Why Every Writer Should Complete More Than One Book

Completing the first book is a wonderful experience. And any writer who has done so deserves a big high five. There are countless people who say they want to write a book. Usually, all we need to do is mention we’re a writer, and people come out of the closet to tell us the book ideas they have or the fact that they’ve always wanted to write a book.

But most of those people never write their books—the ideas don’t move beyond their heads to paper. And out of those who gather the self-discipline to start one, many never finish.

Why do so many never finish the first book?

Because they soon realize that writing a full length book from start to finish is time-consuming and complex. They quickly understand that the ease of reading is not duplicated in the pain-staking process of crafting words and plot.

And let’s face it, while most of us have the innate need to express ourselves, not everyone is wired to communicate through the written word. There are many other ways to give voice to the passions inside—through music, speaking, art, baking, etc.

Whatever the case, if someone sets out to write a book and then actually completes it, they’re well ahead of the majority of wannabes. I applaud anyone who has climbed the mountain of finishing their first book. It’s a monumental feat and those who reach the summit should be very proud of themselves.

However, I’ve noticed that many writers tend to camp out on Mt. Book 1. Perhaps they have plans to scale the distant slope of Mt. Book 2. But for whatever reason, they hang out way too long on Mt. Book 1, and keep putting off the next hard climb.

I’m not begrudging the need to celebrate and savor the accomplishment of finishing the first book, nor am I saying writers don’t deserve a break after all the hard work. But . . . all too many writers take up permanent residence on Mt. Book 1 and never move on.

Here are several reasons why writers need to push themselves up the next hard climb of another book:

We have the potential to grow with each book we write.

There’s never the guarantee we’ll grow just because we write another novel. In fact, we could write ten books and never really improve. But there is the potential to get better—especially if we make a concerted effort to learn and apply basic fiction-writing techniques in each new book we write.

The Preacher’s Bride was approximately the sixth full length novel I wrote. I can’t imagine how much my writing career would have stalled if I’d camped out on my first book (or even the next couple) and waited for an agent to take an interest. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today, not by a long shot.

There are geniuses in every field, those rare people who have extraordinary talent—like Mozart, who was born playing the piano. But most of us have to work hard to achieve success (even when we have talent). It’s somewhat unrealistic and perhaps even a bit presumptuous for the average writer to assume they’ve “arrived” at Book 1.

Industry professionals will take us more seriously.

More than one book shows professionals we’re in the journey for the long haul. Most agents and editors are interested in investing in writing careers not just one book. By completing multiple books, we demonstrate to agents and editors that we have many of the same characteristics that go in making a successful writing career—stamina, perseverance, determination, and self-discipline.

We occupy ourselves during the long waits that are a part of the business.

The waiting in the industry can be unbearable at times. Whether a query, request, or contract, the waiting takes weeks, often months. Instead of driving ourselves crazy checking our inboxes, we should get to work and write another book, one even better than the last. That way if an agent or editor doesn’t think they can sell the first one we’ve given them, we’ll have another to offer, perhaps one even better.

We increase our chances of publication.

Even if a writer’s book is of publishable quality, it may not meet a current market need. Sometimes an agent or editor may like our voice and skill, but they reject us because they don’t think they’ll be able to sell our particular story. Having another one to offer them right away, may give us another shot.

I turned in two completed novels to my publisher before I was contracted. And they only bought one. Both of the books were equitable in skill level, but the one they rejected had a setting and time period that doesn’t sell as well. What if I’d only turned in the book that they didn’t think was as commercially viable? What would have happened to my writing career then?

My Summary: Writers write. So why stop after the first book? Why not keep on writing?

So what do you think? Have you camped out on Book 1? If so, why? Do you agree or disagree with my philosophy that writers serious about publication need to push themselves beyond Book 1?


  1. Hi Jody,
    I think writers should write more than one book, or at least begin on another book, even before pursuing an agent or a publisher. For one, agents/editors want to know if we can write a second book and some agents will even ask a prospective client to show them what else they're working on. And second, a writer needs to know whether he/she can write a second book. I know I seriously struggled to write that second...and third...manuscript, because it is easy to camp out on Mt. Book1 and and never want to move on to Mt. Book2.

