Any of you with kids knows that the average weekend follows a predictable pattern. Mine looks something like this:
This weekend was different. We cashed in some sitting favors (Thank you to our dear friends. You know who you are) and went on up to Denver. We went to a loud, raucous Halloween party that did not involve any characters from Frozen. Anyone who got sick probably didn't have too much candy to blame. My only comment is that I did not do my 20s properly.
We then slept until 10 AM, had a leisurely brunch, cruised the mall for a few minutes (yes, a fountain pen may have been purchased to commemorate the sale of my book) and then we went home to collect the kids who promptly went down for their 2 PM naps.
The added benefit is that while I am tired, poorer, and exceedingly conscious today that I am 35, not 22, I am ready to tackle the week with a lot more enthusiasm. I stepped *way* outside my comfort zone and it paid off.
I'm calling it a win.
I've just completed the first read-though of my second novel. I can say this with certainty: It's in a great deal better shape than the first novel was at this point.
I know it's not complete crap. I can see when writing is garbage and I can fix it. Crap is easy.
What I fear is mediocrity. That the book is just OK. That it won't live up to the first book and the publishing industry won't laugh when it arrives on their laps, but shake their heads and say something akin to "I just didn’t' connect with it." (I take that for code as "it's not terrible, but I have no clue how to fix this or sell it.")
And that feeling sucks. Just ask this poor kitteh:
I think many of us writers have it, and we don’t talk about it because it's so damned uncomfortable. When we stumble onto our little gems and smile, laugh, or cry at a passage, we think it must be over the top in some way or that we haven't conveyed the vivid pictures from our head onto the verbal canvas. I think that feeling results in a lot of murdered darlings. Some who met their gristly end for no good reason.
For that reason I *highly* suggest saving new copies of your document for each new draft. You may realize that you have wielded the purple pen of fury in haste and need to perform CPR on a sentence, paragraph, scene, or even a chapter that landed on the cutting room floor.
The trick is to let go of the fear. Your early drafts will likely be "just OK". And that's…fine. Take the time to polish and revise and seek out solid beta readers. Take the advice that works and with each new project take that next step (or two or three) from OK to great.
From book to book, You may take a few backward steps too, if you write long enough. Look at Stephen King, for a prime example. If you rank his many novels, they don’t' get incrementally "better" each time. Some are better, some worse and the chronology of when he wrote the book doesn't much matter. Carrie, his first book, rates high on many lists. The Stand is one of his very finest and he's written many books since.
And that, my friends, is OK.
I'm sure many prolific authors are disappointed when their current book doesn't perform as well as their past works. That's what gives them the drive to write the next.
I am in full-force editing mode on my second book. Hence, not much Aimie Blogging time. One thing that is very enjoyable about writing a second book is that the *process* gets much easier (the work actually gets harder--because you know how badly you stink). That goes doubly for editing. I've had some writerly friends ask me about my process, and it looks a little something like this:
I read through the MS in order.
This phase is actually pretty quick. Three sessions or so of about 3-4 hours. Ideally I'd do it in one sitting, but my life doesn't allow for such a long stretch of *anything* at this point.
Once the read through is done I will:
That phase may take several weeks. And then? Beta readers. At that point my eyes are too close to the story and it's time to have others take a look. I ask one beta to read at a time, I make corrections, then send it on to the next. I generally use three beta readers--more if needed. After I get a good feel from the betas and make all the corrections, I take one more read to add the last coat of verbal varnish, then send it off to the powers that be.
Then it gets really, really scary.
But you know what? It's worth it.
If you have connected with me via Facebook or Twitter, there's almost no chance that you haven't heard the news: I GOT A BOOK DEAL! A two book deal, in fact, from Kensington books, the chance to work with one of the best editors in the business, and oh yeah--my childhood dream becoming a reality. There's that. Like many kids of my generation, this was spoon-fed to me as my mantra:
It's a lovely thought. And I believe it, too. Mostly. In fact, I've determined that success is a simple recipe, really:
That said, there are several good reasons why people don't take talent too seriously:
The other secret that few mention is that as soon as you get your book deal (or make then NBA, or get accepted to med school...) is that the laundry still piles up and the world keeps on turning. No laundry fairies, dammit all.
I don't want you all to think I'm jaded or in any way less than elated with my success. If anything, the fact that my life hasn't changed is reassuring. As though professional writing can inherently be a part of me without changing who I am. And that, my friends, is priceless.