Second Book Syndrome: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

A Case Study by Dr S Lapyurself

Epidemiology

As a specialist in this field, I see many cases of 2BS, which has affected the author population for hundreds, even thousands of years.  There is evidence that even Plato was afflicted after he released the first of his Dialogues.  It is said that he spent several months afterwards wandering the hills of Athens, muttering, ‘But what should I do next?’  Like many authors since, he opted for a sequel.  Today, 2BS is extremely prevalent in the debut author cohort.

Patient VL

The 51 year-old woman presented with the classic signs of 2BS:  agitated, sweating, clutching an empty chocolate digestives packet in one hand, and her first book, ‘Summertime’, in the other.

In the case of VL, the diagnosis was confirmed once she described her symptoms:  sleeplessness, scribbling plot ideas constantly, accosting strangers who looked like interesting characters, staring anxiously into space for long periods, and obsessively reading reviews of book 1.  She reported increased appetite, especially for carbs and ‘anything with cheese’, and an overwhelming affinity for hot chocolate.

This is one of the worst cases that I have seen.

Treatment

Our job as medical professionals is to instill in the sufferer the confidence that they will be able to write another book, and that people will read it, and that there was nothing magical about the first book which cannot be repeated.  This is the approach that I took with VL.  In common with many sufferers, she complained of crippling self-doubt and an almost pathological envy of ‘those bastards who write series’.

The only cure for 2BS is to write another book, which is what has prompted certain researchers in the field to call practitioners like myself, ‘Money-for-old-rope Merchants’.  This is both unkind and unfair.  Through a long and expensive process of talk therapy, patients like VL can eventually recover and live something approximating a normal author’s life.   By that, of course, I mean that they can be restored to spending their days staring at the laptop screen, talking endlessly about people who don’t exist as if they were real, and drinking many cups of tea.

And if this approach doesn’t work, then I give them a good, hard shake and remind them that it’s just writing, just putting one word after the other.  It’s not sodding brain surgery.

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