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.