With the news that The Time Traveller's Wife author Audrey Niffeneger getting a US$5 million deal for her second novel, Luke Leitch looks at the pressure successful authors are under to complete their second novels.
The Times also has a list of authors (including Harper Lee, Margaret Mitchell, Anna Sewell and Arundhati Roy) who found it so hard to write a second novel ... that it never happened. (I also blogged about this here.)
And there were, of course, the second novels which did nowhere as well as the first.
But then, by way of compensation, there were the second novels which were truly great ... including James Joyce's Ulysses, Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Jasper Rees in The Telegraph also writes about the dreaded second novel syndrome. He quotes Stephen Fry's theory about second novel syndrome :
The problem with a second novel is that it takes almost no time to write compared with a first novel. ... If I write my first novel in a month at the age of 23, and my second novel takes me two years, which have I written more quickly? The second of course. ...The first took 23 years, and contains all the experience, pain, stored-up artistry, anger, love, hope, comic invention and despair of that lifetime. The second is an act of professional writing. That is why it is so much more difficult.But as Malcolm Know writes in The Sydney Morning Herald :
... true SNS can only exist where the first novel has been hugely successful. All writers know that if you haven't had a big bestseller, it's harder to get published next time, no matter what you write; and if you have had a big bestseller, you will be published, no matter what you write. There's a catch both ways.The difficulties are not just about writing the book, they are also about promoting it. Jan Dalley, literary editor of The Financial Times and a judge of the Encore Award for Second Novels says:
The second novel is well known to be much more difficult ... Even those who have had success with their first novels - sometimes especially those who have - find second novels very hard. Nobody is interested in them any more as brilliant young things. They are now launched on their careers and they've just got to get on with it.Dally also thinks :
Relative neglect of the second novel is a consequence of the overpraising of first novels, and it's partly because of the cult of the author in our press ... Far more attention is paid to authors than to their work. That is catching serious writers in a bad trap.Whatever the reasons, the second novel tends not to be an easy ride, so our thoughts are with our friends who attempt this particular high-wire act in the public eye.