Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Surviving the Sophomore Manuscript: Guest Post by Tracey Devlyn

Book Two. Second manuscript. The sophomore book. No matter what one calls it, the follow-up story to one’s debut can be a terrifying and paralyzing adventure for some authors. I definitely fall within this category.

I had years to write and polish my debut novel, A LADY’S REVENGE, without the pressure of a looming deadline or editorial pet peeves swimming around my head. Not so with book 2, CHECKMATE, MY LORD. Don’t get me wrong. I had plenty of time to write the manuscript. In total, about twelve months. Yep, you read that right. Many authors can write two, three, or even four books in the same amount of time.

Without going into the gory details, the ten months following THE CALL were not what I expected. Because of that, I spent a lot of time worrying, thinking, spinning my wheels, and starting the beginning of book 2 four times. My lack of self-confidence resulted in good deal of lost time and thousands of wasted words.

On top of all that, I couldn’t see beyond the midpoint. The last half of the book was nothing but impenetrable darkness. And that’s when the fear set in. True fear. Especially when I didn’t finish the rough draft on the deadline date I had set. A date I would change two more times before finally finishing the draft (absent the final two chapters).

When I eventually reached the end, I was so lost that I couldn’t write the climatic chapters. Plus, I only had a few weeks until my deadline. Not enough time to ship the manuscript off to my awesome critique partners, get their feedback, and revise. Talk about going it alone. Yikes.

My husband, who reads a ton of mysteries and thrillers, had just finished reading the advanced reading copy (ARC) of my debut. Out of desperation, I asked him if he’d be willing to read my current manuscript. Without hesitation, he agreed. He might have been motivated by the help-me-I’m-dying look I was flinging at him.

So I buckled down and line-edited the manuscript while my dear husband read it for the picture stuff. As it turned out, we made an awesome team. He asked great questions and pointed out little nuances in the plot that I had missed.

I made my deadline with one day to spare.

Moral of this story?  Bear with me—I have more than one.
1.    Try to block out the white noise.
2.    The more time you have to write, the more time it will take you to write.
3.    Put your nose to the grindstone and push forward.
4.    Don’t allow yourself to dwell in I Can’t Do This Land or I Don’t Have Enough Time Land or It’s Too Much Land for long. It’s not healthy and will negatively affect your productivity.
5.    Have faith in your abilities. They got you to this point and they’ll carry you through to the finish line. Never give up.
6.    Surround yourself with a positive support group.
7.    Ask for help.

And don’t forget to have fun and bask in your incredible accomplishment.

Where are you in your writing process? Have you ever fought with self-doubt? How did you overcome it?

Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win A Lady’s Revenge. (Contest is open only to U.S. and Canada)

* * *


A British agent flees her French captor’s torturous dungeon and falls in love with the decoder responsible for her imprisonment.

British agent Cora deBeau has spent the last three years seducing secrets from the most hardened of French spies while searching for her parents’ killer. When her latest assignment goes awry, she suffers at the hands of her French captor until Guy Trevelyan, the Earl of Helsford and master cryptographer, saves her during a daring rescue. Scarred and wary of men, Cora shies away from the one man who could heal her savaged heart.

After rescuing Cora from a French dungeon, Guy discovers it was one of his deciphered messages that led to her captivity. Guy strives to earn her forgiveness while outwitting their enemy. But will he find the scars on her wounded soul run too deep?


Tracey Devlyn writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine's happy ending).

She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Australia Romance Readers Association and the Windy City, Beau Monde, Women’s Fiction, and PASIC Romance Writers of America chapters. Tracey’s also co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.

An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website at:


  1. I hate the second book - not yours of course, but writing them. They make me nervous, nauseous and I avoid them like I used to avoid the gym locker room. Great post! I can't wait to read more! And my hubs is super supportive too! Don't you love that?

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, the second book does have that effect on us, but we eventually must write the follow up, especially if we're on contract. :) Having a supportive husband makes a world of difference. Good luck with your writing journey!

    2. ...and that's why I'm waiting on 2 book twos from Bonnie, LOL. Thanks so much for coming by today, Tracey!

  2. Sounds like a great book. I'll have to look it up. Seeing as how I deal in facts with the news business and am constantly on deadline, I don't really have a reply for that question, but I can imagine the stress for book 2 would tough. MJCM

  3. Anonymous--thanks for stopping by. Sounds like you're no stranger to deadlines. A lot of the stress is probably self-inflicted. :)

  4. You were referred by Brooklyn I definitely need to read your work.
    I love your comments on writing the second book. And I thought the first book was tough!

  5. Oh wow, is this ever a timely post for me. I just sold my first book, conquered that mountain (squee!).... and they want the second?!?! Ahh! The little self-doubt monkeys have been plaguing me all day about that second book. Glad I'm not alone!