Lessons Learned from Writing the Second Novel: Guest Post by Kristen Otte

One of my favorite perks of working as a freelance editor is developing a relationship with an author. I recently had the good fortune of working with author Kristen Otte on her just-published second YA novel, The Evolution of Lillie Gable, the second in her contemporary young adult Eastbrook series. Each novel in the Eastbrook series stars a different main character, but secondary characters carry over in each story.

I asked Kristen to share some of her insights about writing a second novel, and she graciously agreed to share her thoughts about the challenges and lessons she learned. Take it away, Kristen!


ForKristen Otte writing the second novel most of us, writing the first novel is an adventure. The process is long and arduous with moments of excitement, terror, and anxiety. But once the novel is out in the world, it’s time to start on the next project.

Writing my second novel was a much different experience. The process was fun, pleasant, and fast because I learned a few tricks from the first go-around. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you tackle your second novel.

  1. Outline. I didn’t outline my first novel, so writing the first draft was difficult. I often sat down to write without knowing the next plot point in the story. For book two, I planned the character arcs and created a chapter-by-chapter outline before I started writing. Did I veer from this outline? Absolutely. However, having the general framework plotted allowed me to write faster and better.
  2. Create a Distraction-Free Writing Environment. We all write better when we remove the distractions during our writing and revising time. I turn off the Wi-Fi and flip my phone over so I don’t see any notifications. Some days are easier than others to get the words down, but removing distractions goes a long way to being a consistent writer.
  3. Trust Your Beta Readers. With my first novel, I was terrified to let other people read it in the early stages. The second time around, I was happy to send a draft of my novel to my beta readers. They sent fabulous, honest feedback, and I didn’t hesitate to make changes to my story structure, even if it wasn’t what I originally had in mind. Did I make every change they suggested? No, but when a few readers mentioned similar issues, I knew they were right. Trust your beta readers. They make your work better.
  4. Pay Attention to Your Critics. Some authors don’t bother reading reviews. I am not one of those authors. Maybe some day down the road when I sell millions of books, I will ignore reviews. But for now, I read every single one. Even if a review stings, I can learn from a critical review. For example, many reviews of my first novel, The Photograph, commented that they loved the story but didn’t enjoy the amount of basketball play-by-play scenes in the novel. I kept that criticism in mind as I wrote The Evolution of Lillie Gable. Like The Photograph, the main character is a basketball player. The basketball aspect plays into the plot, but I cut back on the detailed basketball scenes to appeal to a broader audience. Listen to your readers and reviewers for any patterns that can help you write an even better book the second time around.
  5. Learn from Your Editor. I mentioned this tip before, but I think it’s worth saying again. Your editor is your creative partner, and he or she can help you become a better writer. When I began the revision process for my second novel, I pulled out the style sheet from my previous novel’s edit. I used the notes, comments, and feedback from my fabulous editor to aid my revision effort the second time around to create a better novel before my editor laid eyes on it. [ED note: Kristen’s a great student! If she continues at this rate, I’ll soon be out of a job!]
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Writing my second novel was fun. I loved the process and the final product of The Evolution of Lillie Gable. But now, it’s on to the next project!


The Evolution of Lillie Gable by Kristen OtteEvolution of Lillie Gable

Meet Lillie Gable—high school sophomore, outgoing, beautiful, athletic, and funny . . . She is the life of any party. Her boyfriend, Jake, is a smoking hot senior, and Lillie is on track to be a starter on the varsity girls’ basketball team this year.

But trouble looms behind the façade. Lillie’s home life is a wreck. Her father is hiding a secret, and Lillie is determined to find the truth, even if it tears apart her family.

While she searches for the truth about her father, the last thing Lillie needs is a feud with Angela Barrett, the brass, bleached blonde senior who is the queen of the rumor mill. Angela is determined to ruin Lillie’s reputation because she has set her sights on Lillie’s boyfriend, Jake.

Heartbroken and humiliated, Lillie can’t return to the life she once knew. Does she have the strength and resolve to forge a new path now that everything is changing?


Kristen Otte is the author of The Adventures of Zelda series and two novels, The Photograph and The Evolution of Lillie Gable.  Visit her website to learn more about Kristen and her books.


 Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here.