Why I Am Most Nervous About the Second Book of a Trilogy

icyyy3Before I start today, I wanted to thank Press Pause, Fast Forward for reading and reviewing Seconds Before Sunrise, which you can read by clicking here. We’re getting closer – only 23 days left – which, by the way, The Timely Death Trilogy broke a new record last month, hence the photo on the right. The photo was taken in the front yard of the house I was living in the time of writing the trilogy, and the quote at the bottom right is also a reader’s favorite. 

Also, I will be combining February’s websites into March’s Website Wonders near the end of the month, so it’s coming. I promise.

I think the second novel has a bad rep – it’s mainly known for being the book to transition the awesome beginning into the epic climax of the ending. The second book, more or less, is the “take a break” book compared to the other two. And you know what? I find it to be true. Most of the time. Mainly because it’s REALLY hard to compete with a new world (the first novel) and the ultimate climax (the last novel.) Even if you add a crazy amount of drama, the first and third books are more likely to be remembered. It’s the reader’s nature, and I’m no exception.

I remember more of Delirium and Requiem than… Pandemonium, right? I even read Twilight at one point, but I can mainly recall the first and the last book – not the middle ones. Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the same way. Wait. Let me think. Yes, it is.

As a reader, this isn’t really a big deal. It happens. But as a writer, it’s a lot more nerve-racking. We want our second book to be as entertaining as the other two. We want the second book to be remembered, not overshadowed by the beginning and end. We want you to mention it in that book club you’re in after you all decided to read the trilogy. We really strive for the entire series to be great – not just one or two of the books to be.

But it’s hard because it seems inevitable.

Believe it or not, there is actually something called “Middle Book Syndrome” and “Second Novel Syndrome. While they are a little different, I would like to use the “middle child syndrome” as a metaphor because people are familiar with it. The older sibling gets a HUGE amount of attention, including careful parenting and a gigantic, never-ending photo album (that includes the child as a baby wearing a hat, a baby in a hat, a baby wearing a hat in a hat, and so on). The youngest sibling stereotypically gets spoiled – often getting relaxed rules and a lot more toys than the others. But the middle child? Eh. I’m not sure what the middle child exactly gets until I looked it up – which is this by the way:

1. “Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted.” – Today.com

2. “Middles are considered the most envious, least bold and least talkative of all the birth orders.” – Psychology Today 

Trilogies have the same problem as the middle child.

This would mean Seconds Before Sunrise is that middle child.

As the author, I love all three books equally, but I had to face this issue at one point. I had to ask myself how to make the second book memorable and how I was going to challenge the belief that the second book is a transitional book.

So I made decisions.

Yes, the second book revolves around humans in a paranormal world, but there is still plenty of action and struggling romance. In fact, the book takes place from August to December, and if you read Minutes Before Sunset, then you know what that means – Eric’s 18th birthday is in this book. And not everyone is going to survive. There will be sacrifices, challenges, and more questionable circumstances revealed. You will get to know more of the characters on a deeper level, especially some that I’ve noticed readers mentioned in reviews. You will also notice one more thing – the life lessons get more controversial the longer the series holds out. While book one deals with teenage issues, book two will challenge more adult-like issues, and book three will top those. This was done on purpose to represent how “coming of age” works. That same reasoning went into the overall focus of each book, so that means you can expect this:

book 1 = the Dark (preteen issues, not very controversial)

book 2 = being human (teenage issues, mild controversy)

book 3 = the Light, so you will learn a lot more about them. (adult issues, very controversial, and yes, I’m nervous about this controversy.)

It is in my hopes that these two ranges will allow each novel to stand out as an important part of the trilogy.  Someone has to be the middle child, but we don’t have to follow the stereotypes by neglecting them. We can build them up in order to demand an importance. If you’re a writer, we might even have to give it some extra attention to let it know it is not forgotten. If you’re a reader, don’t automatically give into the stereotype of the second book being a transition.

The second book deserves the same amount of attention as the first and last book. Love it like the others.

If you would like to help me, I am accepting reviewers of the second book – Seconds Before Sunrise. I would be very grateful to hear from you via email at shannonathompson@aol.com. I can even supply you with the first novel if you haven’t read that one yet. Or you are more than welcome to buy it by clicking the photo below. I share all reviews on my all of my websites. I am also open for interviews.

Thank you.


Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!
Minutes Before Sunset is on sale until book 2 releases March 27!

