Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…

by Mikhaeyla Kopievsky

*Brushes away the cobwebs* Hello! Yes, it has been quite some time since I last shared my angst and discoveries about crafting compelling fiction. For the veteran readers of this blog, you’ll know this is an annual occurrence – marking the shift from musing about writing to figuring shit out and actually writing.

But, today, dear readers,  I am back.

I celebrated the start of 2018 by typing the final words in Divided Elements #2. It’s crazy to think I actually drafted an entire 100,000 word novel in less than 12 months. I’m really happy with how the sequel to Resistance has developed and I’m looking forward to diving into the editing process to polish up this rough gem of mine.

Over the next couple of months I’ll be posting about this process – sharing my approach in all its glory (challenges, pitfalls, successes, frustrations) – particularly as it relates to editing a sequel.

Sophomore Syndrome

Sequels are tricky things. So tricky, in fact, there’s a whole turn of phrase to describe the inherent difficulties: Sophomore Syndrome.

Sophomore Syndrome (aka Sophomore Slump or Second-Year Syndrome) is the common perception that a second effort or sequel will fail (or has failed)  to live up to the standards of the first. It can plague books, movies, albums, sporting careers, academic achievements, and progeny. [Hahaha, just kidding – let’s not give middle children another reason to get all angsty (shout out and love to my middle siblings)].

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Image courtesy of State Library of Queensland via Flickr Creative Commons

Sometimes the slump is just a product of expectations and time pressures. Think about it: Your first attempt enters the world clean; no-one knows what to expect, no benchmarks have been set, no context is available. And you’ve had all the time in the world, up until that first attempt, to hone your craft and prepare for the unveiling of your debut.

And then it’s time for your sequel. Now, everyone has expectations – of you and your work; the quality of your writing, the complexity of your characters, the nuances of your world-building. And they’re not just expectations that these will be merely as good as they were in the first effort – your audience wants to see growth, development, accelerating excellence; a failure to deliver on these will be seen as failure to realise the potential you so clearly presented in your debut.

And just as expectations rise, patience to see these expectations realised diminishes. Before anyone knew you or your work, there was no demand. Your audience didn’t know what they were missing. Now they’ve tasted the Kool Aid and they’re begging for more. Now. Right Now.

For indie/self-published artists, the pressure is a little less constricting – there are no agents, editors, publishing houses banging on doors, waving around contract clauses, to ratchet that anxiety up a little higher. But, still, it’s there – all artists know that no-one is going to wait too long for a sequel when there are other pretty fish in the sea to turn their attention to.

It’s not all bad news…

So, yeah, sophomore efforts are tough. The narrative arts have their own particular complexities – for instance, juggling stylistic and content consistency while being interesting, innovative and fresh (something I’ll cover in future posts on editing your sequels) – but, like all sophomore efforts, they also have their advantages.an

So before you despair about the challenges of the Sophomore Syndrome, I present the key advantages I gleaned from drafting Divided Elements #2:

  • Competency – This isn’t your first time at the Rodeo. You still have a lot to learn, but you’ve also mastered a lot of the basics. You’re firmly off your L-Plates and on to your Ps
  • No Blank Canvas – By now, you should have fairly well-developed characters, conflict, momentum and world-building. Plus, your first book should hold lots of little nuggets to flesh out, spin, turn inside-out in book 2. Winning!
  • Incentive – You know the end goal. You know the thrill of finishing a draft. You know the awesomeness of publishing and having total strangers say things like:
    “A book that would appeal to fans of dystopia (Think 1984, George Orwell) Resistance is an utterly thought-provoking and subversive book in this genre – Highly entertaining, poignant and brutal by shades, Divided Elements is an original novel, pushing the boundaries of this genre – and Mikhaeyla is surely a writer to watch out for.” (I loved this review – My readers are the best!)
  • Curiosity – Just like your readers, you’ve also set off on this journey of discovery. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be just as curious to find out what happens next 🙂

Where do we go from here?

Second attempts are tricky and satisfying in equal measure. If you’re drafting or polishing your own sophomore effort, why not join me over the next few weeks as I wade through the complexities of editing a sequel? Subscribe to the blog to get the posts delivered directly to your inbox!

In the meantime, tell me about your own sophomore issues/anxieties in the comments.

 

Liked this? Want more?

You can grab your own copy of Resistance (Divided Elements #1) to read now. Available as a paperback or ebook on your favourite device. 

RESISTANCE

 

 

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Sophomore Syndrome – How to handle your sequels…