Lessons I Learned From Writing My Second Novel

25th January 2021
8 min read
27th January 2021
Kings of a Dead World book cover

Five years ago my debut novel, The Zoo, was released to critical acclaim. I was made an Amazon rising star and lots of people said very nice things about it. I wrote an article for this website detailing the ten most important lessons I’d learned from my journey. My second novel is due to be released in June 2021 and I’ve learned a lot along the route to its publication, so I’m back again to share my experiences for those of you following the same journey.


1 - The second novel is hard


There’s a cliche about the difficult second album, it’s an enduring myth in the world of music, because, well it’s true.

You put your heart and soul into producing something exciting and interesting for your debut effort, then you’ve got to do it all over again.

The first novel is often built in a world you know about, or people you know, or personal knowledge.

And while all novels are mined from your cumulative experience, the second one by necessity has to pull you out the comfort zone of the familiar, and this is a unique pressure of its own.


2 - Don’t overdo it


This is related to the above, but the temptation is to go big.

I talk from bitter experience. I went so big with this one that the first draft was 250,000 words and structurally so complicated that I painted myself into a corner.

There’s a phrase one of my clients uses that’s bizarre, but pertinent - stick to the knitting.

Apparently it means to stick to what you know best and in this case it’s writing a novel. I tried to overcomplicate things and set myself all sorts of hurdles that I didn’t need to.

I just needed to understand the best way to tell the story I needed to tell. Easy to say in hindsight.


3 -Don’t rest on your laurels


You’ve worked on your debut novel for 1, 2, 3 years, maybe longer, and you’ve been honing your skills for much longer.

Then all of a sudden you’ve made it.

It’s in your hands and it’s a thing of beauty.

Then suddenly you’re doing radio interviews, speaking to journalists, writing on blogs and doing festivals and before you know it a year has passed and you’ve not written anything else.

And it looms large in your head and you talk yourself into writers block and the longer it goes on the harder it gets.

Don’t let it.

It takes 18 months to get published from when your first book is accepted - use this to write, write and write more.


4 - This is the start of your journey not the end


It’s easy to build up the idea getting your first book published to such a degree that you can forget that there’s anything after it.

Getting your novel published was the Holy Grail and then you found it...

Only you didn’t. The Holy Grail is actually a sustained writing career, so move your goal posts and think longer term.


5 - Consider your author brand


Which leads me onto my next point.

Consider what sort of writer you want to be. Are you a genre writer? Are you a literary writer? Are you a Matt Haig or Peter Carey who can turn their hand to anything?

This will not only help your publisher market you, but will also help you plan what you want to work on next.

Jamie Mollart author pic

6 - You know what to expect


When you’re trying to get published it seems like there are barriers all around you designed to stop you.

It seems like a mysterious closed house.

But now you’re inside it, you know the processes and so there’s nothing to surprise you.

You know how much work you need to put in once you’ve submitted your work.  Use this knowledge to your advantage and concentrate on the things you need to.


7 -  The editing process is even better this time round


Full disclaimer - I love the editing process.

This time though I found the whole thing exhilarating. To my point above it might be because I knew what to expect and knew the end point, but I really enjoyed the whole thing.

There was a real pleasure in watching the book develop over each round of edits.



8 - The novelty doesn’t wear off


I thought it might, but thankfully it doesn’t. The joy is still there when your publisher accepts it. When you get the first round of edits back. When you see the cover for the first time. When you get the first pass of the print proof.

I’ve not got the ARC copy in my grubby paws yet, but I can’t wait.


9 - A book takes on a life of its own when it is born into the world.


One of the biggest pleasures that can be derived from being a published author is seeing other people’s reaction to your novel.

Reviews, good and bad, are exciting because it’s people taking what you’ve written seriously and considering what you’ve got to say.

But even better than that is reader feedback. Be it on Amazon, Goodreads, social media or in person.

I discovered that writing is a team sport. Strange because the first part happens inside your head, then as a lonely process as you get the words down. Then all of a sudden your characters exist in other people’s heads and they have an opinion about them.

I’ve spoken to people at events who saw certain parts of the book and character motivations entirely differently to me. Who picked up on subplots and nuances that surprised me. Who identified connections to the real world that I hadn’t considered.

Your novel suddenly exists in a context other than your own mind, and it’s a wonderful feeling.


10 - Develop your craft


I’ve read The Zoo, or parts of it, hundreds of times now. I’ve picked up on little foibles that I have as a writer, words I tend to overuse and parts of it that made it harder to read out loud because of word choice.

I banked all of this and took it into Kings of a Dead World and I think it’s a better book because of it

Every day is a school day and all that. Writing is a craft as much as it is a creative exercise. See each novel as a chance to become a better storyteller and writer.


11 - Carry on enjoying it.


The second novel feels different. It’s not a fluke any more.

I feel more of a writer now because I’ve got two published novels. Crazy I know, but part of me always thought The Zoo was a one off, that I’d somehow lucked it out of me, and Kings of a Dead World is personal validation that I can do it more than once.

You’re a writer, it’s your vocation, and it's amazing.


Jamie Mollart runs his own advertising company, and has won awards for marketing. Over the years he has been widely published in magazines, been a guest on some well-respected podcasts and blogs, and Patrick Neate called him 'quite a writer' on the Book Slam podcast. He is married and lives in Leicestershire with his family. He's a member of the newly launched Climate Fiction Writers League, a group of global authors all raising awareness about climate change through their writing.

His debut novel, The Zoo, was on the Amazon Rising Stars 2015 list.

His second novel, Kings of a Dead World will be published on June 10 2021

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