17 thoughts on “Why I Am Most Nervous About the Second Book of a Trilogy

  1. It’s also how the human mind works. It is easier for us to remember what happened at the beginning and the end than what happened in the middle. It doesn’t make the middle any less than the beginning or end, but it’s simply how the human mind functions. Take ballet, for example. When watching a ballet, people remember most what happened at the beginning and the end because those parts are the easiest for the human brain to remember and process. Here is also another example. When I’m doing an exercise in a dance class, I remember the beginning and ending better than I do the middle, even though the middle is often the most complex part of an exercise. My favorite trilogy is the A Great and Terribly beauty trilogy. I most remember the first and third books, but I also remember thinking that the second book was definitely better than the first. However, again, the human brain just remembers the beginning and ending stronger than the middle.

  2. Hi Shannon!

    You’ve certainly raised some good points. I understand very much how middle books can be and I do take into consideration the things that you mentioned when reading a sequel to a trilogy. As a reader, as long as it can perfectly build up to the finale, overall, I’ll be a happy camper. 🙂 Also, It so happens that I am a middle child of three girls but that syndrome definitely doesn’t apply to me (I think). Haha 😉 Great post!

    1. And that is why I LOVE Press Pause, Fast Forward. Personally, I don’t believe anyone has had “middle book syndrome” with the sequel yet. This is just a post about the worries I had about it when I was first writing it a long time ago. I shared it in the hopes of helping other authors who have struggled with the same thing – or the two syndromes I mentioned. I am so glad you read Seconds Before Sunrise and enjoyed it. I also really appreciate how you took the time to read and comment on this blog post. Thank you!

  3. The middle book Is definitely the one that has to work the hardest but is the least remembered. But it sounds like you have a great plan for it and it sounds like it won’t be forgotten by anyone! Good with it, I’m sure you won’t need it at all 🙂

  4. I remember going on about ‘Middle Child Book’ soon after my third book came out. Writing it wasn’t the problem, but I feared that it would suffer from being stuck between the other books. People will always jump in on a first book if they’re curious while others are the type to start in at the end for some odd reason. So that middle book has to wait for people to get to it. That’s all sales though. A benefit of writing an adventure series is that each book has its own main plot that can carry it from the beginning of an event to the end. It’s a lot harder for ongoing stories. Everyone wants that ‘Empire Strikes Back’ magic.

    1. Charles,

      Thank you for sharing your feelings when you went through a similar situation. I believe the “main plot” aspect is what probably causes this issue in trilogies, since – most of the time – the main plot takes place over three novels instead of what you described in your adventure novels, where novels can stand out on their own. This is a great addition to add to this topic for many kinds of writers.


      1. Maybe the trick with a middle book is the subplots and one big twist on the main one. As was previously said, people tend to remember the beginning and the end. They also remember favorite characters, so a middle book might benefit from a bigger focus on character development.

  5. This makes me feel so much better. I’m working on a trilogy and haven’t started the second book yet. I have the plots mapped out for the second and third books but I get this feeling of treading water when I think about book #2. I’m so relieved to know others have suffered through this trend as well.

    How do you get over the intimidation of starting the second book? I’d really like to sit down and write it but I still feel stuck. It’s very frustrating!

  6. I’ve got two brothers and as the eldest I’ve often been the one taking the brunt of the blame for crap my siblings did. But I love my brothers dearly and since they’re only one an two years younger than I we’ve always been close. On to the topic at hand, it is easy to worry but when you give it your best effort I believe your books will be like my brothers and I are. I mean, the middle brother is perhaps the most mischievous one but he’s also the one who’s most often the centre of attention. We all have are defining qualities and different moments in which we shine. Besides, with the amount of thought you’re putting into this I can only encourage you to grab onto your confidence and try your best to feel at your best. Best of luck, but I don’t think you’ll need it! 🙂

  7. As someone already said, people tend to remember the first and third books/films in a triology. I think second books can be more interesting If something happens that cannot be ignored, or forgotten that easily, a death, etc.

  8. I can understand why the ‘middle’ book is always a worry for authors when writing a trilogy, but I don’t think that you have anything to worry about in that regard as your second book is as exciting and gripping as the first instalment was!

  9. This is very wise, and a great reminder: “Someone has to be the middle child, but we don’t have to follow the stereotypes by neglecting them. We can build them up in order to demand an importance. If you’re a writer, we might even have to give it some extra attention to let it know it is not forgotten.”

    I never thought of it that way, and now I will.

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