Are We There Yet? Working Through the Sophomore Slump

On Tuesday, my son begins the second semester of his freshman year away at college. He loves it there and already owns a wardrobe primarily of green and gold, the school colors. I thought that he did pretty fabulously his first semester, but he was expecting or wishing to have done better.  He is in a good place, though, both physically and mentally.  It’s a great school and he has five months of college experiences under his belt. He knows how much effort it takes to get through a class, not to oversleep when a mid-term paper is due, to work harder at memorizing his music theory, and that there are plenty of distractions that can bump you off course. He has every reason to do better this semester. He expects to do better. I wish him well and hope he’s right.

I am in a similar place.  I wrote and self-published my first novel about a year and a half ago. In essence I have finished my first semester and I am into my second semester. I have that experience under my belt. I am proud of my first effort but I expected it to do better. I now know how much effort it takes and that there are plenty of distractions to bump me off course. I should be well prepared to do even better. But that sophomore effort is not as easy as one might think.

I get the question every so often, “So, what are you working on now?” There isn’t a simple answer to that question because I seem to have several irons in the fire and none of them are hot enough yet.  I started and shelved a novel that I like but was not in the frame of mind to finish.  It is about 30,000 words along so a good amount of effort has been devoted to it and I hope to pick it back up at some point. I began, stopped, and retooled an idea for another novel that just didn’t pan out. I even tried recasting it as a short story, which didn’t save it and I finally ended up deep-sixing it altogether.  Some things just don’t work no matter how hard you try.

Through that effort though, I got hooked on the short story format and I decided to try writing a collection of related short stories all set in the same fictitious town where characters in one story would make cameo appearances in others. The stories overlap at the edges to create a loose portrait of the town and its inhabitants. That project is working but it is slower going than I imagined.

I am also pulling together a collection of all of my five sentence fiction efforts that I post on my blog every Tuesday with the idea of publishing a volume of them.  I thought I would be further along with that effort as well using what I have already written and supplementing them with new material but it is far from finished. And then there is this blog that takes more time and effort than I thought it would but also delivers more satisfaction than expected.

I seem to be a poor closer.  I have started plenty of promising projects and can’t get to the end of any of them.  I am optimistic that someday one of them will come to fruition. Actually I am confident that all of them will make it to market. The road just happens to be a bit longer than anticipated and I must be stopping at too many scenic overlooks.  But I will keep on chugging along with one eye on the fuel gauge because I certainly don’t want to run out of gas.

Questions: Am I alone? What are your secrets for successfully making it through your next Work In Progress? What are your biggest roadblocks?


5 comments on “Are We There Yet? Working Through the Sophomore Slump

  1. I’m surprised you are in somewhat of a slump; You have so many great ideas,,I love reading your blogs. Just keep at it. As Lincoln said about the future: The best thing about it is it comes one day at a time. I like that! I put all my Gertie stories(FSF) together a with another story line and now I’m almost up to 20,000 words. I can’t wait to share it with the world. How long is a novel anyway?

  2. I need deadlines to finish things. I need the pressure of someone expecting it from me. I’ve finished 2 short stories under that guidance at the end of last year. I finished my most recent WIP because I really liked it and promised people I’d send them the second draft to help me edit. But my NaNo effort didn’t make it under the same pressure. Oh, I hit the 50K requirement, but haven’t finished the story even though its a second draft as well. I lost the feel of it toward the end and have yet to convince myself to finish.

    My newest idea is to collect a bunch of my flashes and short stories, add to the longer unfinished ones, and publish those. I’ve already asked someone to do the technical editing for me and had someone else help me with making a cover. I’ve now put suitable pressure on myself to finish. I want to, I must, I will.

    Good luck to you. 🙂

  3. I begin a project all excited and then the buzz starts to wear off. Not because I am no longer pleased with what I am creating but it the shiny newness of it starts to tarnish a little. Some spit and polish will likely get me going again, I just need to commit myself. A self imposed deadline might help. Thanks and good luck with your collection of flash and short fiction.

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