  2. You definitely should have more than one book under your belt, even before publication! As you said, it is a learning process, we grow with each book we write. Provided of course we're getting good advice and feedback, and applying all the knowledge we can get our hands on to our craft. If you're doing that, then it should be fair to say that your second book will be better than your first, your third even better. That may not always be the case, but it gives you something to shoot for. I enjoyed what Rachelle had to say about the prolific writer the other day. As I approach the release of my first novel, I can certainly see how not having to work on a new manuscript at the same time as trying to keep up with the marketing demands this requires, might be nice. However, I'm doing both, and this will be my third complete manuscript once it's finished. And I'm definitely still learning.
    Good post, Jody!

  3. I'm actually afraid to submit my first book. I love the plot and characters, but I wonder if I've developed enough.

    Then on the other side of the coin, I want to prove to myself that I can make this a career.

  4. Writers write, as you said very well.

    Why stop after one?

    I havent written a book so far, only published a few short stories and writing a book seems to be an incredible act of courage and determination. That said, if I manage to write one, I Will write another.

  5. "We have the potential to grow with each book we write." I agree with this completely. I've learned with each manuscript I've completed. I've even gone back to earlier ones and revised with what I know now.

  6. I camped out on my first book for years.

    I eventually wrote a second, and then, a third (which comes out in April).

    Like you said, I learned so much with book one and two, including which genre I love the most-contemporary romance.

    Is it just me or does everyone hold a special place in their hearts for book one and want to some day rewrite it and try to have it published?

  7. Very informative post. Having just started submitting my first novel, I am starting to think about the 2nd. I have ideas but haven't made an positive steps our outlines of the plot but your post has inspired to me start.

    CJ xx

  8. I've written two and started on the third. And I have ideas for a fourth. So I'm not camping out on the first book, although I am still working on the queries for it. But writing other things is a great distraction from the interminable business of waiting.

  9. Jody, you have so much wisdom and I appreciate your willingness to share it and teach those of us who really need to hear these things.

    I feel like I need to say, "My name is Sherrinda, and I am a camper. I have camped on my Book 1 and can't move on." I need a recovery group! lol

    I've thought a lot about what you have said and am taking it to heart. Thanks!

  10. I have a writing friend who wants to write, but she is paralyzed by her own fear that it needs to be perfect the first time around that she doesn't write. I told her the first draft is allowed to be crap, and then she can go back and refine it. Her comment is "What if it's never good enough?" I told her she won't know until she tries.

    I spent many years on my first novel, but I shelved it many times too. In the meantime, I studied craft and worked hard to become a better writer. And besides, I have too many characters and ideas to stop with just one book! :)

    Great post, Jody!

  11. This is such a thoughtful and realisitic post. I'm still working on #1...but have had a brief thought about #2...and now you offer real encouragement to get on with it. The hardest thing for me is that I'm not great at multi-tasking, but once I get to a better place with the first book, perhaps it will be easier to move on.

  12. I have a goal every day: To write a thousand words OR edit at least 10 pages. Anything more than this. In the waiting period for feedback from my editors I write on another project. If I never fall OUT of writing mode, I don't have to struggle to get back in. Because of this, I now have full length drafts ready for two more books when this one is done!

  13. I agree, we need to keep writing. I think as I write I continue to get better, so I want to keep going and am excited to see what the next work will bring:)

  14. Excellent post!

    And this is why I feel it's important to use the term "debut novel" for an author's first published novel. Many times, a debut is not their "first completed novel", but rather, it is their second, third, fourth, etc.

    For example, I wouldn't want people calling my debut novel my "first novel" if I'd actually written five. That's a bit of a blow to your skills, hard work, and experience.

  15. I did make that mistake. The first one is the hardest to let go of. I think if you've spent more than 2-3 years on your first novel - it's too long. So much of what we learn we don't see until we apply it to something new!

  16. Jody, Good points. My friend, independent editor Ray Rhamey, says his editor friends say that it often takes two or three books for a writer to really "get it." I look on the "practice books" we write like the first waffle off the iron--the one we throw away. I strongly agree with your advice for writers to work on that second and even third book, instead of falling in love with the first one. Thanks for sharing.

  17. I think that you're right to point out the importance of Mt. Book 2. I would also point out the importance of short stories during the growing process. For one, there's always the possibility they can grow from a story seed to a tall Book Oak. Plus, they provide a space to try out new narrative techniques in a more contained setting. Even mountain climbers practice in a rock-climbing gym once and a while. Why should writers be any different?

