Yeah, But What’s For Dessert?

January 11th, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

Far too many writers have longed for the opportunity to suffer from Second Novel Syndrome, only to discover the disease is at least as debilitating as puberty. And like adulthood, SNS may be something you live with until a kind-hearted friend takes you aside and says, “Dude, seriously, people are getting creeped out by you sleeping with such a young book.”

The conventional view on SNS [Second Novel Syndrome] is that it is a seizure caused by a loss of innocence. Don DeLillo said a first novel comes to the writer as a gift and he doesn’t necessarily know how he wrote it. It’s the second novel that teaches him how to write. British editor Simon Prosser once said, “When you write your first book, you don’t know who you’re writing for or what awaits you. With the second book, if your work has been digested in the press, you think, ‘Oh, is my writing really like that?’ It’s impossible to ignore the consciousness of your work being out there and people reading it and thinking things about it.”

Setting aside the notion of time-shifting in novels — your first book may not necessarily be your first book, setting up the possibility that your second book might be your first book while your third book could be your second book or your fifth — the beauty of your first published novel is that no bars have been set. You are a genius with great promise. The future is wide open, baby.

He [Jeffrey Eugenides] said: “No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it. But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting. You’re suddenly considered to be a professional writer, a fiction machine, but you know very well that you’re just getting going. You go from having nothing to lose to having everything to lose, and that’s what creates the panic.”

There are many ways to overcome SNS. You must choose yours. While we suggest telling the world to go bother someone else for a while, there is one surefire (if drastically permanent) method:

John Kennedy O’Toole died before A Confederacy of Dunces was published – a deft way of evading questions about how he was going to follow it up.

File Under: Tools and Craft

1 response so far ↓

  • Walter // May 13, 2006 at 1:37 am

    Of course, the first novel you write folowoing your heart.
    The second one obliges you to be a little bit another (not to repeat the idea of the first one), to be more professional, to be better and to be soon, because yuor novel is being waited for. However, if your heart is full of feelings and you are attentive to the world, you gain new impressions out of it, the second novel won’t keep waiting.