Hello Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
It’s Writer Wednesday, where I talk about what I’M writing and hopefully inspire you to work on what YOU should be writing.
Today I want to talk about sophomore projects and why they often suck.
I’m talking about the second book in a series. The second film in a trilogy. The second chocolate eclair. It’s just not as tasty.
You hear this all the time: a band releases their first album. It sets the world on fire. Then they put out another one a year later, and it sucks.
The early work of writers is often considered their best work, full of the fresh vigor and excitement they felt as young, starving artists before they became too rich and successful to connect with the suffering of the human condition.
Or, y’know, whatever.
Is it true that you have to be unsuccessful to create good art? I’m going to go out on a very thick and sturdy limb here and say, “No.”
Tons of artists create good art in conditions of relative comfort. In fact, in cultures with relative plenty and prosperity, there’s always artistic explosions—unless you’re the Mongols.
In fact many artists who you think were underground successes were really the sons and daughters of more successful artists who were firmly embedded in the industry and gave their kids a leg up.
I think the reason sophomore projects are so often less good than the first in the series is a much simpler one: the time spent on their creation.
In the case of the band—they’ve spent ten years writing and rehearsing their songs, hoping for a big break. Then they become big successes, and the record label wants them to put out another album in one year.
But more importantly: in that year, they also have to tour, and do promotions, and probably spend some time with their families.
So they try to bang out a second album in the course of about a month. And it’s just probably not going to be as good.
Now, this doesn’t always have to be the case. There’s a lot of artists out there who CAN produce very, very quickly when they focus and put their minds to it, and the work is just as good.
Please never buy into the cult-like belief that no book can be good unless the author took a decade to write it.
As the old saying goes: if it takes a writer ten years to write a book, they were drunk for nine and a half of them.
So I’ve been asked before—at the speed with which I write my books, do I ever worry about their quality?
The first and simplest answer is no, not any more—I have a writing partner/coach in Sean Platt, multiple FANTASTIC beta readers, and now even paid editors to go through my work.
If anything I know that the Underrealm books I write now are much better than the first ones I wrote.
But here’s the other thing: yes, very soon I’ll be releasing the sixth book in the Underrealm series. But really…I’m still working on my freshman project.
Because Underrealm as a world was conceived more than six years ago. And it was conceived in a huge, epic storyline that involved many, many characters.
And I’m fleshing those characters out in their book series now, with a larger umbrella series to come. But I already know how the whole story ends.
There was a TV show in the 90s called Babylon 5. It was a five-season TV show. It wasn’t cancelled after five seasons. It was a five-season show.
They wrote it as five seasons and outlined the whole thing before they pitched it to networks. And every network turned them down because they wanted the option to have the show be shorter than five seasons, or longer, if it was successful.
And the writers said, “No. It’s five seasons. Take it or leave it.”
They did. And it was awesome. And BECAUSE it was written that way from the beginning, there is foreshadowing in the VERY FIRST EPISODE of the show that is not paid off until the VERY FINAL EPISODE.
I’ve never seen a TV show do that before. It was incredible.
That’s Underrealm. I actually thought of the ending to the whole story first. And I’ve been building it in since the very, very beginning.
So in a very, very real way, the books of Underrealm are my freshman project.
I don’t know. I don’t even feel like that came out as advice. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently.
I don’t want you to get too precious about coming up with the most original, never-before-seen ideas for your writing, because completely original ideas don’t exist.
And I don’t want you to think that you have to make your first book THE BEST THING EVER because your second book is inevitably going to be worse.
It doesn’t have to be—it probably won’t be. Because what I’ve discovered for myself is, the faster you work, the better your work becomes.
That’s it for today, Rebels. I want to give a shoutout to my supporters on Patreon who make my YouTube channel possible. If you want to be one of them, or if you want to pick up signed copies of my books, there are links in the description to both of those things.
Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you tomorrow. Byyye.