Owning It

There are a million things I should be worried about right now.  What will my first review be like?  How will I steel my guts for asking other humans – sometimes in person – to buy my book?  How much caffeine can the average liver tolerate?

But do you want to know what I’m most worried about right now?  I’m warning you: it’s not flattering.

Right now, I’m most worried about my next book.

Yeah, I know.  It’s a problem a lot of people wish they had.  It’s a problem more than six months at arm’s length when I have real and pressing worries crowding my headspace right now.

Natalie recently talked about being in the publishing sweet spot.  And she’s right.  Most of us EMUs are basking in that golden time between the debut sale and the accumulation of businessy writer-things like sales numbers and reviews.  But if we’re also being honest about the debut experience, it doesn’t do any good to pretend this worry doesn’t exist.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

For some writers, this manifests as What if I can’t write anything new?

For others, it’s more like What if my editor hates what I write next?

For me, it’s something like I love The Wicked and the Just to little tiny bits.  What if I never love any other book I write as much as I love this one?

I confided this to a writer friend recently.  She shrugged and said, “Heck, everyone feels that way. Just ignore it.”

But you know what?  I don’t think that will work for me.  I need to think this worry through.  I need to confront it.  Owning it lets me deal with it.

What if I never love another book like I love The Wicked and the Just?

First of all, I was never going to love a book as much as the trunk book I wrote before I started W/J.  I hated the whole middle of W/J till the third draft, and the first fifty pages had to be rewritten twice.  I didn’t love it either time.  So I eviscerated them, ended up with fifteen pages of sentences held together with chewing gum and duct tape, which I subsequently rewrote.  Then the last fifty pages needed the scalpel and the gutting hook.  Then the middle again.

Right about then, when W/J began to come together like I knew it could, I realized that I loved it.

There’s a feeling you often get, usually when you hit the infamous 25k wall, and this can loosely be described as ambient hate.  It’s when you start to hate a book good and proper, right down to its nubs.  You feel like it’ll never come together and you’re just fooling yourself.  And sometimes you’re right, and you need to write something else.  It’s a book you’re never going to love.

But here’s the key: there was always something I loved about W/J, and that was the characters.  That’s how I knew this book wasn’t trunkable.  I loved them too much to give up on them, so I’d crack open the tomes and dredge up another few more unpleasant conditions of medieval Caernarvon to inflict on them.  And that never failed to drag me by the pigtails back into their world, to double down and make the story work.  I did that until I began to love the outcome as much as I loved what kept me coming back.

Medieval Caernarvon: For best results, visit while English.

Sometimes booklove just happens.  I hope it happens for other people, and I darn well hope it happens for me someday.  But sometimes it has to be made.  It’s not love at first sight – it’s the kind of love that has to grow and be nurtured.  And if I have to, I can make it happen again.

So I guess that means I’m on my way to owning this worry.  I’ve named it and picked it apart.  It wouldn’t be realistic to say I’ll never worry about it again, but it’s lost some of its power.  Now, with any luck at all, I can write my way through it and get back to enjoying the sweet spot while it lasts.


Filed under Writing

16 responses to “Owning It

  1. Oh my goodness. Now you’ve terrified ME. Just the sight of those surgery tools alone…

    I think you have it exactly right. As long as you love your characters, you’ll never give up on your work. Good luck to you on creating the next one, and I’m looking forward to reading the first!


    • J. Anderson Coats

      I’m a hatchet-and-blade writer. I write too much, then pare down. I sure wish I could outline and have everything be nice and orderly. Rows of notecards, post-its on big sheets of paper – a lovely paean to office supplies, but alas, not how I roll.


  2. Lynda Mullaly Hunt

    Great post! I do think it’s very commom for writers t feel this way. I also think it’s impossible for a writer’s mind to just ignore it–don’t we sort of dissect things for a living?

    I had the same fear of my second book (which really hasn’t proven itself yet). You are right, j.–it’s the characters that bring us back. I think it works that way as readers, as well.


