Deb Molly Talks About Sex (and Publishing)

Remember the first time you had sex?

Maybe you spent months — or years — dreaming about the moment when it would finally happen. Maybe you didn’t think about it much at all. Maybe you were impatient because all your friends had already done it, and you couldn’t wait for your turn. Maybe you were determined to be the first one of your friends to do it. Maybe you were the last, and you worried there was something wrong with you. Maybe you wanted to do it to prove something about yourself — that you were beautiful, or lovable, or wanted. Special. Chosen.

And maybe it was everything you ever imagined it would be. Maybe it lived up to all the hype. Maybe you felt different afterward. Maybe you waited until you were really sure, and your first time was with someone you truly loved, and even if it was a little awkward and weird, it was still beautiful.

Or maybe it was just weird. Maybe you didn’t wait long enough, maybe you were too young, maybe you had no idea how big of a deal it would be until it was too late. Maybe it didn’t change you at all, or maybe it changed you for all the wrong reasons. Maybe you felt out of control. Maybe you just wanted to get it out of the way. Maybe you were scared. Maybe you felt powerful. Maybe you felt used. Maybe you were drunk and hardly remember. Maybe you thought you were in love but now you cringe at the thought of ever having feelings for that cretin.

And after that first time, things did change. Maybe you were no longer content to linger on the brush of a hand against an arm, a meaningful look, a borrowed coat on a chilly night. Maybe you were impatient to get to bed, or maybe he was. Maybe you both were, and if your evenings didn’t end up in bed something felt like it was missing. Maybe you wished you could go back to the time when kissing in the driveway was enough, when an entire week’s worth of gossip could be spent on one phone call. Maybe afterward you wished you hadn’t done it. Maybe afterward you wanted to do all the time.

Whatever your first time was like, you’re stuck with it. When you’re sitting around with your girlfriends and everyone’s had too much wine and the topic comes up, this is the story you have, whatever it was like: in the back of a car, in your parents’ basement, in your childhood bedroom, in a stranger’s dormroom, on your wedding night.

And it’s the same with publishing your first book.

(Except then imagine that after the first time you have sex, you have to spend the next six months doing interviews and writing guest blogs about why you chose to sleep with the partner you did, and everyone you know — your friends, your family, your high school teachers, your grandma, your co-workers — will sit around and scrutinize your partner and ask you weird questions, and complete strangers will write detailed analyses of what they do or do not like about your partner and post them in public forums.)

My point is, publishing can be an amazing experience, yes. It can also be weird and uncomfortable and embarrassing. And just like with sex, you should wait until you’re sure you’re ready for all the ways it will change you, your writing, your expectations, and others’ expectations of you.

So ask yourself: are you trying to get this project published because you just want to be published? Are you looking for some kind of validation, or fame, or money? Is your project ready? Are you in love? Are you ready?

Because after this, you can never go back to being unpublished. Your life will change in ways you can’t anticipate. You may not be content with writing just for the fun of it, just for the joy of exploring a character or discovering a story. You may start worrying about what your audience, or your critics, or your co-workers will say about it. You may not have the luxury of working without deadlines anymore. And if you don’t feel special and chosen before publication, you probably won’t feel it afterward.

Whether you’re content to wait until the perfect moment or eager to hurry up and get it over with, enjoy your pre-publication life. It has its own beauty, and its own joys. And when your time comes, enjoy that too. Whether it’s beautiful or awkward, rushed or relaxed, exactly as you imagined or nothing like you ever dreamed, it will be yours, and you’ll never forget it.


The Debs are giving away query critiques to 5 of our beloved readers! To be eligible, just leave a comment any day during this week ( Including Saturday, April 14ths post—contributed by our FABULOUS guest agent Michelle Wolfson) and specify if you’d like to be entered in the contest and we will randomly select 5 winners. You’ll have up to two weeks to send us a digital copy of your query letter (for books in any genre) and we’ll give you feedback on the query. We’re so excited to see what everyone is working on!

28 Replies to “Deb Molly Talks About Sex (and Publishing)”

  1. Brilliant analogy, Molly! Especially this part:

    >>(Except then imagine that after the first time you have sex, you have to spend the next six months doing interviews and writing guest blogs about why you chose to sleep with the partner you did, and everyone you know — your friends, your family, your high school teachers, your grandma, your co-workers — will sit around and scrutinize your partner and ask you weird questions, and complete strangers will write detailed analyses of what they do or do not like about your partner and post them in public forums.)<< LOL! Suddenly my upcoming debut just got either a lot funnier or a lot more terrifying. Probably both.

