Fog has descended on Lisfenora village thus reviving the myth of Grey Man, the dark faery who festers off shore waiting for its chance to ooze inland and snatch unsuspecting victims back out to sea. So is it figment or reality, the figure that DS Danny Ahern’s son insists he saw lurking near their house? Who is the lost boy left to die in a field of grass? What’s the connection between Merrit Chase’s heirloom necklace and a mute girl’s traumatic past? Will Danny, with Merrit’s help, find the mysterious John McIlvoy before a real-life grey man snatches another soul into his deadly gloom?
That’s my next novel in a quickly written nutshell. You can see I’m still thinking in terms of questions — open-ended questions create suspense. There’s an art to writing pitches and synopses, and this isn’t it. In fact, it reflects the state of my current (second) draft. The elements are there but, man, it’s messy. I need to work on flow, continuity, some character development, and the sticky nit-picky plot stuff that comes with writing crime fiction. And, of course, I still need to stitch it all together into a cohesive whole.
A long time ago, a writing teacher advised us aspiring novelists to relish the time we had to work on our first novels. I understand what she means now, because suddenly I’m looking at timelines. We novelists are supposed to deliver novels at least once a year. After the first novel, we don’t have all the time in the world to hone our craft, our prose, ours stories. This, to me, is one of the saddest truths about the business side of authordom.
And this might be why second novel syndrome (SNS) exists. What is second novel syndrome? Namely, when an author’s second book fails to deliver what the first book did. It disappoints. This can pertain to series novels, or not, though it’s often associated with series.
I haven’t given much thought to SNS — until now. Now that KILMOON is this close to publication, I’m thinking, Oh my god, I’ve got to finish the next one faster and yet just as well–or hopefully better!
Since I can’t predict how well either novel will do, all I can do is postulate about how to outwit SNS. Here’s what occurs to me:
1. In what my teacher called the “halcyon days” before debut publication, keep writing! Write the second novel while working to land your agent, while waiting in general (because it is a waiting game). Let the halcyon days include the second novel, and maybe even the third.
2. If you’re writing a series, leave your series protagonists in transitional or conflicted states at the end of the first novel. Nothing could be more boring than protagonists with perfect lives, everything tied up in a bow, all neat and tidy, la di da. They should still have flaws, inner conflicts, and doubts. Events in the first novel may have deepened their issues or created new ones. Life is messy — keep it messy!
3. Series inhabit particular worlds. Enlarge that world. Don’t just show the same aspects of village life, or police investigations, or whatever it may be.
These are my thoughts now. Ask me again after GREY MAN publishes, and I’ll probably have a whole ‘nother tale to tell. (But at least my synopsis will be perfected by then.)
Why do you suppose second novel syndrome exists?