How I Overcame My Sophomore Writing Slump

desertera #2They say the second book is the hardest to write. Well, I don’t know who they are or how they came up with this idea…but based on my experience with Desertera #2, I believe them. This sequel was about a million times more difficult to write than its predecessor, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), and I’m beyond relieved that my first draft is finished. Now, it’s just a matter of revising until it’s ready to publish. Not easy, by any means, but easier for me than pulling words out of thin air.

To help other writers learn from my lessons (and mistakes), and give you readers a few teasers, I want to share with you all some of my biggest challenges and triumphs from drafting Desertera #2, as well as how the experience compared to writing The Cogsmith’s Daughter.

Why I Wrote It

TCD – To prove that I could I write a book. To kick off my author career.

Desertera #2 – I wanted to continue the story of Desertera and the characters within it. Also, to prove TCD wasn’t a fluke and that I really can do this author thing.

Both books had emotional reasons behind them, but Desertera #2 also came with added pressure. I mean, I have to A) live up to readers’ expectations from TCD and B) keep the series moving in the right direction, while C) remembering every detail from the first book.

Lesson learned: Don’t think about expectations or end game, just give this book its due, then edit the rest in later.

Planning & Pre-Writing

TCD – A detailed list of story beats/major plot points, a map of world, basic character sketches. Stayed about 80% on outline.

Desertera #2 – A semi-detailed list of plot points. Stayed maybe 50% on outline.

Note to self: Make a better road map for book three.

How Long I Wrote It

TCD – A mad, 30 day, roughly 52 hour dash during NaNoWriMo 2014. Like ripping off a Band-Aid.

Desertera #2 – A drawn-out and grueling nine months of mostly procrastination and 80-ish hours of actual writing. I started it while TCD was in line editing (June 2015), only to abandon it while finishing up TCD, then start over the next NaNoWriMo. I finally finished in March (after seriously recommitting myself in February).

I hope to never drag out a manuscript in this way again. And I finally accepted that maintaining a consistent writing schedule is the key to success.

How I Felt While Writing It

TCD – This is great! Woohoo! Writing is the best thing ever!

Desertera #2 – What the hell have I done? This is absolute crap. Why did I ever think I could be an author?

Lesson learned upon revising: The truth is always somewhere in between, but at least it’s not yet been crap.

A relic from June 2015

A relic from June 2015

Writing Atmosphere

TCD – Mostly on my desktop in the study, with little snippets on my laptop during lunch.

Desertera #2 – Mostly on my laptop on the train (which has actually become my new favorite place to write!), with the beginning on the desktop in the study.

Big tip: If stuck, mix up your writing routine. You just may find a new center of productivity!

Story Differences in Desertera #2:

A new point-of-view. That’s right – book two does not star Aya Cogsmith. Learning to write a new character’s voice was equally freeing, frustrating, and instructive. My newsletter subscribers already know our new protagonist, but the rest of you can guess in the comments!

Humor and sociability. My new protagonist is much more light-hearted than Aya, so injecting a different sense of humor into the dialog and interactions were fun challenges. Plus, the new protagonist is almost always surrounded by other characters (whereas Aya is more introverted), so that heavily influenced the plot, my writing style, and character relationships.

Darker themes. In Desertera #2, we see our characters change in the aftermath of book one. Greed, corruption, and violence dominate the narrative in a whole new way. 

Same characters, new roles. Because Aya is no longer the focus, the way the reader interacts with previous characters had to change. As such, we get to see new sides of our old friends and learn more about some of their roles in society and ambitions as people.

Longer chapters. The structure of this novel lent itself to longer (and more consistent) chapter lengths. However, I tried to maintain the quick pace and cliffhanger-esque endings that readers enjoyed the first time around.

In Conclusion…

Although my first two novels are in the same series, I had opposite experiences with writing them. The Cogsmith’s Daughter was easy and quick to write, while I struggled regaining my groove with Desertera #2. In the end, I managed to overcome my Sophomore writing slump by finding and sticking to a routine, no longer worrying about how the sequel would compare to its predecessor, and allow my character to guide the plot and even my writing style.

But I’m not done yet. Beyond editing, what’s my final challenge? Figuring out a damn title.


What is the most difficult part of writing a book for you? Did you go through a “Sophomore slump,” too? Who do you think (or hope!) is the protagonist of Desertera #2? Share your thoughts below!

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Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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Posted in The Desertera Series, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips
8 comments on “How I Overcame My Sophomore Writing Slump
  1. You did great Kate. o/
    Good luck with the title, that is also the hardest for me to choose.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mirymom says:

    Reblogged this on Mirymom's Blog and commented:
    Really excellent post. In so many ways, this could be me! I’m working on book 3 right now, and book 2 is coming out this month . . .and I feel and have felt all these feels. Nice to know someone gets it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right back at you! It’s always nice to know that someone else understands the insane mixture of emotions that has been a continuing down the author path. But based on your first book, I say you have nothing to worry about!

      Like

  3. Randy says:

    Sorry to hear Aya is not the main character. But I am sure your story will bring out my interest in the new protagonist. Looking forward to you writing with a little humor in your protagonist. Looking forward to the sophomore book! I’m sure it will be GREAT!

    Liked by 1 person

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