Your Second Book

The Difference Between a First Book and a Second Book

Or, my second book, at any rate.

I started writing my first book, Judging Angels, for myself. It's about things in my psyche and has a large dose of crime and law, because my career was as a criminal defense lawyer.

After many rewrites, it became less about me. When I just wanted to get it the Hell done with and to the publisher, I had exorcised even more of my own ghost from it. The whole process was cathartic and therapeutic for me.

Which is good, because, of course, you don't give a damn about me.

Even the Author's Fetishes Are Exposed

One reviewer recently wrote "Mr. Capps obviously has a 'thing' for red hair." Granted, that was based on a running joke on my St. Corbininan's Bear's Ephemeris, a Curious Entertainment for Discriminating Catholic Ladies and Gentlemen. Even so, now I look at the bare feet prominently displayed on the cover of Judging Angels and wonder what conclusions people are drawing from that. (They are very attractive feet, however, as I am now noticing.)

The truth is, it was sheer psychic pressure that got me through my first novel, in all its forms. Realizing that, and making my corrupted, fetishistic psyche a good servant, rather than a master, was a turning point.

Second Novel - Where's the Energy?

So now, there's Second Novel. The poor dear doesn't even have a name, yet, but it is such a problem child. Readers of Judging Angels who are rightfully expecting a sequel will understand some of the problems I caused for myself sequel-wise.

You would think the first-time published author would view himself as a literary colossus astride Amazon. He or she did it. Wrote it, finished it, published it, got reviews, and even sold a few books.

Oh, no. Things are worse than ever. Now, I have fewer things I want to say, to be honest (not necessarily a bad thing). I do not have the same level of reflection and eloquence available to me, if you know what I mean, wink wink. (You won't, unless you've read Judging Angels.) The old conflicts are gone. In short, I have to think hard and make stuff up, and write when I don't feel like it.

I have to do what has suddenly become a job like writing an appellate brief. And there is about the same level of inspiration. I used to take that for granted. Now it's something I have to think about.

Differences That Make a Difference

Judging Angels is a cozy family urban fantasy crime thriller that might have the tagline, "The family that slays together stays together," except even that ultimate bonding experience does not seem sufficient for some dysfunctional families.

The second is a different kind of novel.  One huge difference is that the cast is larger and what was a minor, quirky setting in Judging Angels is a full-fledged world in its own right in Book 2. It pulls back and shows much more about what was only hinted at in Judging Angels. It is more of a straight urban fantasy, although still dealing with serious (but different) themes.

I am assuming people want to read about any characters who may have survived the first book, so little people are going to have to find bigger roles to play in the wider drama while remaining true to their characters. Also, they have come through the trauma of the first book and that will have changed them. How? Where does the continuity lie?

Old characters face some tough competition in interesting new characters. Even so, I need the original characters to truly partner with the new ones, not get submerged by them.

After I nuked the first draft, I decided to make Book 2 a stand-alone read, after all. It is clearly a sequel, but I think it is important for a reader to be able to pick up any book in the series have have a novel complete in itself. Then, if they want to, they can pick up Book 1 and learn how certain character got into the mess they are in now.

I suspect it comes down the four-letter word "work." It isn't a 3000-word-a-day joyride anymore, laughing all the way. It's a lot of frowning at my computer screen and wasting time on stuff like this while wondering what I need to really get Book 2 off the launch pad.


  1. Oh Bear of Surprises!

    Well goodness, what a dilemma. However, it sounds like somewhat of a good bad- problem to have. The good part is catharsis. The bad part is, now, writing feels like work. Is that what they call "writers' block"?

    Writing a book is way beyond Sheep so I don't speak with any kind of experience but I think any kind of creative endeavor has to flow naturally and if it doesn't, it's really hard to create. For Sheep, who is sometimes an artist, "maybe that isn't the picture that is longing to be painted."

    I wrote out some thoughts about this yesterday but then I thought perhaps I was being too pedantic. I hope you can resolve the problem. It would be pretty stressful to have zillions of readers waiting in the wings for a promised sequel and then be worried about how to deliver it.

    Maybe Justina has some thoughts on this. She seems like a pretty resourceful and clever inhabitant of the Woodland:-)

    1. I have never had writer's block. My problem is the opposite. I lack many good qualities, but I do have a rich imagination and the ability to put words together to make people enjoy reading them.

      This second book is just so different. The first book started out as a book "I had to write." There are things in life, I was once told, that we want to do, and others that we have to do. Writing that book was a "have to do," based in part on my own inner experiences of events in my own life.

      I do not feel personally motivated to write this second book as a form of self-exorcism. It is a pure creative exercise and the inspiration has yet to ignite. I have some great characters and settings, and stronger story lines. I have themes I wish to explore (what it means to be human, and what makes the good guys good and the bad buys bad if everyone thinks they are the good guys?). I have some cool ideas and a ton of scenes already written.

      But none of that matters - in my opinion - unless you have *a reason* to write the book. Oh, I guess the pure commercial writers must have solved this problem. But I don't have that inner pressure to express certain things now.

      So what do I fall back on? In the first book I wanted an ambiguous Red as a tragic figure who learned to love and was possibly redeemed. Then I turned her into a what she is now, and everything clicked, although a beautiful story (and writing) got sacrificed in order that a better novel might be created, with a serious examination of temptation and marriage (something needed today, in my opinion).

      It's like I am a producer. I have bought a story idea, have a team of writers producing stuff that just isn't working, and meanwhile the characters all all on the sound stage in costume just waiting for filming to begin.

      Never fear, I am 16,000 words into the post-nuked story, tightening everything up, taking care not to confuse the reader despite some pretty tricky stuff going on, and collecting different characters into "groups" that will be easy to keep track of and provide natural settings for conflict. I will NOT have a bunch of separate characters running around doing stuff on their own except when I absolutely have to.

      That is a lesson I learned in writing the first book (and learned so well it did not appear in it).

      It will work out. I had a good time last night rewriting (not always an indicator of a successful writing session, however). I am sharpening remaining original characters in ways some might not like, but Judging Angels started out about as grim as it gets, and didn't get much jollier, although I hope the frequent flashes of mordant humor keeps the reader from wallowing in despair - except for those few occasions where I tie her by the ankles and dip her head-first in it for my own writerly purposes.


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