This post is part of a 7-article series on the fears of writing. You can find all other articles here:
What do you mean you only have one book in you? You’ve got to be kidding me!
Jurgen Wolff, author of Your Writing Coach, mentions The 7 Deadly Fears Of Writing. One of those fears belongs to writers who are afraid their first book will be their only work of genius. Many writers pull themselves up short with the question, “What if that’s all I have in me?”.
Many of us have noticed what happens with sequels of novels. All too often, the second or third installment in a series pales in comparison to the brilliance of the first.
Do you know what? It doesn’t matter. If your first book was great, people will buy your second book regardless of what the critics say. They might say it’s a bust after they read, but who cares? They’ve already bought the book. They’ll probably buy the next in the series, too.
My point is that you shouldn’t avoid putting as much effort into your sequels as you did the original. Knock yourself out. If you’ve created something worth reading the first time, people want more – so give it to them. Just don’t give up before you get started.
If you blog, read your posts. How many of them were hits? I bet you only have a few you consider noteworthy. Did you stop blogging after publishing a post that wasn’t so great? No. Did you stop after a post failed to attract a single comment? No. Did you call it quits the first time you had to write a guest post for someone else?
It’s true that some authors were one-hit wonders. Their books hit a social or political nerve at the right time in the right place. Their follow-up novels may not have been as successful. For example, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell was a huge success. She poured her heart and soul in to this sweeping epic of the old South.
When she tried to create a sequel, Margaret’s efforts didn’t work out at all. Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is another example of a writer whose sequel flopped.
Both these classic novels came along at a time when their messages were pertinent to much of the social upheaval going on in the world. Sales skyrocketed. Could you imagine if these authors both became fearful of only having one great book in them and never finished their novels?
For those saying, “Harry, I really don’t have more than one book in me! I can’t think of any other stories!” To that, I say bull. You have plenty of stories in you.
Alright, even if you don’t, even if you only have one story in your head right now, isn’t it better to have sold just one book and staked your claim to fame than never to have been published at all?
Jurgen Wolff suggests keeping a notebook of ideas. I have more lists of ideas, plots, and characters than I know what to do with. I may not ever use all of them, but they’re there, stockpiled and ready to go when and if I decide to use them.
Try it yourself. Sooner or later, something clicks. Before you know it, you’ve not only gotten halfway through your first novel, you’ve begun writing ideas down for your second.
Trust me, people; the fear of having only one good book in you is an illusion. It’s just another mind trick we play on ourselves. You have plenty of books and stories inside of your mind – you just don’t know it yet.