    • J. Anderson Coats

      We are good at overthinking things. And thinking about things from a bunch of different angles.

      I like the characters in my current WIP. That’s a good sign, right? Or rather, I like watching them suffer. I *know* that’s a good sign.


  3. Hey, now that you’ve gotten the therapy out of the way, you can go forth and seek out a new cast of characters! Sure, you’ll have to go through the process of dating again, but it’ll all be worth it when you fall in love again. Hmmm. Does that make writers serial polygamists? Well, there’s therapy for that too.

    BTW, great post and I love the Midieval Caernarvon drawing/caption.


    • J. Anderson Coats

      Yes. Serial polygamists, definitely. The best part is that there’s no breakup. We just part ways for a while, but they’re always a page away.

      Heh heh – thanks. It was a delightfully dysfunctional little place in 1293.


  4. Cynthia Levinson

    I wonder if this means that you want to write a sequel to W/J. Surely, there are more medieval tortures you can put your beloved characters through!

    You’ve pinpointed a concern we all share, whether one is a debut writer or not. And, you’ve listed its many aspects. For me, the issue is whether or not I’ll feel as committed to the cause (civil rights) of my next book, should there be one, as I do about the debut. Commitment to sharing the true stories of courageous children kept me nailed to my chair for the four years it’s taken to write it. Could I do that again for my WIP? I don’t know–it’s merely fun.


  5. J. Anderson Coats

    No, definitely no sequel to W/J. No spoilers here. Nosiree. But there will be more unpleasant happenstances in the middle ages. Right now, I’m tinkering with blackmail, some battlefield medicine and a higher body count in my WIP.

    Yeah, I can totally see how you’d really get into the real lives of real people with a topic like yours. And it’s that much more awesome because it’s all true. Looking forward to reading it!


    • Natalie Dias Lorenzi

      Cynthia’s sequel question had been my question, too, J. Maybe your next book will be the first of a sequel? Writing a series must bring its own set of things to worry about, though. It’s one thing to not like a WIP as much as your last book, but what if the characters are still the same, and you’re falling out of love? I don’t have any answers, but would love to hear how this love/hate process works with the same characters the second (or third) time around!


      • J. Anderson Coats

        See, I wish I could write a sequel. I already love these characters, I know what they’re capable of, and I know how they tick. It’s just not in the cards. I’ve got to let them be.

        But I agree – I’d love to hear what series writers think about this process, what’s challenging and rewarding about revisiting old friends. Is it hard to make them change and grow even more? Are you worried about writing the same book again? Series writers – help a girl out!


  6. Sounds like a perfectly normal worry for a writer – one that you will surely work through. And one that you will hopefully prove unfounded as you fall in love with your next project.
    I really appreciated hearing about the hate stage. I’m there. Feeling like I must have been delusional to give my project the time of day. A part of me knows that’s just fear and doubt talking. But it’s good to see it here in black in white as another writer’s personal experience. Thanks for sharing.


    • J. Anderson Coats

      Ah yes, ambient hate. Not a fun place to be, but the only way out is though, right? Or as my mantra usually goes, “Just keep writing till you get to the mass slaughter.”

      Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Mike Jung

    Now that I’m getting closer to the end of the editorial process I’m more in the “what if my editor hates what I write next” stage. But I think you’re right – you can’t own the story until you’ve embraced everything that goes along with it, including the hate and the fear and the worry. Great post!


    • J. Anderson Coats

      I hear you. I love my editor and I don’t want to disappoint her. It’s hard to put those types of thoughts in a sturdy sealed jar while I write. They’re important to keep around, but I can’t let them out while words are happening or I’ll never get anything done.


  8. Pingback: Book Two: A Race to the Finish Line? | EMU's Debuts

  9. Pingback: Book Two: A Race to the Finish Line? | EMU’s Debuts | Pages for Small Wages

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