Google analytics is a wonderful thing.Â It provides statistics on how my website is used, including letting me see what search terms have led people to my site.Â One browser got here after entering â€œUnder Siege 3â€ and was no doubt disappointed to find that, no, Steven Seagal has not begun filming the long-awaited third chapter of the Under Siege saga.Â Â But my favorite so far: â€œBeautiful full breasts.â€Â (Apparently Iâ€™m not the only one who thinks â€œfullâ€ is the best way to describe breasts.) Â That search called up my third blogâ€”â€œBeautiful, smiling breastsâ€â€”but apparently this browser also didnâ€™t find what he (Iâ€™m assuming this was a guy) was looking for.Â He spent zero seconds on my site.
Now just to be clear, when I wrote my third blog, I wasnâ€™t planning on attracting guys with an interestâ€”aesthetic, lascivious, or otherwiseâ€”in breasts.Â But any writing is apt to produce unexpected consequences, which brings me to todayâ€™s topic: the curse of the second novel.Â So often authorsâ€™ second novels are a let-down when compared to the first, and this is especially true regarding genre fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, or historical fiction.Â I will refrain from naming names (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), but I will say that dozens of second novels have left me wondering: how did this happen?Â What went wrong?
Well, now I know.Â Writers can spend years (five, in my case) working on their first novel.Â No one pays you, but on the other hand, there are no deadlines.Â You have time, and time is wonderfully helpful when it comes to straightening out plot and developing characters.Â Just to take one example, Aravind Adigaâ€”author of one of the best books I have read in some time, The White Tigerâ€”completed his first draft in 2005, took over a year off, then finally finished in 2007.Â Time made his book great.Â In my case, the first draft of Siege had only a vague resemblance to the finished version.Â Some characters and plotlines were dropped, others were added.Â The back stories of Longo and Williamâ€”two of the main charactersâ€”changed dramatically.Â The initial battle scene shrank by sixty-five pages.Â Five chapters disappeared.Â And all of that happened because I had time.
Then, I sold Siege.Â During negotiations with the publisher, my agent asked me how long it would take me to write my second novel.Â I suggested two years.Â Too long, he said.Â A year and a half is the maximum.Â The second book needs to come out soon enough so that the paperback edition of the first novel can include advertising for the second.Â In the end, I signed up to write my second novel in one year.Â I was beginning to understand the curse of the second novel.
Now, one year is in fact plenty of time to write a wonderful novel.Â That isnâ€™t the problem.Â The problem is that first time novelists have not yet learned how to write a wonderful novel that fast.Â With their first novel, they had time to work out any kinks.Â They could pick up the novel and put it down.Â They could go through dozens of drafts.Â With the second novel, they have to learn to write and edit much faster, and they are learning on the fly.Â This is a good problem to have: I can still hardly believe that Iâ€™m getting paid to write.Â And itâ€™s a challenge that Iâ€™m having great fun tackling.Â But itâ€™s also a problem that many authors fail to solve, at least on the first attemptâ€”hence the curse of the second novel.
Will I be able to overcome the curse?Â So far, I think Iâ€™m in good shape, but thereâ€™s only one way to find out for sure: buy Eagle: Book One of the Saladin Trilogy, coming in May 2011!Â Now that Iâ€™m done with that piece of shameless self-promotion, allow me to put in a plug for next weekâ€™s blog: What exactly do editors do?