I love this quote. (That Stephen King sure does know a thing or two about writers, and writing.) It’s one of those, “I should tattoo this on my arm” kind of sayings, though I’ll probably stop short of doing that and just make a bookmark instead.
The truth is I have never felt more paralyzed, more panicked about my writing, than when I was trying to write a synopsis for my second book.
Let me back up. I signed with my agent, Carolyn, when I was about 50 pages into COME AWAY WITH ME, and spent a few months out on submission with my first (or second, if you count the practice-practice book I wrote first) book, which got close but didn’t end up selling. There’s not a lot for an author to do when she has a book out on sub, so I did the thing everyone told me to do – work on the next book. And good thing I did, because THAT was the one that sold, in a two-book deal with MIRA/Harlequin.
A two-book deal is very exciting, and to be honest, also a bit of a relief. Because it means you get to work with the same team for a couple of years while you get your books out, and that you skip the (at times soul-sucking) submission process for at least one book. Now, let’s talk about this second book thing for a minute…
Yes, it’s great to have a home for your second book.
No, it in no way alleviates the panic about your second book sucking.
The panic is real, folks. And I’m not one who generally panics about my writing, or struggles to come up with book ideas, though like Colleen said the challenge is sorting through the trash to find the diamond. But it had to be the RIGHT idea. The BEST idea. And in every way, I felt a huge amount of (self-imposed) pressure for it to be BETTER than my first book.
Whatevs. I’m a professional, right?
Not so fast. Time for some brutal honesty.
As I stumbled my way through one, two, three, four (five?) synopses — my very kind and talented editor gently pushing me to dig more, uncover more, stretch the story more, and my agent promising me that the magic of book one was NOT a fluke – I started to doubt, seriously so, my ability to write another novel. I had written three by this point, but only one was saleable and the little voice that said, “IT WAS A GIANT, F*CKING FLUKE” kept shoving its way into my writing and my brain.
Plus, there were more people involved in the decision about book two. With COME AWAY WITH ME the idea came from a conversation with my cousin and grew its legs with craft beer and gourmet grilled cheese on date night with my husband. For a while just the two of us knew about the book idea, which was nice. It was my story to tell how I wanted. This time was different – this book had to be a great follow-up to COME AWAY WITH ME, it needed to carry a similar emotional bang, and it required a quite detailed (5 pages, single-spaced) synopsis to my editor before it could be approved. Plus, I was now (a bit more) savvy about book marketing and sales, and the reality about how much was out of my control paralyzed me.
(Don’t worry, there is good news coming.)
But I pushed through and wrote a synopsis both my editor and I felt good about. I started the book, got a chapter or so in, and then we changed the idea based on an article I wrote for a magazine – an idea that blossomed into a 90,000-word story I’m really excited about and am about to send to my editor, some five months later.
So what have I learned? “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Also, I need to trust myself – I know how to write a book. I’ve done it before; I’ll do it again. Sure, the first draft is going to be rough, but every book starts that way.
Now I just need to bookmark this post for when the book three shenanigans and paralysis begins…three, two, one…
(Happy New Year, and Happy Writing — YOU’VE GOT THIS, everyone!)
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