  18. Jody's words hold many truths. I also want to mention that when authors camp out on book 1 it shows the agents that they are still emotionally attached to the work. While being attached isn't a bad thing...however being that attached can send up red flags. Usually indicating that any and all suggestions will be met with conflict from the author. That in itself would make me reject a MS.

    Thanks for the post Jody.

  19. Jody! I've missed you. :) Hope all is well.

    I camped out at book 2 for a while, but now am (mostly) happily trudging up the mountain of book 3. There is so much to learn through each, because it's a process that grows and changes us.

    I liked what you said about the ease of reading not transferring to writing. Even knowing that from experience, still I will read a novel and get caught up as if it was effortless for the author. We have to remind ourselves!

    Best, Jody!

  20. I've scooted well past book number one and I'm a better writer for it. I actually had published authors tell me to stop and focus and not go on with my writing until I sold that book. Boy am I ever glad I didn't listen. Just goes to show you, weigh the advice you get carefully. Excellent post, Jody!

  21. Julie Jarnigan asked: Is it just me or does everyone hold a special place in their hearts for book one and want to some day rewrite it and try to have it published?

    My Answer: Julie, I have absolutely no thoughts about going back to any of my first few books. But that's because they would need so much work. Even the story ideas and plots are so amateur, that I'd basically have to start from scratch! But I think if a writer really has a great story, one that is saleable in today's market, then it might be worth re-writing at some point. But that's just me! :-)

  22. And T. Anne, I must say Wow. What interesting advice. Here's the another thing about camping out on Book 1. The book may need so much editing that we could spend months and months simply editing it. And I honestly don't believe a writer should be in editing mode most of the time--it can zap the joy and love and creativity that comes from free writing. Having to a complete makeover on a first novel has the potential to discourage young writers from really blossoming.

  23. I'm just finishing my first draft of book one, so I'll be diving into revisions after a break. Book 2 and 3 are already on the horizon. Now that I've started this process, I'm not sure I can stop writing.

    I agree with you. I'll grow and settle into my first draft process by writing another one. Not to mention what I learn during the revision process.

  24. I absolutely agree with everything you've said here, Jody. If I'd tried to sell my first book... well, lets just say that it wouldn't have been pretty. The novel that we're currently shopping is the 5th one we've written together, but every novel we wrote up to this one was valuable in it's own way as being part of a learning curve.

    As part of our submission process, our agent wants to propose a 3-book deal, so I'm currently working on flap copy for books 2 and 3 right now. And since this is a continuing series, it's fun to take the characters and expand on them. Onwards and upwards!

  25. This is soooo true! I'm still a rookie, but I'm amazed at the difference between book 1 and 2, then between book 2 and 3. I've grown so much as a writer. And yes, writing new material is the best way to get through the waiting times.

  26. Hi Jody-

    This is great. I agree that all authors should write multiple books. My issue in the realm of non-fiction is that most publishers don't want a finished manuscript when they offer a contract. They want to SHAPE the manuscript... so when I'm in the time between book deals, I feel like I can't really work on future projects until I get a contract... yet I'm in a lull and would love to write something.

  27. Have you camped out on Book 1?
    It's very unlikely that someone will publish their first book - or rather, their first real book (I don't think the picture book I wrote when I was three counts.) The first two full-length novels that I wrote were horrible, but I've learned from each of them and now my the third book that I am currently editing has been offered a publishing contract.

    So what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my philosophy that writers serious about publication need to push themselves beyond Book 1?

    I definitely agree with you. But for me, I don't think this will be a problem... I want to write the rest of my life. But you're right, writing a book is a very tough and time-consuming task. However, I'm sure very worth it in the end! =)

  28. I finished my first, sent out queries, started my second in a totally different genre and now don't even want to query on the first. I've found home in the second one.

  29. Hi Jody, thanks for a great post. I would add that it's not only the written Book 1 to move past, but also the first one published. I've almost been finding myself caught there, as I've been swept away by the whirlwind of revisions and edits and other things my editor has set to me. But we're past that now, and release is in sight. Right now I feel very strongly that I need to step forward and start working on the sequel, without waiting around for the first one to come out.

  30. Wonderful counsel as usual, Jody.

    I completed five inspirational historical romances during my first two years of writing as well as 50K of a muddled mess of a contemporary that will never see the light of day. After taking a year off to study craft, I took an objective look at my historicals to see if any would be worth revisiting. I chose the one I felt had the strongest story and characters and set to work on revisions.

