Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The invisible second novel

I know I'm not supposed to say this out loud, but sometimes I wonder if publishing a book actually made it harder for me to be a writer. Because this starting over from the digging of the garden phase, and yet, with the second book, the second season, in a way it's harder and sadder than as if it were the first book-- the disappointment more potent. You don't have the sexy allure of a debut novelist. And yet you don't have the crushing success of a debut novel. The true thing is, having a book out there in the world does not make it any easier, necessarily. It sometimes makes it impossible.

So, before I sold my first novel in 2008 I didn't think about where a story would end up after I wrote it. I just wrote it because I had a story to tell. And that happens, of course, that is in me and its why I write. But I'm also caught up in the cloud and chaos and competition and chaos that is the publishing industry. And it's a lot like high school. The mean part of high school.

If you want to make your living as a writer, which is something I've never managed, and I'm not sure I ever will, you need to be ready to sell yourself, to be out there and pushy and then... patient. You need to share your ideas and meet people and charm people then you need to wait. And wait and wait and wait. To see if someone likes your ideas or your voice. And then even if they do, well then is your project a fit, is the time right for it... will you get invited to the party on Saturday night? Do they have time for you? I published a novel once, another lifetime ago for all intents and purposes, but that doesn't mean I'm not starting over with each new story I write.

As a writer, you can't let all of this get to you. You have to remember the story you want to tell. And if agents don't like your work and if editors don't get back to you and literary journals reject you and if reviewers don't review you... that's not why you're writing. You're writing because you're filled with a story and maybe that story, once it is told, will mean something to someone.

You can't think of it as one bad date after another. You can't take it personally when your stories, stories you've bled over, sit languishing and gathering proverbial dust in the interiors of your computer. You have to remember how much you loved writing stories before one of the stories caught on, before you got a tiny glimpse of what it felt like to have your work recognized, because that can disappear just as fast. As writers we need to build the thickest of skins, we need to know that most of the time it might hurt to hear the truth, or to not hear anything at all, but to find a way somehow, in all of it, to keep writing.


joyfunmilayo said...

Actually I think all artists face the daunting task of figuring out how to juggle their artistry and the business side of things. And ultimately we have to figure out what our focus is and the end goal.

Heather Duffy-Stone said...

I guess I can only speak for my own experience but Im sure every artist has her unique struggles. thanks for reading.

Beth Dunn said...

I was just talking yesterday with Anna about writing and about your class, and how much you taught her. I love seeing those books on a shelf in the library, because you gave those kids something they wouldn't have had without you. Everything you wrote about here is so true and so hard to learn, and you helped 6 people get closer to understanding it last year. xoxo