Sophomore Slump

As I have mentioned or at least alluded to before, my first two novellas (one of which is out in ebook format, the other of which will be out before the end of the summer) are companion pieces…the events of the same night for two different couples, which interconnect and influence each other’s stories.  These pieces were not written concurrently, but they were planned together, and the same week I finished writing one I started the other.  So in a way they are one story–my first story.

What I am writing now could, then, be considered my second story, and I’m finding that it’s harder to do than I expected. I hadn’t really considered the idea of second story as harder to write until I saw this post from Courtney Milan, which implies a lot of writers struggle with book 2.  (Also I’m sad this discussion won’t be recorded, since it sounds apter than apt for where I am right now!)

 Was the relative ease with which the first story came together just beginner’s luck?  Or is the difference that the plotline there was tight–it was one night, and characters who only had to be led to the point of revelation of extant feelings–rather than characters who have to begin from scratch and need at least a couple weeks to come to the point? 

I am enjoying working on a story that is more like a novel in scope, if not final length (although, my projections right now put it much closer to the novel-length rather than the short story border of novella country), but it is also frustrating to me.  I can’t hold the entire plot in my mind at once.  I don’t have one moment of revelation to lead the characters into, but several.  It’s…complicated, for all that I thought I knew the whole story going in.

I can also tell that it’s going to need a lot more revising than the first story.  That one, I wrote out and essentially only had to line-edit.  This one is going to need parts trimmed down and others padded up, certain threads pulled to the front in places where they’d gotten lost in the shuffle in order to keep those themes visible throughout, and scenes re-written whole cloth when the first attempt turned out to be from the wrong point of view or just entirely off

Perhaps what I’m struggling with the most is my own perfectionism. I have a tendency to shut down on moving forward until I fix the parts that I’ve written that I can tell are not perfect or even close-enough-to-perfect to stand in its place with just a tarnished halo to differentiate it.  It is hard for me to write forward knowing that I will have to rewrite what is behind, but on the flip side I won’t actually know how I need to revise what’s already down until I have the rest of it written.  Conundrum!  

Since I’m not clairvoyant, obviously I  can’t see into the future to look at what the finished rough draft will be to tell me what I then need to revise on the front half.  That is beyond my control.  Therefore the only part I can control is the creation of the full draft, therefore the only thing I can do is keep going until it’s finished, no matter how tough it is.  The point that I have to hammer home through my thick head is that what matters is not getting down something perfect, but getting something down.  It can be fixed later.  It can be deconstructed and reconceived later…but I have no way to tell that it will need to be until I first construct the wrong thing.

Better start hammering.



Filed under Ramblings, Writing

5 responses to “Sophomore Slump

  1. In my experience it’s a combination of all the factors you mentioned, plus the effect of the learning curve that happened during the first manuscript or two. On the one hand, the first book is filled with the excitement of discovery and creation, and the trepidation of it’s upcoming conclusion.

    By the time the author gets to the second or third, the world and its characters exist. The easy plot twists and character interactions have been used up, and the personality of the world, style, and characters is already set into a certain form. There are more limitations as to what can be done, and the distinct challenge to offer something new to the reader, that hadn’t been done before in the earlier books.

    Sometimes, even with published and famous writers, there’s precious little novelty to be offered at that point, the plot dries up, and fans complain that the author should have left the first as a stand-alone–or stopped at book 5 in the series.

  2. A very excellent point about series…and even to some extent standalone books if they are in a genre that can be formulaic (such as romance). I’ve actually seen romance books by the same author that had exactly the same plotline on the back, with different character names…and that is just sad. Either because they took the same premise a different way, and their editor/publicist fucked up the blurb by not making that clear on the back cover, or because they had nothing better to write than the same story over again….

    • I’m still not quite sure where I stand when it comes to genre serials, such as romance, mysteries, and thrillers. They sell–and people eat them up. Is it so bad then, if there’s a real demand? Or does the supply of so many of formulaic books create that demand?

  3. Hm…well, formulaic is a little bit different from what seems to be literally the same story. I mean, “impoverished but secretary is swept off her feet by the millionaire boss” is formulaic, but there’s a lot of room for variance within that. The books I’m thinking of had almost the same back copy, like “Girl is the daughter of a wealthy Texas rancher who ran off to Mexico to teach orphans. Dude is the gunslinger hired by her father to bring her back home.” Again they might be different stories but they were described the same way.

    Actually, there’s a couple anthologies out where 4 writers tested the premise that different people would make different stories out of the same idea. Mayr Balogh was one of the writers, can’t remember the others offhand, but the stories were all different. So that proves that even a constrained formula leaves room for differences.

    I think where I come down on the serials is, don’t feel the need to read them myself because i do prefer longer and more complex novels even in romance, but that (1) the demand justifies their existence and (2) they might be variations on a theme but they are different, and maybe their readers love the 1000 variations on the same fantasy. 🙂

  4. Pingback: Point: Tipped | Lily White LeFevre

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