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The sophomore slump

Posted on December 11th, 2009 by annakjarzab

I can’t believe this, but I signed on to WordPress for the first time in weeks (yikes, I’m not doing a good job keeping up with the blogging, am I?) to blog about a very specific thing and I’ve totally forgotten what that is. So instead of a thoughtful, collected post about an interesting topic, you’re going to get a brain dump.

I guess the first thing on my mind is my second book. I wrote it the summer before I got my deal for AUT (so that’s summer 2008), finishing it in August. I sent Joanna the first three pages, which is a prologue, and she included it in our submissions to editors in early September 2008. My editor bought two books from me, with the understanding that MB, of which she’d only read three pages, would be book 2.

Fast forward to this past summer. I revised the book myself, then Joanna had a look at it and she gave me an editorial letter, which I used to revise a second time. Then we sent it on to my editor. I’m due to get revisions back next week, and I’m nervous. I spent a long time writing AUT, and I revised it many, many times for many, many people. Joanna and I did two rounds of revisions, and then Danielle (Egan-Miller, the president of Browne & Miller, Joanna’s agency) looked it over and sent me notes, which I used to revise a third time. I revised twice with my editor, and then went through a round of copy edits and two rounds of pages (where the book was laid out in exactly the format it has in the ARC and finished book)–and I just remembered what I came here to blog about, stay tuned for that. It wasn’t a particularly long process for publishing, but it was a considerable amount of work and time and consideration. In each round of revision, I cut and added, and I think the book ended up being rather robust and meaningful, as well as exciting.

If you utter the words “book 2″ to debut authors, you’re going to get a bunch of wincing and grimacing. It’s so hard to follow up something you’ve spent a long time crafting with something you haven’t spent a long time crafting, simply because your publishing schedule encourages publishing every year or year and a half, sometimes more. It’s not that the second book in its first draft is any worse than your first book in its first draft, it’s just that you have less time to turn it into something good and publishable. That’s where I am right now. My second book was written in months, where AUT took years. My second book has been revised twice, and AUT was revised five times that. It was hard to show it to my editor, who bought it basically sight unseen, but I did it anyway, and now comes the hard part–realizing that it’s not in as good of shape as AUT was when it left my hands, coming to terms with that, and doing what needs to be done to make it just as good–or better!–of a book as AUT was, in way less time.

I get now why there are a few authors out there whose second books are a long time coming. I thought that because I wrote my second book before I sold my first, I was safe from the sophomore slump, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that I’m not. I’m trying not to freak out about it. I’m trying to trust in my ability to do exactly what I did with AUT–take the skeleton of my first draft and carefully prune it where necessary, and add to it where necessary. I write bare bones first drafts. The introspection and explanation and deep characterization everything that goes into giving a book a story, not just a plot, comes later for me. I like to get all the action and dialogue down before I go for the meat of the thing. It’s just my process. But since I’ve only really done it successfully once, it’s hard to trust that process.

As I reach the end of CH (I’m quite literally down to the last fifty pages), I realize just how messy of a draft it is. I mean, it’s absolutely insane. And the part of me that’s into organization and planning is stressed out by what a sloppy chaotic disaster of a manuscript it is. MB is obviously better, but maybe not very much so. But there’s another part of me, and I hope it’s a bigger part, that knows that the revisions process is so much more than fixing problems–it’s an opportunity to get to know better a narrative geography that you’ve mapped, but not yet explored. I think the next six months are going to be a lot of work, but MB will be better for it, and I’m glad, because I love MB, and I want my editor to love it, and I want readers to love it. If getting to that place is going to be hard and long and arduous, so be it–I’ve got time, and I’ve got endurance.

So, back to why I originally came here to post. My editor passed this along to me today. It’s an AUT chapter sampler! Okay, so it’s the same chapter I have on the site here, BUT this one is from the interior of the actual book, so it has the full design layout of the book that you’ll see in stores come January. It’s gorgeous. Go look at it!

Because when it rains, it pours, I’m headed over to The A-Team blog (it still exists! I promise I’ll post more! Moving kind of took the wind out of my sails) to talk about reviews (which you can always find here), because I’ve been getting some as of late. Join me?

1 Response to “The sophomore slump”

Sidsel on December 13th, 2009 at 1:38 pm Said:

The book looks gorgeous. I will pre-order it on Amazon so I have it the day of. It has been a while since I have had my hands on a good YA novel and I miss it. Can’t wait!

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