Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Relief... and More Pressure

My final galleys for You Belong to Me are done. I should have a release date real soon - what a way to end a wild year! Talk about ups and down, 2007 definitely was a roller coaster in so many ways.

Right now, I'm coming down with something. My throat's all scratchy and my nose is running and I really just want to sleep, so it's a good thing my deadlines are behind me for the moment. I confess I haven't done a whole lot when it comes to writing - between galleys and the quickly approaching holiday, I haven't had the time or the desire. Once everything slows down again, though, I should get myself back on schedule. I hate losing momentum - especially considering my last book was released over a year ago. Eeek... But since I have two coming out in the next six months, maybe I shouldn't really push the panic button just yet.

I find when I've finished a book, I tend to have that moment of relief, which is quickly followed by the panic of not having anything else in the hopper. The last thing I want is to lose that momentum, but I don't know how writers like Nora Roberts do it. I don't know that I could do more than one or two books a year. I think two might be pushing it. It just happened to work out that I had two ready to go this past summer. That almost never happens. It's good, because it's always a comfort to know that I've got something coming out - that I have a chance to build up my readership, I'm creating a backlist of titles, and I might reach new readers (especially with the two publishers I currently write for. Both have wider, better distribution than my previous publisher.) But with that comes a whole new pressure - to write. To produce something new and fresh in a timely fashion.

Before I was published, it seemed like the ideas were always flowing. Of course, the only pressure then was to get published. That's a huge deal, of course, and does lead to a certain amount of pressure, but it was a different pressure. When I wrote and sold my first book, it was an accomplishment, no doubt, because it was validation. I proved I could write a book and sell it.

Now the pressure is to write something better than the last book. Okay, makes sense. But the trouble is, I spent so much time and effort into making that first book good, how could I write a better one the next time around.

Okay, so looking back, maybe that first book wasn't the best I could've written. I've found glaring, novice errors in it that make me wince. But that just shows how much I've learned since then. And the pressure eases. For a moment.

Then it begins all over again when I sit down and face that blank screen with only two character names and a snippet of a plot. How do I make the new book fresh? Will I be able to make a new book fresh? How do I know it isn't the same tired old plot? Ugh, these characters suck and the storyline is awful. Well, maybe not awful. Maybe I can work with it -- these are the thoughts that run through my mind with each new first chapter. The fear that this new book won't be anywhere near as good as the previous one. And that doubt lingers, even after I finish a first draft. It gradually fades as each revision changes the story just a little, and a little bit more, and then a bit more, until finally, it's different and it's done and maybe - just maybe - it is better than the last.

I like to think I write a better book each time - and I suppose I'll see soon enough, once You Belong to Me and Eden's Pass are out and available. By then, though, I'll be knee-deep in pressure and doubt all over again. But with any luck, I'll write an even better book. Sure, it might take a year, and I'll be anxious all over again - but if it's better than the last, then I can sit back and smile and take a deep breath.

And then start all over again with only two names and a snippet of a plot.

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