In high school, I was a music junkie. When I got my first job, the first thing I figured out was how many CDs I’d be able to buy with each paycheck. The fun part was discovering a new band before they made it big, then watching their first album take off.
And then came the dreaded second album. Few bands ever topped their brilliant debuts. It was called the sophomore slump and it made absolute sense. Most bands toured for years, performing and perfecting dozens of original songs. When it came time to choose ten to twelve for their first album, it was like releasing a greatest hits package. But second albums usually felt rushed, uninspired, or like knock-offs of the smash debut.
The same goes for books...and it’s freaking me out!
I started writing Thirteen Reasons Why in early 2003 and took my sweet time with it. For the first couple of years I only worked on it when I felt inspired. During that time, I started and finished a middle grade novel, three early chapter books, and several picture books. Though I knew I would eventually finish my teen novel, it felt like I had all the time in the world.
But now I have till June to write a first draft for my second novel. Why? Because it’s part of the contract. All those things I used to hate about second albums are swirling in my head right now. I’m currently reading the debut novels and follow-ups of some of the most known names in teen literature to see what they did right...and more specifically, what they didn’t. Let me tell you, the follow-up I’m reading now is teaching me so much!
I’ve narrowed my follow-up down to three story ideas. All three of them would be challenging and fun to write. But all three might be too challenging to write in the amount of time it normally takes me to write a picture book. So there’s that issue. But I also want to make sure the teens who read my follow-up because they enjoyed the first book are satisfied.
I guess what I’m saying is...Aaaargh!