Second Book Syndrome by Mhairi Simpson

I’m a good person. Well, I try to be. I try not to talk too much about my writing or my books or whatever’s going on in my world, because it’s not always particularly comfortable and no one likes a miseryguts.

But right now I can’t think of anything else other than the problem I’m faced with right now. Which is my second book. And it’s a really big problem.

My friend Kait Nolan (paranormal romance author extraordinaire) calls it Second Book Syndrome. It’s as good a name as any. I have been suffering from this for months. MONTHS. I have worked on the details of this book, sorting out characters and character arc and problems and plots and sub-plots… The problem is, I have a number of sub-plots. About half a dozen.

But I’m missing a main plot.

The main plot is quite important, I think you’ll agree. It’s the driving force behind the whole book, the problem my main character (poor girl) has to solve in this particular story. And yet… *sigh*

Last night I gave up on it and went to bed. As usual in such cases, something shook loose just as I was about to turn out the light, and I managed to narrow down the possibilities to something relating to politics. That is, politics between her world and Earth. And… that’s as far as I got.

Something to do with fire, maybe? I mean, since I called the book Fire At Will, because I originally intended her to use it to deal with her control issues (bit of wild pyrokinesis in there), but I haven’t been able to focus this down to a main plot yet. Politics and fire aren’t usually a great combination, and that should be a good thing in terms of coming up with a plot, but it’s just not coalescing, you know?

Maybe you don’t know. Maybe you don’t write. Maybe you think writers sit down and pound out these stories like rainbows falling out of the sky. I really hate to take away that magic, but writing is quite difficult. And writing the second book is even harder. Granted, my first book hasn’t even been released yet, but I’m happy with the way it’s going and I know when it does go out it will be absolutely fine. So, for the second book? No pressure or anything.

I noticed a couple of other authors talking about this yesterday. Jessica Scott writes military romance and Myke Cole writes military fantasy. Jessica Scott’s release date for her debut novel Because of You is in about a week’s time; Cole’s (Shadow Ops: Control Point) is in February. Since they are both publishing through large traditional publishing houses, they are both currently in revisions for their second books. They’re feeling the pressure, understandably.

I haven’t even written my second book yet, and I’m terrified. It doesn’t actually get easier with every book. Once you know people liked the first one, there’s that feeling of, can I do it again on the second one? Can I get it right second time around as well? Will everybody hate it and me, stop returning my calls and leave me to die in a slime-filled pit of agonised failure?

The problem is, we can’t stop writing. Admittedly, Cole and Scott are under contract. There would be some repercussions if they just turned round and said, you know? I’m going to Tahiti. But even if they weren’t under contract, they wouldn’t stop writing. Well, I’m assuming that’s true. I know I wouldn’t. Most writers couldn’t, even if you paid them. And we want the story to be its absolute best and we know that edits and revisions are there to make the story even more fan-bloody-tastic, but oh my god, the temptation to walk away and start something else fresh and new and maybe better…! No. We must finish what we started. But it’s not exactly fun.

And I still haven’t even started. *headdesk* Where’s my freaking plot?!


Real life is just too real, which is why Mhairi writes fantasy, preferably for teenagers because they’re closer to her mental age. This can, and often does, involve griffins, unicorns, werewolves and/or vampires. And because she likes a laugh, there are also pink mice and gods with faulty moral compasses. But whatever she’s writing, there’ll be a lot of blood and a LOT of magic, because that’s what makes her worlds go round.

She’s been to six schools (seven if you include university) and lived in five countries on two continents. She speaks three languages and bits and pieces of three more. She once galloped a horse into a cow (by accident) while at work and she’s been to Machu Picchu three times. Apart from writing, she likes pretty shoes, making jewellery, films, dancing, reading and chocolate. Don’t forget the chocolate.

Her first book, For The Love Of Gods, will be available in autumn 2011.

1 thought on “Second Book Syndrome by Mhairi Simpson”

  1. Agh. I know the feeling….it’s not as if this is even the second book I’ve *written*, dammit. It’s just the second one I’ve got a contract for! I spent a lot of time with what felt like 20 subplots in search of a plot, no driving motivation for the central character, underdeveloped secondary characters…one whole big mess of half-baked dough. I think it’s finally cooking. Finally. It had better be…I have a deadline….
    Good luck!

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