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Thursday, August 05, 2010

Sophmore Syndrome

I have heard of the legendary sophomore syndrome which afflicts those who’ve written a well received debut novel, only to find themselves struggling to do it again with their second.

Honestly, I didn’t think that would be me. I had a great idea for a second novel. Began to write away, was nailing the voice and the story and even making myself laugh out loud.

Then I submitted my sample chapters and got a call from my agent and publisher saying, “We need to talk.”

Not the words you want to hear after submitting a story. Turns out it was too different than Crossing Oceans and really more of a YA (young adult) novel. I knew they were right so I happily (well tolerantly) went back to the drawing board.

I submitted an idea for a different novel. They loved it. Hooray. Six months later I had a book that I had written so fast I had no idea if it was brilliant or crap, though I strongly suspected it was somewhere in between. It might not be my best work, I rationalized, but if it’s the worst book I deliver in my career I’ll be doing well.

Not the right attitude.

So I get another, “We need to talk.” Now, I’m looking at a major rewrite. Apparently I’m not above the sophomore syndrome. I am however blessed enough to have an agent and publisher who won’t let me slide by with a mediocre follow up. I’ve seen a few novelists who weren’t so lucky and their careers have suffered for them.


  1. Thanks for the post. Sounds like I have Sophomore Syndrome to look forward to, once I publish my first novel!

    I heard one multi-published mystery author say she's always afraid she can't write the next novel. I guess the fear comes with the publication territory.

  2. I can only imagine. I'd be thankful too--after a few private rants--for editors and agents like yours.

  3. Thanks for sharing your struggle and for your honesty!

  4. Thanks for sharing. That was an insightful post.

  5. Gina, your journey continues -- and so does the great mission of this website. Excellent post.

    The "sophomore syndrome" hit me on my third book (maybe the "junior jinx?"). No phone call from editors -- instead a five-page (single spaced!) letter enumerating the problems! Yes, laughter now, but tears of frustration then. And fear. Lots and lots of fear.

    Though I understood how this apprenticeship never ends, I now "get that" on another level completely. How fortunate we are that God stands ready to step in with His supernatural help.

    I'll be praying for perseverance. You can do this, and you will look back and see His fingerprints all over the pages -- and yourself.

    Do not give up.

  6. Gina, thank you for sharing your experiences with such honesty and humor. You're providing encouragement for those of us behind you on the publication path. Best to you as you overcome "sophomore syndrome"!

  7. I can relate!

    I had a few first readers of BOOK OF DAYS tell me they liked it better than ROOMS and I didn't believe them.

    I still don't. :)

    Nice to know I'm not the only one to struggle with issues revolving around novel # 2.


  8. I'm still trying to get my first novel out there, but I can understand the desire to rush through with the second while riding on the enthusiasm of the first. Thank goodness for quality control agents and publishers.

    Thanks for sharing, Gina!

  9. Thank you so much everyone, for taking the time to comment and encourage. Sibella--I needed that. Thanks friend :)

  10. As Sibella noted, it really is all about His fingerprints in the end--all over us, all over the work--the most important collaboration we will ever experience. Our own honesty before God with one another is key in the Body. Thanks for sharing, Gina. :)


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