I recently finished writing a new novel, and I’ll be honest with you: I’m pretty scared!
I don’t feel like people talk about this part of the process very much.
Whenever you hear writers talking about struggles and failures, they’re often discussed when it’s all over, after that person has already gone on to find success. Those struggles are contextualized as a dramatic interlude in an otherwise nice, neat, inspirational narrative that culminates with someone overcoming those obstacles and roadblocks.
I see very few people talk about this part, while they’re actually in it, where you’ve finished something and you have literally no idea what is going to happen with it. No idea whether it’s going to be a success or disappear into a drawer never to be heard from again. No idea whether there will be a happy ending for all those struggles and whether it will actually feel worth it in the end. The part where you’re just plain vulnerable.
Should I have trusted myself?
More than any other book I’ve written, and I’ve written… uh… *counts on fingers* seven now, this novel was personal. I followed my own (possibly insane) artistic vision no matter where it took me. I tried to trust my instincts. I slogged away for years even though the plot was insanely difficult to execute.
More than anything else, I wrote this one for me. I gave up blogging for a while. I kept going even when I thought I was crazy and even in the face of negative feedback. I had to get this thing out of my system.
Was that the right move? Should I have tempered my instincts? Did I write something the market doesn’t want? Did I go too far against the grain? Did I not listen to other people enough? Was the whole thing several years of misguided work?
I LITERALLY HAVE NO IDEA.
The advice I would give myself
I know what I would tell other authors in my shoes. Heck, I wrote a whole book about it. I’d tell them that all you can do is choose an idea you love, write the best book you possibly can, and then just understand that what the market decides about it is largely outside of your control.
Good luck following the advice you give other people!
But… truth be told, there is comfort in knowing I just followed my instincts. There is truth to the fact that I had to get this out of my system.
While of course I want to be showered with riches and have my genius heralded far and wide just like anyone else, I care about those things a lot less with this one than I did with the others. It really was better to chase an idea that was truly meaningful to me. (I guess the advice I give isn’t terrible after all).
What will happen now?
Does following a more meaningful writing process mean I’m on the right track?
Like I said, I have no idea. But I do know that I feel better about this one. I distantly trust that I’ll still feel good about it even if it ends up in a drawer, because at least I wrote this for the simple personal satisfaction of having pulled it off.
Still, that doesn’t blunt the creeping terror of having spent hundreds and hundreds of hours on a single project and facing having it come to very little or even nothing. It doesn’t dull the pain of the prospect of it disappearing, to not have it validated by the external world, especially when there are bills to be paid and when, in the end, I think most writers just want to be seen and to feel that profound, primordial satisfaction when someone reads your book and actually likes it.
This is the scary part. And if you’ve felt it, just know that you’re not alone.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
And if you like this post: subscribe to my newsletter!
Art: Jeune orpheline au cimetière by Eugène Delacroix