Oh my lord, is it ever lonely writing a novel. I’m talking bleak lonely. No one else on the beach, and the wind howling through the dunes lonely. Just you and your swaybacked horse on the high steppes lonely.
See, publishing a novel is collaborative. You have marketing people! Your editor emails you with pretty artwork for your book cover, and the postman keeps ringing the doorbell with boxes of galleys, and packages of copyedits, and flowers! You’re busy, busy, busy.
And then, my lovely ones, it’s time to write the second book. Somewhere in the process of putting out the first book, I guarantee that ninety-nine percent of writers forget what it takes to write another book. I know I did.
I’d forgotten about the drafts that go nowhere, and are finally deleted in tears. I’d totally spaced on the belly-clenching horror of staring at a blank screen with NO IDEAS jumping to mind. Ditto having to slay all the doubts that slither into your brain as you’re trying to create a story: is it stupid, will anyone care, who are you anyway to think you could do this? It’s the mental equivalent of that torture chamber-thing Speidi got dumped into for being the most obnoxious couple in the western world.
Some of you who read this might be writers. Some of you might have book contracts, and others may be trying to get one. I guess what I’m trying to say is: know you’re not alone. Anyone who writes is wandering the desert with you, thirsty, lost, and hoping to reach the other side.
As for me, I’m happy to report that I’ve just survived another journey through another book. I’ve crossed the plains, and lived to tell the tale (no pun intended). I have bugs in my teeth, dust in my goggles, and my skin is a little more leathered. I’ve seen terrible things, my friends, but I’ve lived to write about them, and in the process, I’ve rediscovered just how primal writing is and why I choose to do it.
Of course, the ironic thing is that after you survive a stint in the wilderness, you have to come back to society. In my case, it means surrendering my manuscript to my editor, letting the marketing team have their way with it, letting the art department assign it an image. In short, it means letting go of that private experience of writing so that the novel can turn into a book.
And that’s damn hard. Almost as hard as saddling up, tipping my hat, and heading west again–alone.