.

(this last comment may just possibly have been shouted at me in response to that sage piece of advice...)

There is a reason for this, and this is why this is relevant to all you authors out there who are thinking sourly that this is the sort of problem they would love to have.  

The first novel is the one you've sweated over.  You had the idea in a bar on holiday one evening, then you scribbled thoughts on various napkins.  You told your friends you had a great idea for a novel and would write it one day.

A couple of years later, you opened a shiny new folder on the computer (or bought several smooth new notebooks) and got started.  

You wrote.  You rewrote.  You swore a lot and drank a lot of coffee/tea/gin.  You changed main characters, you changed genres, you threw half of it away.

Eventually it started to look right to you - and you sent it out.  An agent took it on, a publisher took it on, and there you were - a Proper Author.

Time has made you forget the process and how much hard work you'd put into this first book that you didn't know you were doing.  All those nights lazily thinking through plot options and why your character wasn't doing what you expected her to do - they were all work.

Now you're under pressure with book two, you don't have the luxury of time, but you still need to put your writing through all the various different stages, go through all the processes of refining and redrafting.

The bottom line is - even if you throw away an entire day's work because it's not the end result you want - all time spent writing is time spent learning how to write, and learning how to edit.

So if you're writing and not yet published, remember this is all good training.  If you're writing That Second Novel, be kind to yourself - you just need to speed up the process a little - but remember, you're not alone, most authors go through this - and most come out the other side!