Thursday, October 12, 2006

Can You Handle It?

When I started to think about why I was reluctant to finish my novel, one thought struck me in particular. If I finish this novel and if it sells, my whole world will change. No longer will I be an "unpubbed" author - I will be a published author. And that is an entirely different world than an "unpubbed."

There are similarities, of course. You still have to write the book. You still suffer angst and doubt and tear your hair out when the words refuse to appear. But when you're published, you suddenly have an editor and a deadline, your name is going to be out there, and marketing and publicity will suddenly become a big part of your life.

Does the fear of success keep me from reaching my potential?

Maybe. But then again...I've finished one book and had it requested for partials and fulls by a number of agents. The fact that they all ultimately rejected it doesn't bother me too much because hey, it's my first novel and I can still see lots of things wrong with it.

I'm inclined to think that the fear of success isn't what's holding me back when I write...but rather the fear that I can't continue to write well enough to satisfy myself and my future potential readers. Does that make sense?

There's a certain pressure to writing, the pressure to always be better than the last book. And when you're a published writer and it's your career, that's quite a lot of pressure. The question is, can I handle it?

If you're a published author, how do you handle that pressure? If you're unpubbed, do you feel the pressure to outdo yourself? Does it cause you to look at your words with a cynical eye?

Here's how I've decided to handle my dilemma. I just write. I poured out 1200 words the night that I didn't think I could write even one. That little nagging voice of "this isn't good enough" kept chiming in, but I squelched it and kept on going. Are those words the greatest to ever come out of my brain? Not a chance. Are they useable? You bet.

Bottom line is that as writers, we all have pressures of a different sort that are strictly to do with our writing - not the pressures of outside life because we all have those, too. And those writing pressures affect us on a daily basis. How we choose to deal with the pressure is perhaps what determines whether we are a success or not.


  1. I have that same fear - not being able to produce ANOTHER ms that will please either me or readers. And I'm not pubbed yet either. But that's what scares me about actually getting there. I've seen the angst my pubbed friends go through and only hope, when/if my time comes I'll manage.

    Your solution sounds like a good one :-)

  2. I have moments where this stark terror hits of - ohmigod, if I sell and get put under contract I'll have to produce another book within a certain amount of time and how am I going to handle the deadline when I only have 2 hours a day to write??

    But then I tell myself to shut up because if that's my biggest problem, then I did something right.

  3. An excellent post Melissa, I relate to everything you've said. I have a confession to make though - I always assumed you were already a published writer! And now I'm miffed because I wanted to read your books! Still, I can feel it's only a matter of time...

    Sue :-)

  4. Sue - oh dear, so sorry to disappoint you! While I am published, it's not in novel-length fiction yet. I have a few short stories and articles, but that's it for now. :-)

    Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  5. One trap I hear people fall into after publication is agreeing to deadlines you can't meet. It might be hard and scary to push back, but standing firm on a reasonable schedule will probably save a person a nervous breakdown later.

  6. I think there's always that fear of What if this book isn't as good as my first. What if the first was as good as it gets. But really, you get better with every book!

  7. You've been reading my mind! There is this fear of making that leap from unpublished to published because there is this build-up of the status, as though becoming published is the Holy Grail; therefore it's seen as such an insurmountable obstacle that when people do reach the summit, there's so much hoopla surrounding it that I fear that when I do get there, it won't be all it's cracked up to be. And then where will I be? A published writer whose life is filled with new and different and unfamiliar sensations. I think that if everyone didn't place SO much emphasis on becoming published, a lot of us unpublished writers wouldn't feel pressured to climb that summit(and most before we're ready), or feel that our status as a person depends on publication.

  8. "How we choose to deal with the pressure is perhaps what determines whether we are a success or not."

    This is bang on. Those who can't handle the pressure and fold will never know success, while those who soldier on will... even if it takes a while.

    Great post, Melissa.

  9. I have so many stories in my head that I'll never run out. And each new book is like reinventing the wheel, to some extent.

    You just write what you love to write, what's in your heart, what's important to you, and THAT will draw people to your work.

  10. Lots of great advice here, Melissa and I can only add, if we didn't have such active imaginations, we wouldn't be able to think up all these things worry about. (grin)

    Hang on tight to what you love about writing and enjoy the ride! :-)

  11. What a great post - sorry I'm a day late in reading it.

    There's enormous pressure out there to outperform your last book and that's hard. I'm only epub'd but I felt such pressure writing the second book aimed at publication. Self-imposed pressure. But Shelli's right - I think as you write, each book does get better.

  12. I wrote a response to this post for my own blog yesterday, but it got too personal for me to post, so I wrote something else.

    But you've made some very good post. And the pressure doesn't ease once you've signed that contract. It only gets worse. In a good way. ;-)

  13. Once pubbed, there are much different demands for your time and attention. I had ample warning and had watched my friends struggle through the transition. Be informed, prepared, and still very excited :)


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