    Three major revisions later, I received an offer of representation from my Dream Agent. One massive rewrite later, during which I ditched 3/4 of the story she said didn't work and started over, my awesome agent sold it.

    Like you said, Jody, if I'd allowed myself to become too attached to my first stories and gotten caught up in revisions before I'd taken time to study craft and learn by doing, I wouldn't be where I am today.

  31. Yes! My first book was terrible, but I learned so much from it.

    You've got to write to learn.

  32. I had to laugh when I read the part about people coming out of the closet to tell us they want to write a book, too. As you know, the same thing happens when people find out you have twins. They'll tell you they're a twin, or they have twins, or they know twins, etc... I thought having twins was rare, but it doesn't feel like it when all these people come out and "stalk" us. LOL

    Lynnette Labelle

  33. I can't imagine stopping after one book. Unless the writer has an agenda for writing a specific story and Book #1 completes that agenda, there are always more ideas to explore, more words, more stories waiting to spill out. For me, the first novel was a learning experience... a plateau of discovery. There's a better view at the top of the mountain that we'll never see if we don't keep climbing. :) (Gotta keep that analogy going.)

  34. I'm on number five! I always want another one in the wings incase the current one doesn't pan out:)) Great advice.

  35. This is really great advice. I'm in the middle of writing my first book so I'm looking forward to the feeling of accomplishment that will come when I finish it! I already have ideas for future books so I won't stop at one book.

  36. Great advice, because NOT that many people are lucky or talented enough to have their very first book be The One to get published. Gah--mine certainly wasn't. No, I didn't stop at one. I'm on about novel #15 or 16 now, still plugging away. And getting closer to publication and much better at writing!

  37. Thank you for the encouragement. I need to keep writing and not give up. :O) I figured whey keep writing if I was never going to be published....

  38. The beauty of writing more than one book is that you discover that book four looks an awful lot like book two and three, but not very much like book one. My most exciting story is one that was created from two other full length novels(kind of sounds like parenting, doesn't it?). I wouldn't have had this book if it weren't for exploring the others, picking out the best pieces, and truly finding the story I was really meant to tell. Thank you for the encouragement and great advice. As always!

  39. Definitely striking a chord today, Jody! I'm attached to closure and this is good motivation to keep going beyond that first book! I like the idea of continuing to grow and develop while in the process of waiting. Good stuff here! Thanks for the nudge! God bless!

  40. Great post, and very encouraging. I just wanted to let you know I got the Plot & Structure book you recommended to me (also on your sidebar) for Christmas, and I am starting to go through it. I've only just started it, but so far I am enjoying it and feeling motivated!

  41. I'm way too antsy to stick with one book. By the time I get one done, I am VERY ready to move on to the next. I'm usually ready BEFORE I'm done, so that takes some discipline.

  42. I'm still struggling on the nursery slopes -- but thanks for the advice and inspiration!

  43. I've known writers who've written their first books and are dying to be published. They keep getting shot down by agents. On one hand, it's good they don't give up.

    However, I also somewhat believe what my own agent said, 'a writer's first book should go straight to the garbage.' Harsh (and btw, I think every book a writer writes should stay on a shelf to be plumbed in the future.) Admittedly, my own first book was dog doo.

    But I fear new authors' thirst for publishing success stops them from being honest about the quality of their work and the realities of the business.

  44. I've completed two. Well, the second one is about a day from The End before a full round of spit and polish. I feel like Book 2 was rewritten enough to count as more than one!

    As soon as it's done I'm ready for book three. No camping. Who knows how many I'll have to write to find 'the one'. (I sure hope it's this current one-wouldn't that be nice?)

  45. I'm not camped out, per se, but I am having trouble devoting time to two projects at once. Book 1 is on about the fourth revision and about to be sent off to a freelance editor. Book 2 has an extremely rough outline and a couple of chapters. Whenever I spend even an hour on Book two I feel as though I'm neglecting Book 1 - my baby.

    Perhaps when Book 1 is with the editor I can finally relax and focus on the second one. For now I feel like I have two children tugging on me at once and I don't know who deserves my attention more.

  46. Does writing a screenplay count? I wrote a 99-page screenplay that I am shopping now. I'm also thinking about developing it into a play.

    "They quickly understand that the ease of reading is not duplicated in the pain-staking process of crafting words and plot."

