Leaping from Book One to Book Two

Now that your debut book is FINALLY well on its way to becoming a reality (WHEW!) you can sit back, breathe a sigh of relief, and ……jump into that second book like your life depended on it.

Because it does.  Your writer life, that is.

So I thought I would share how it’s going with me, and, well, maybe you can relate.

Here is the pitch for my WIP, my hoped for second book, a contemporary middle grade adventure spiked with humor:

Procrastination Pete must complete his science project during Spring Break at a castle where proving that a ghost doesn’t exist involves more than he bargains for. 

This idea evolved from a visit to the family castle.  Well, let me explain that just a little.  My husband’s cousin is a baron in Switzerland because his mother married into the lineage.  The castle actually belongs to the Swiss government but the family has full use of it as their “summer cottage.” (That’s my name for it, not necessarily theirs.)   We, being the distant over-the-pond American relatives, were invited to stay there for a family reunion, and after that, I knew I had to use it in a book. I’m currently fiddling with the plot line for the third time, but I’ll keep at it because the setting is just too fun not to use.

Well, maybe I’ll keep at it.  Or maybe I won’t.  Right now.

You see, my debut book, Crazy, (Eerdmans/October 2014) is written in verse and set in the sixties, about a teenage girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness. That book evolved out of poems I wrote as a cathartic exercise to work through my emotional response to the events in my teen years.

I had given it a fleeting thought that book one and book two would probably slide away from each other on the shelf if they ever landed there next to each other.  But, I do love that delicious castle setting and the thought of writing in a humorous tone after being immersed in a subject matter of such serious content for so long seems tempting.  So I forged ahead, choosing not to worry about the bigger picture at the moment.

Then I had a conversation with a fellow writer who has read some of my work and who was kind enough to pass on some wisdom she gleaned from her editor. She challenged me to stop and strategize for a minute.  Is it the most prudent idea to follow up a debut book with a second book so totally different in every way?  Would it not make better sense to write a second book in the same vein as the first?  In my case, that would probably translate into a book in verse dealing with another serious subject matter.  Not to imply that my work is anywhere as great as Ellen Hopkins’ work, but I love how she well established her brand by writing numerous books in verse, each about an equally riveting topic.

The argument makes sense.  There is the time and energy we put into establishing our brand, marketing to a certain audience, cultivating a readership.  In a sense, as my friend pointed out, going in such an opposite direction with the second book would be like starting all over again as a new author.  I would be leaping from YA to MG, serious literary to humorous adventure, historical to contemporary.  Not just one aspect, but every aspect of the second book would be different.

Given this line of thinking, I have some choices.  I don’t know about you, but I always breathe better with choices.  I could finish up the MG castle story soon, before I lose my train of thought, and nestle it safely into that drawer we all keep for work that needs bed rest.  And then I could jump right into another YA book that would look more like a cousin than an alien next to my debut book.  Once that is securely on its way to being my second book, I could dive back into the drawer, resuscitate the castle story, and make it my third book.

Or, I could forge ahead with the castle book as my second and enjoy all the spice that variety in life affords!  I could take my chances and find out first hand how easy or difficult it is to jump from YA to MG, serious to humorous.  Who knows?  It might be more fun than writers should be allowed to have. (heh, heh)

Or, I could figure out some way to use that lovely castle setting in the next serious YA book in verse, or another book down the road.  If we keep good records and always make sure we have plenty of drawer space, we writers can get pretty handy about recycling our little darlings, right?

Well, I know this is my problem, not yours, but I’d love to hear about it if you’ve had similar thoughts or conversations about the move from book one to book two.  If you are luckier than I, maybe you have an editor or agent, like my friend, who has already done some of this strategizing for you.  If not, here’s hoping you have devised your own grand scheme and are happily on the way with your second or third book, feeling confident that you are headed in the right direction.

Ya gotta admit, it’s a fascinating journey no matter which way you turn.  Here’s hoping we can all make that leap without so much as skinning a knee!

Linda Vigen Phillips lives in Charlotte but never got over being a native Oregonian. She still goes gaga over mountains with Ponderosa pines and oceans that roar. She is a mother of twins, grandmother of two, wife of a retired minister, retired teacher of learning disabled students, and writer of YA, Middle Grade and poetry. Her debut YA novel written in verse, CRAZY, will be released by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in October 2014.
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8 thoughts on “Leaping from Book One to Book Two

  1. I can’t wait to have this problem!

    But really, this is something I’ve thought of. While I’ve been querying a MG fantasy, I started working on an MG contemporary plot that’s been haunting my thoughts. The personal problem I’ve had with that is that I’ve gotten so used to writing fantasy, that the voice in my contemporary didn’t sound write, like I never hit a point in my drafting and rewrite that sounded like I was comfortable with what I was doing. Which is why I’m letting it sit for a time to ferment.

    The other problem I’ve thought of, and this will only be an issue when/if I get the first book published, is what if I become known for writing that one type of book, and when fans reach for the second they turn away because it’s not the same?

    It’s a conundrum. I think the best is to figure out where your heart is and write from there.

    • Hi Angela,

      You’ve got it right, and that’s writing from the heart! If it doesn’t feel right to your inner self, it probably isn’t. Good luck with whatever you do, and thanks for dropping by!

  2. Are you really, really sure you like choices, Linda? I don’t know…I’ve walked right next to you as you pondered this you seemed fairly conflicted about it! (As only a best friend can say, right?) I think you know where your heart is drawing you right now. But either way, it’ll be a book full of images and wonderful writing. And you-know-who will be waiting in the wings to read it.

    • Thanks for being my “devil’s advocate” Carol. And for walking with me literally through these soul-deep discussions. Yep, I’ve been conflicted but you’ve helped me work through it, and I am indebted! Every writer needs a friend like you who will tell it like it is, with love!

    • Thanks for dropping in, Kate. And yes, things do get nutty and having that “next project” ready to work on does help keep us grounded. Good luck on your Cupcake Cousins and the next book after that!

  3. Thanks for sharing this part of your journey, Linda! It can be so difficult to balance all the fizzy awesomeness of creativity with the practical selling/marketing stuff. I had a similar “problem” arise when my editor questioned if the humorous MG adventure I had pitched as bk 2 was really the best follow-up to my more literary MG debut. At the time, I was kerfuzzled, but now I’m really happy with the new WIP. It sounds like you’ve already found your way to a potential middle ground. I’m cheering you on!

    • Thanks, Rebecca, for your cheers! And for all the great insight you’ve had about this whole process. I’m so glad you are happy with your WIP and i will look forward to hearing how it evolves as your second book!

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