I’ve heard of the sophomore slump–when authors have trouble writing their second book–but I was sure I’d be immune to it. Why? Ash Princess isn’t my first book. If there was a sophomore slump, I was sure it happened sometime in 2009, though I don’t remember it. I’ve always been a fast drafter and, in the case of Ash Princess at least, my first draft was pretty great.
Yes, I can feel you glaring daggers at me through the computer. I’m not saying it was perfect. It wasn’t. But it was clean and my main character’s arc was solid and the world was interesting. And the writing–the writing!–I don’t know where it came from, but it was not my usual first draft writing. I loved Theo’s voice and it was easy to tap into. Writing it felt so natural and I finished my first draft in a little over a month.
Fast forward to now, when I’m a quarter of the way through the sequel and slumping. Hard.
It isn’t that I don’t know what’s happening in this book. When my agent went on submission with Ash Princess, she asked me to write summaries of books two and three so she could sell it as a series. I know what happens in this book and even though I’m aware that bits and pieces might change, I know where it’s going and I know how it ends. And I love it.
But writing it has been tortuous. Everything that was so easy about writing Ash Princess is suddenly not easy anymore. The voice that once came so naturally is harder to find and the writing that somehow came out lovely and lyrical a year and a half ago is…not so lovely and lyrical. It’s rough. It’s a first draft. I know this, but I can’t help but feel disappointed in myself, especially as I’m periodically dipping back into Ash Princess to work on minor/line edits.
And a big part of that is that I’m writing this book under contract, which is more than just writing on deadline. When I wrote Ash Princess, I’d recently left my first agent so I was just writing it for myself. I wasn’t thinking about how other people would react to it or what parts they would or wouldn’t like. I was telling the story that I wanted to tell. If you were to ask my agent or editor, they would probably tell you that they want me to still be writing like that, but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. No matter how much I try, I can’t shake the knowledge that there are now other people depending on this book to be amazing, and that’s a lot of pressure.
There is a light, though. My agent sent me a much-needed pep talk today that helped more than I can put into words. I don’t think I ever understood when people likened their agents to therapists before, but that’s the only comparison that comes to mind now. She told me exactly what I needed to hear and reminded me that even though the first quarter I sent to her needed work, I just needed to focus on getting the whole draft done before I worried about that. Again, easier said than done, but I tried.
I opened a new scene in Scrivener today and I wrote 1,200 words that I actually really like. Plus, it’s leading to a scene that I’m going to enjoy writing even more tomorrow. Is this draft perfect? No. Is it great? Not really. Does it have the potential to get there? Yes, it definitely does, and that’s enough for now.