    Your above statement is so TRUE!! I had to really search and ask myself if I liked reading books more than writing them. I finding now, I'd rather write what I'd like to read.

  47. If you don't like writing then don't try to write. It is a long exhaustive process. If you love writing, do it! It takes perseverence, patience, and strong commitment, but is so fun to see a story become real--outside of your mind.
    Once I start querying for my fist book, I plan to start working on my next writing project. I will never stop. Thanks for the post.

  48. This is a great post!

    I worked on my "first" novel for many years. It was technically my second, but I don't consider the one I wrote in 6th grade to count.

    I rewrote the novel a half dozen times and the characters and plot went through such drastic changes it didn't even feel the same. After a while, I felt I was just "beating a dead horse."

    That novel did pique the interest of the agent who I would eventually sign with, but while waiting to hear from that agent, I wrote another novel and it was a hundred times stronger. With that second manuscript, the agent offered representation.

    This past year, I completed my third, which has the strongest protagonist and plot so far.

    I've heard it takes 100,000 words or 10,000 hours of writing to truly find your voice and with this third book, I feel I've "graduated" in a way.

    Thank you for the post!

  49. Hi Jody -

    I read Rachelle's post on this subject over a year ago and saw the wisdom in writing another book. Since then, I've finished a second book and started a third.

    I'm somewhat stalled on the third manuscript because it's part of a trilogy. I'm debating on whether or not to start a fourth book unrelated to the series.

    Susan :)

  50. It's such a rush to finish that first book! I nearly finished a book and then abandoned it as the unviable practice run it was. When I finished my first book that I thought had a chance it was AWESOME. Now I'm 100+ pages into book two and in some ways it's easier simply because I know finishing is possible. Also, I've revised book one enough to be a little tired of it! That said, it's tempting to stop and think that there's no point in writing book two if you haven't sold book one. What if no one reads either one of them? But it boils down to your summary. Writers write. If you're not writing then . . .

  51. great post. I'm a non-fiction writer (not for lack of trying fiction) and am just completing my third book. I'm not sure it gets easier but it certainly gets better and I think we gain a large degree of confidence as we move on from the thrill of book 1. Good luck to all of you as you share your voice with the world.

  52. sarahanneloudinthomas asked: It's tempting to stop and think that there's no point in writing book two if you haven't sold book one. What if no one reads either one of them?

    My answer: If you love to write, then it isn't so much about publication as it is about writing. Keep on writing the next book and the next, because you love telling stories. No one but me ever read any of my first stories, and that was enough! Hope that you'll find enough joy in your writing for it to be enough for you too! Eventually, if we work hard enough we'll be ready to share our books with others.

  53. Writing is not instant gratification, so I can see where many don't go beyond the idea of it. The first book is the uphill climb. Then the roller coaster of writing can really take off. My climb is still going. I have many pots boiling on the burners (not just writing), so my climb may take a bit longer than others. In the end, published or not, it'll be worth the effort.

  54. I've written three manuscripts, and I've definitely grown with each. It's also helped me to learn what writing techniques help me to get through those mushy middles and to the end, so when I do get a book deal, I have confidence that I can write another one quickly if I have to.


  55. Again, you are spot on with this post, Jody! I was blessed to have gotten contracted for a series and so I finished the three novels in the Future Imperfect trilogy due to deadlines and I got the offer to write a novella for an anthology.
    But right now, I'm trying to break out of the "fifth" book mountain so it also happens after that first book success, thereby emphasizing your post even more!
    Thanks for the poke in the ribs to keep me going on the WIPS...

  56. P.I. Barrington, Glad I could give you that poke! :-)

  57. Excellent advice, Jody! I camped at Book 1 for a while (worried that I may never be able to write another one.) But now that I've completed Book 2, I couldn't be happier! Now I have something else to look forward to (new possibilities, new agents to query) other than my inbox!


    PS. Agent Chelsea Gilmore from Maria Carvainis Agency has granted me an interview and will stop by my blog to answer questions today, if anybody is interested.

  58. I think every writer needs to write book two, just so they can see how book one was maybe not as awesome as they now (with the extra experience) could have made it. And also because, I think, a lot of writers begin writing book one for themselves, even if they finish it with other intentions. As a result, it's maybe not a polished or intricately plotted as they would desire for their first real, reviewed work. I know my first effort wasn't my finest hour - but I'm not unhappy I wrote it. It's part of my authorial evolution.


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