That Sophomore Book

I don’t mean “sophomore” in this case as juvenile. I mean as the second book.

I’ve written more than 2 books. I have written three full-length novels, and since the first one was 230,000 words, you could even say I’ve written four. The Sevenfold Spell isn’t even among that number because it’s a novella. I was hoping to be able to produce two or three additional novellas in quick succession.

But dang. I got hit with the Sophomore Slump.

I started the Cinderella novella with high hopes. I had what I thought was a good premise. I started writing and I thought things were going well.

Then, I started second-guessing myself. You see, the Cinderella story is quite different from The Sevenfold Spell. I was hoping to go for some humor, but it didn’t work out that way. It has a virginal protagonist who remains that way throughout the story. I came up with an awesome villain.

But the plot … well, it kept failing my “why should the reader give a s**t?” test. The Cinderella story just doesn’t have all that much inherent conflict. Or rather, it’s conflict that the reader really doesn’t care about (with the stepsisters/stepmother) that is eventually culminated with a comeuppance, which really doesn’t resonate with me. And I think, as the author, I have to find it compelling in order to be able to do anything with it.

The part that gives me heartburn is I knew all this last August. I tried to carry on, to up the stakes, to infuse it with more conflict. I tried writing it in first person. I wrote a prequel that I really like. I set it aside for a while to polish up and submit my two novels (the first is a trunk novel). But every time I came back to it, I had less and less enthusiasm for the project.

But I didn’t want to give up on it. However, before long I realized that I wasted a year.

Finally, in July, I set it aside for good and started work on Snow White. It’s finished now; I’m just giving it a week to sit before I read it again before I send it off. I’ve even had some good plot improvement ideas in the meantime (which is why I let it sit). I also still need to read it aloud.

I didn’t have any of the problems I had with the Cinderella story. The more I wrote it, the more I liked it. Also, I’ve started my Beauty and the Beast story already, and I keep coming up with more ideas that I like for it. It may even be the best story of the three, which would be just fine with me if I can keep improving with each novel.

My difficult lesson? To listen to myself. When I know something isn’t working, I need to set it aside and work on something else. Because to set something aside doesn’t mean you give up on it forever. It only means that now is not its time.

7 thoughts on “That Sophomore Book

  1. Beauty and the Beast? Awesome!

    I can really identify with the whole `giving yourself permission to back off a project’ because I had a similar issue this past year. I was working with a narrator that I just couldn’t click with but instead of switching to a different project, I tried to make the story interesting by coming up with more and more dire situations for her to be in until the whole story was pretty much a string of torment so depressing even I didn’t want to read it.

    So now I’m re-writing an old comedy piece just to get my head strait. Hopefully when I return to my other story I’ll be out of the angst rut and able to actually write something worth reading.

    It’s got to be a hundred times harder for a person to trust their intuition while under contract. I’m glad you were able to figure out that it was the wrong story, instead of burning yourself out on it. πŸ™‚

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    • I’m not under contract. My TSS contract was for one book. But there still is that reader and publisher expectation to produce another book. And I want to as well. πŸ™‚

      Wich old comedy are you reading? If its worth a reread, I may want to give it a try.

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      • Sorry- re-writing, not re-reading. It’s a mouse mystery I originally wrote to get myself through my teen years. I did pull Michael Hoeye’s Hermux Tantimoq books off my shelf to help put me in a mouse mystery mood, though. The first one is `Time Stops for No Mouse’, and the series is truly charming.

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          • They’re a lot of fun. I have a weak spot for mouse heroes. (I was very into the Redwall books when they first came out.) You’d probably like Michael Hoeye. His books are marketed as mid-grade (probably because of the mice) but really, they read older.

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  2. I had to ditch a book once too. Realized it was time after I’d covered my entire downstairs with notecards to make sense of the plot. Maybe one day I’ll pull it back and simplify it down to two or three cards. πŸ™‚ Happy writing.

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    • Wow. That’s a lot of notecards. Sounds like my first book. There is no hope for mine; I have put it in my closet. It takes up a tiny nook of my hard drive as well. πŸ™‚

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