By: Lizbeth Selvig
Everything is relative. Optimism vs. pessimism.Glass half-full or half-empty. Depends on how you look at it. All of those clichés are clichés for a reason: they sort of sum up life and the way in which we all look at life choices. They certainly sum up the way I look at my job as an author. They definitely sum up my experience with the book that’s about to be released in October.
Rescued by a Stranger will be my second release from Avon Books. We hear the term “sophomore slump” fairly often, but nobody really talks about it in detail. “Yeah, that second book’s tough,” they say. Well, I’m here to tell you—sophomore slump is as real as the flu in February and just as obnoxious. It’s not just tough, it can dang near kill you. It certainly can take a brutal ax to your self-esteem.
Or—maybe it totally depends on how you look at it.
I’d like to share this novel’s journey to publication by means of two lists. The first shows how I viewed living through sophomore slump while I was living through it. The second shows how I viewed it after gaining a little perspective (translation: once it was finished).
The pessimistic/glass half empty list:
·Rescued by a Stranger was the first full-length novel I ever wrote (trivia: the original title was Angelwings). I loved the story. I loved the characters. And revamping it to fit in with my three-book series was going to be a breeze. I’d make a few tweaks and, voila!
· However, the writing, it turned out, was horrible. Okay, not horrible, but much weaker than the way I write now. It depressed me to read it. I put it aside for several weeks.
· I wanted to kick my hero in the shins and tell him to quit moping. I wanted to get my heroine a “pull up your big girl pants” t-shirt. They had problems, but they were dealing with them like big ol’ babies.
· I loved some parts of the story, but I had to change most of the timeline, most of the motivations.
· I left in the parts I loved and tried to blend them with the new. When my CPs and agent read the book, however, the parts that didn’t work were those parts I’d left in.Grrrr.
· I lost confidence. I lost track of the page count. I lost track of the story. I sat on it.I didn’t write for months (ergo, The Slump).
· I promised the book to agent AND editor and didn’t deliver when I said I would. Fortunately, I had no official contract. I didn’t “miss” a deadline. But my procrastination felt like a criminal offense. Who would want me now?
· When I did turn it in, a year after I’d started working on it and 18,000 words too long, I sweated for weeks, knowing my editor was putting off calling me, wondering how to let me know she’d made a dreadful mistake thinking she could take this book. And, by the way, who’d ever told me I could write?I was a one-hit wonder.
The glass was nearly empty by this time. And then, I heard back from agent and editor with nothing but praise and great suggestions for edits to make my unpolished gem shine. They didn’t hate the book. They weren’t disappointed in me. Suddenly, the glass was magically refilling itself. Suddenly, I could see items on ...
The optimistic/glass half-full/it all depends on how you look at it list:
· I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to make over my first manuscript, a decent story that I loved, into a wonderful story that I now adore.
· I learned so much more about my craft than I would have getting it perfect the first time.
· I learned more about characterization, motivation, and goals (isn’t there a whole book by the amazing Deb Dixon about that?) than I’d ever known. And I learned that it’s not good enough to tell your agent “I don’t know why he’s that way. He came to me fully formed.”
· Because I took a year to write Rescued, it gave my first book a chance to “grow legs” and to sell well after a slower start.
· I got to have a great time trying to come up with a title. All my ideas were rejected, so I called the book “Bob” for a while. I grew pretty fond of Bob the Book and now Bob isitsofficial affectionate appellation and something special I’ll always remember about this experience.
· Once I finished this novel, I was so appreciative of writing fresh new words that I hit the ground running on Book 3 (affectionately known as Bill, Bob’s brother). It’s so great not to be constantly editing that I truly know there’ll be nojunior-slump. And that’s the biggest blessing of all.
So, I learned a lot during my sophomore slump. I didn’t love the process. I don’t want to repeat it. But I am grateful for the lesson: Attitude makes a difference. Whether the glass is half-full or half-empty all depends on how you look at it.And this can be applied pretty much everywhere in life. Easy peasy. Now—if only I could remember the half-full stuff while I was in the process of emptying the glass!