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.
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.