  2. It turns out I actually waited A LONG time on both accounts. Of course, when you’re waiting to have sex, the act itself can seem as elusive–and beyond your control–as publishing but there is something to be said for taking your time and being ready–or at least, as ready as you can be.

    1. I know people who published before they were ready, and it can be pretty ugly. I’m in favor of waiting! Publishing promise rings for all!

  3. I’m pretty sure this is my new favorite analogy for publishing your first book. I also loved the quote Linda pointed out in the comments above.

    Of course, as I was reading, I couldn’t help wondering how self-publishing fits into the analogy…then again, maybe it’s still perfect. After all, it’s mostly done still in relative obscurity with the occasional discovery that catapults the discovered into untold fame and fortune a la American Pie.

    Or maybe I should just go finish my coffee, lest anyone start thinking her?? This is the FABULOUS guest agent Michelle Wolfson they keep talking about (um, pressure much, ladies??)?

    1. Hi Michelle! I always think of the scene in Finding Nemo when I hear the phrase “No pressure”–when Marlin is trying to relax Dorrie as she tries to read the address on the mask under pressure. (“Take a guess–with pressure!!”)–That said, no pressure. We can’t wait for your visit. 😉

    2. Hi Michelle! I think self-publishing is akin to deciding you’re going to lose your virginity by a certain deadline — no matter what (or who) it takes!

  4. I LOVE this analogy! I’m not yet published but I’m looking forward to what it will be like. Hopefully it will be like my first time. I waited until I was in love and it was amazing. Actually, he was the best. I started with the best I ever had…I’ve always wondered if that was a good thing! Because it’s been downhill from there. Ha ha! Okay, maybe I don’t want publishing my first book to be similar. I have waited until I was in love and I mean, completely devoted, head over heels stupid love. But will my first be the best I’ll ever do?! Downhill from there? Oh crap…

    1. If you wait to publish until you’ve written the absolute best thing you’ve ever written, and you’re head over heels in love with it, that can only be a good thing, right?

  5. Great analogy, Molly, even though it’s making me blush a little. Okay, a lot. BUT, what sticks with me most is this: “Are you ready?” Because you’re right – there is no undoing it. Thanks for the great perspective!

    1. I suppose some people can pretend to be “born-again debut authors” and try to brush their first book under the carpet, just as some claim to be “born-again virgins” and declare that their first time doesn’t count. But that seems like a lot of work, doesn’t it?

  6. Okay. Now I am scared to death! All of those feelings I had when I was younger just came rushing back. Thinking about whether or not I am ready to even try to get published and why. Not to mention the fact that life will change…never really thought about that. As scared as I am, I think that I am ready. Ready for my writing to see the light of day. And ready to share my words with whoever will listen.

  7. I loved this article from start to finish. I like things that make me laugh while I learn. And I REALLY like things that I find myself still thinking about, hours later. So now I’m back to copy the link to send around to writer buddies. Haha! Also, I’d like to be entered in the query contest, please! Thanks for offering a whopping five!

  8. I love this post so hard. I thought I had finally gotten over my need to rush into all new aspects of my life — getting a job, getting married, having babies — but no, I’m doing the same thing with my writing. I just have to slow down and enjoy the pre-publishing days, listen to all the sexy debut stories on the internet, and imagine what my first time will be like. It’s like being 15-year-old me all over again, but this time I’m obsessing over books instead of cute, closeted singer boys. Also, I would like to be entered in the query contest, please. And thank you. 🙂

  9. This is very timely for me. I’m in a “hurry up so I can finish this!” mode with my story now, and I’m not sure why I’m in such a rush. Maybe it’s because Jane Austen had already finished may works by the time she was my age, maybe it’s my own impatience to get the story I love into the world, or maybe it’s just because I’m holding myself to an unreal expectation of how long writing a book should take. It’s definitely worth looking into. I’d love to be entered in the query contest!

  10. I’d love to be entered!

    Especially because I know you’ll use protection and won’t tell all your friends and this just feels like the right time…

  11. Oy! Is it possible to suffer from post-coital depression before the climax? 😉 And me without a cigarette…

    Please, please enter my name in the query contest.

    1. Now I don’t know how to talk about entering without sounding dirty…. but consider yourself entered. 😛

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