Friday, August 7

Coping with Sophomore Syndrome by Jana Richards

Sophomore slump. A sophomore slump or sophomore jinx or sophomore jitters refers to an instance in which a second, or sophomore, effort fails to live up to the relatively high standards of the first effort.



Strictly speaking, what I’m concerned with is not sophomore syndrome since my latest release, TO HEAL A HEART, is the second book in the Masonville series, not the first. But that doesn’t make me any less worried about the next two books in the series.

Here’s the thing: The reviews I’ve received for TO HEAL A HEART have been some of best I’ve ever gotten. Most of the reviewers talk about making an emotional connection to the characters and their situations. I do my best to bring strong emotion to every book I write, but apparently with this book I really hit the mark. More than one reviewer mentioned that the book brought them to tears; one said, “This book wrecked me.”

Now what do I do?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled readers have connected with this book and have given it great reviews. But can I do it again? Will readers be disappointed when they read the next two books in the series? Will they feel like the series didn’t live up to the promise of this book?

I typically get nice reviews. There will always be some readers that really like my book, but I’ve never had a book that was universally loved by readers. It’s a new experience for me and wonderful one, but maybe that’s why I’m so freaked out.

Was this just a fluke? Will I ever be able to repeat the magic?

When I asked some friends in my writing group if they would be willing to beta read the next book in the series, I told them my fears. One very wise friend told me to simply enjoy the success and then let it go. I should do everything I can to make the next book the best it can be, but if doesn’t reach the success of its predecessor, that’s okay. I’ll always have the success of the previous book.

I know she’s right. I can’t obsess over how the next two books will be accepted or I’ll drive myself nuts and possibly derail the writing. But still …

I would love every one of my books to achieve critical acclaim, not to mention best seller status. But that is likely unrealistic. So I should enjoy my moment in the sun while it lasts.

But it’s easier said than done. I’m the kind of person who worries about things that may never happen.

So fellow Word Wranglers and readers, do you have any words of wisdom for me? How does a writer make each book in a series better than the one before it? Or is that even possible?  As a reader, would you be disappointed if the next book in a series didn’t hit the high notes of the previous one? Would it keep you from reading that author's books again?

10 comments:

  1. Oh, wow, you have just voiced my own worries about the new River's Edge series. The answer is yes, you can do this. We can do this! Your voice is terrific, my words of wisdom are simply keep writing. That's my answer, too. Great post, Jana!

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    1. It's a surprise to me that you feel that way because I love your writing and each book is so consistently good. But I guess I shouldn't be surprised. It's just one more insecurity about writing, I guess.

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  2. You are so not alone. I'm always worried I won't be able to repeat the success of something that came before. Sometimes I am, sometimes I'm not. I'd listen to your wise friend. She's exactly right. And enjoy this success while it lasts!

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I appreciate that. Since I wrote this blog I received a review from Ind'tale magazine, and TO HEAL A HEART received a 3.5, which I think is the lowest review I've ever gotten from them. That really brought me back to earth and reminded me you can't please everyone. Success is very subjective.

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  3. A great post, Jana. I don't have any answers, but it's for sure a widespread question!

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    1. Thanks Liz. I've settled down a bit since I wrote this piece, but I'm still concerned about the next book in the series. But letting the book sit a bit is giving me some perspective. I know I'll need to work hard to make it better and I'm willing to do that work.

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  4. Boy, Jana, ditto on those feelings! I'm often asked, "Isn't it exciting to be a writer?" But excitement can come in both good and bad ways. When we debut a book, we feel like we've just given birth, and if someone doesn't review our book well, then we feel as if they've just said, "That baby is darn homely." For me, I just remember that I was meant to be a writer, and all that entails - both the good and the bad. Then, I let myself get lost in the writing. That's the joy of it all- getting lost in the work. Euphoria when it's great, but frustration and fear when it's not. I live for the euphoria. Write on!

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    1. Thanks for that reply, Janie. You made me smile. I don't want my baby to be "darn homely" but I really don't have any control over how people perceive my work. All I can do is put my heart and soul into it hope for euphoria. Write on, Janie!

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  5. No great words of wisdom except to keep writing your books the way you envision them ... because when you put your heart into your stories readers can't help but feel that as they're reading.

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    1. Thanks Kristie. I agree; readers can tell if your heart isn't in the writing. I'll keep doing my best to give them that.

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