Sophomore Novel Slump

Today I’m hosting Historical Novelist Jessica Dotta. Since she’s nearing the release of her sophomore novel, it’s fitting that she’s here to talk about the difficulties of writing that second book. So, let’s have a big round of applause for Jessica Dotta!
Born in the wrong century‚ except for the fact that she
really likes epidurals and washing machines‚ Jessica Dotta writes British Historicals
with the humor like an Austen, yet the drama of a Bronte.
She resides lives in the greater Nashville area‚where she
imagines her small Southern town into the foggy streets of 19th century London.
She oversees her daughter to school, which they pretend is an English boarding
school, and then she goes home to write or work on PR. Jessica has tried to
cast her dachshund as their butler‚ but the dog insists it’s a Time Lord and
their home a Tardis. Miss Marple, her cat, says its no mystery to her as to why
the dog won’t cooperate. When asked about it, Jessica sighs and says that you
can’t win them all, and at least her dog has picked something British to

It’s about a month away from the launch of Mark of Distinction—a book that will be
called my sophomore novel. Okay, I have to confess, I had to Google the term
when I was invited to blog about it on Novel Rocket. Here, all this time, I
thought, I’d graduated.
I did some reading and here’s what I found.

Some call it the Sophomore Slump. (Ouch.)
 Some of have posted
articles on that sophomore novels t have unexpectedly been surprisingly good. (How
delightful, apparently people utterly doubt our abilities as writers.) 
The popular and successful ones have their own shelf on
GoodReads. (Woot! How do I get there?)
But my very favorite was this article
entitled: Why a Sophomore Novels Is So Different
from the First
. Here’s a quote:
their first books come out, a lot of writers are left with a type of
post-traumatic stress syndrome. It reminds me of one of my grandfather’s bird
dogs who got lost during a hunt and spent the night outdoors in an electrical
storm. The dog made it home the next day, but, for the rest of his life, he
remained what my grandfather sagely described as “not right.  Recently published authors often have the
same wild-eyed look of that bird dog, as if they’ve been through such a
prolonged series of flashes and booms that they simply can’t begin to
articulate the experience.
That quote made me laugh. By golly, she’s right! Launching a
potential publishing career is hard. And I even knew it was coming. For nearly
a decade before publication I worked alongside a number of authors as editor,
critique partner and publicist. Yet despite that and countless hours of working
with media as a book publicist, I barely made it through the first storm. And
there was still a book to be re-edited and a book to be written.
The article goes on to talk about how during this season a
writer can lose their zeal. The ideal is gone but the reality remains, possibly
affecting the writing. Here at least I’m thankful, for originally I wrote Born of Persuasion and Mark of Distinction as one book. (Only later
did I discover 400K word novels are not welcome.) It worked out nicely for me,
because my sophomore novel has always existed alongside the first book. They
were twins, so to speak.
I did however walk through the Sophomore Novel Experience
with the last book of the trilogy—in the midst of whirlwind or launching a
book, editing a book, writing a book and working full time as a single mom, I
realized I only had months to accomplish what first took me a decade to do
I now understand why it took me so long to break through the
publishing wall—and I’m so grateful.
In the book Outliers:
The Story of Success,
Malcolm Gladwell studies what made high-achievers
thus. He discovered there are factors already in place behind successful
people. One of those was called the ten-thousand-hour rule. Simply explained,
the hours invested into an interest or hobby needs to be approximately
ten-thousand-hours. He cites the Beatles as an example. They hit the scene with
mega success in 1964, but it wasn’t as overnight as it seemed. Lennon and
McCartney started playing together since 1957, and in 1960 they’d played in
Hamburg, Germany. 
Here’s a quote from the book: “It was a huge nonstop show, hour after hour, with a lot of people
lurching in and the other lot lurching out. And the bands would play all the
time to catch the passing traffic. . . . And what was so special about Hamburg?
It wasn’t that it paid well. It didn’t . . . It was the sheer amount of time
they band was forced to play
They had to
learn an enormous amount of numbers—cover versions of everything you can think
of, not just rock and roll, a bit of jazz too. They weren’t disciplined onstage
at all before that. But when they came back, they sounded like no one else. It
was the making of them.”
When I read that section of the book, I felt relieved
because I knew I’d invested ten-thousand hours into the craft and marketing. I
clung to that knowledge every time fear arose that I couldn’t complete the
series. I remembered the Beatles and the ten-thousand-hour rule. I would remind
myself of how diverse their ability was simply because of the experience they
garnered, and how because of it, they wrote music is identifiable their sound
(or in our case, because we know our voice.) Eventually, much like I imagine
the Beatles hitting the stage, I remembered who I was as a writer and blocked
out the fears, reviewers and critics, and the predictions of what my editors
would say . . . and just sat down and wrote.

It wasn’t too long before I found myself on familiar ground
. . .