Yesterday there were so many great comments about sequels and whether or not to write them. Thank you so much for the added opinions. It really is a personal decision, and if you have written one please don't feel bad! Like I said, I wrote one too and I did learn a lot from it. Learning is good. You just have to be okay with knowing learning might be the only thing to come out of it.
One person even mentioned writing a sequel as practice, because they'd heard from many published authors that the sequel is HARD.
While I do think that is a smart idea, I also wanted to talk about something many writers can't quite grasp unless they are published—the pressure.
Now, I'm not published, obviously, but I do have several friends who are or soon will be. And I do have an agent, which comes with a different kind of pressure that, I hope, is preparing me for the eventual pressure of publication.
See, it's not necessarily the sequel itself that is hard to write (I mean, it is hard, but all books are hard for many different reasons), it's the experience of writing under pressure for the first time. This, no matter how much practice you've had, is something you can't be fully prepared for. It's like having kids—you do your research and make plans and decide how you will act, but in the end it's just not how you imagined it. There are things you cannot prepare for.
If you don't have an agent or editor, it's hard to understand that pressure. All you can think right now is that's what you want! Bring on the pressure! And that's OKAY. By all means want those things, but I encourage you not to underestimate the oncoming pressure. And please don't feel bad when you go through it. As far as I can see, it's totally normal.
I remember when I first started writing. I wrote for myself. I wrote whatever I wanted. I mostly wrote for fun since I figured publishing was a long ways off. I put some pressure on myself, but it was all me and I could take it off whenever I wanted.
I can't tell you how much I miss those days, when I wasn't worried about whether or not my agent would want to represent my next project. I can't tell you how many published authors I've talked to who tremble over sending their next project to their editor, wondering if they'll still like them. It's an indescribable unease that lives in your blood, weakening your resolve if left unchecked.
From what I've heard, writing under contract is freaking scary. The first book you got to spend time on—all the time you wanted! Sure, you know what happens in the sequel, but you don't have as much time to write and edit like you did with the first. And on top of that, you have people waiting—your agent and editor and future readers. What if they don't LIKE it? What if your editor regrets signing you? What if you don't meet expectations? What if, after all this work, no one buys your book and you're a big fat flop? What if it's so bad your editor nulls the contract just to cut losses?
Ridiculous, but you'd be surprised how panicky you can get when you have to write a book not only for yourself, but for other people.
I know it shouldn't be important. I know that we want to think it's easy to get past those emotions, but you would be surprised how hard it is! And then you start to feel guilty, because you finally have a book deal and everyone expects you to be happy and perfect because you have what everyone else wants. So you can't even talk about how much you're struggling, because you shouldn't be, and you are.
You have to trick yourself in to thinking there's no pressure, that you're still writing just for you, but that doesn't take it away. It only dulls it momentarily. You still know in the back of your head that there are expectations, and you might not meet them. Learning to live with people reading over your shoulder is part of the gig, and it's harder than you expect because it's what you thought you wanted for so long!
I wish I could give tips on how to overcome the pressure, but I'm still figuring it out myself. All I can tell you is to be prepared for it and not to beat yourself up if it hits you harder than you expected. The more you panic over the pressure, the worse it gets. I know that for sure.
Now, I'm gonna go pretend I'm writing this new WIP just for myself and see how long it lasts.