Second Book Syndrome is Real

NaNoWriMo kicked my butt this year, and the reason for that is because I’m trying to write the second installment of my Mythical Menagerie series.

While the first story flowed from my fingertips as if Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, was whispering in my ear, writing this second one is like trying to wade through a pool of neck-deep mud. I’ve heard about Second Book Syndrome, where the second book just doesn’t live up to the greatness of the first, and I’ve even read my share of sequels that were really very bad, but now I’m experiencing it for myself and I have nothing but commiseration for those authors whose second attempts have disappointed me in the past.

The things is, the story is planned and plotted and I’m happy with the character progression and the themes, but oh my word, the magic that made that first story so much fun to write is just not there this time! Every phrase I write is awkward, every word feels misplaced, and all my inherent sense of humour that seeped through the voice of book one is gone.

It’s a disaster.

And this is the reason why NaNo will fall by the wayside this year with less than 5k words under my belt. The point of NaNo is to write as fast as possible and as badly as needed to get the story out. But that’s not working for me this year. I don’t want to end up with a hastily written manuscript that needs to be scrapped and redone completely. Too much is at stake for me to spend months fixing writing that just isn’t good enough and was only tossed onto a page to meet an arbitrary word count.

I can’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

So while it would have been wonderful to have another NaNo success to my name, it would be even better to have a good story I can publish and feel proud of instead.

Frustrated Writer | © Alberta Johnson / Flickr

My plan to combat Second Book Syndrome is to start over completely (at least some of that 4k-odd words are salvageable), this time taking the time to have the characters and setting infuse my writing. If it takes a little longer to get it right, so be it.

But get it right, I will.

Have you heard of Second Book Syndrome? Have you read a second book that disappointed you so much because the first one was amazing and this one just didn’t live up to your expectations? Do you move on to the third book if the second one was bad?

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