Laurie McKay On Writing The Second Novel

Welcome to the SNOB - Second Novel Ominipresent Blues. Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?


Toady's guest is Laurie McKay, who has a master’s degree is in the discipline most important for writing middle-grade fantasy: Biological Oceanography. Her debut novel THE LAST DRAGON CHARMER #1: VILLAIN KEEPER was released from HarperCollins in February 2015.

Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?

Yes and no. Since book two is the second in the trilogy, I stayed with my (beloved to me) book one characters. But it was daunting writing a brand new novel. When I compared my book two rough draft to the shiny, edited, copyedited, proofed version of book one, there was a virtual mountain to overcome to get book two to the same place. I just had to keep climbing. Now, book two is close to being finished, and I’m doing it all over again with book three.

At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?

I’m a flurry of semi-organized chaos when it comes to partitioning my energies. I work on everything at once. It takes a lot of slow starts and pondering and waiting. Usually, at some point, something clicks and I gain some focus, and get better at managing my time. At that point, I scribble down a list. If I check off stuff, it helps. Honestly, people have always told me I’m organized, but it’s a frantic type of organization. And prioritizing helps.

Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?

All three. Book one just was released in February, so I hope there are some fans, and I hope they’ll want to read the next two books. The great thing about having an agent and an editor is that there are more people to give me feedback on my ideas, and both my editor and agent are supportive. I think it’s important to listen to them.

When it comes to the story, it’s my book and my characters. It’s important to be open to criticism, feedback, and ideas. In the end, though, I have to write a book I’d want to read, and with which I connect. And I really hope that my story will resonate with others. As writers, I think we need to be true to ourselves.

Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?

The hardest thing about being a professional author with respect to time management is having deadlines! Before I would write regularly, but I could take all the time I needed. If I wanted to take a break one week, no problem. Now, I have to be much more thoughtful. And speedy. In some ways, it’s helped me. Having a time limit, means I can’t do as much staring at an empty page. And, hey, I actually get things done faster now.

What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?

I started book two before book one was published, but one big difference was that I knew what to expect with editing book two. And I’d worked with my editor – who is wonderful – before. It took away some of the anxiety of revising. Also, I hope my experience with my first book helped me improve my writing overall even before I turned in my early book two draft. I outlined more. I thought more about plot structure and tried to keep book three in mind as I wrote book two. For book three, I plan to have an even better outline.

One thing I learned was that while some of the worries about my debut novel diminished, others didn’t, and some new ones popped up as I wrote my second one. Likewise, the excitement was still there for the second book. There was a great sense of accomplishment writing ‘THE END’, and seeing the cover sketch for book two was as thrilling as seeing the cover sketch for book one!