There are unwritten rules for authors. One is you can never express your insecurity.
Well, okay, you can if you’re really popular and successful and destined to be regarded as a great writer. Then, people will smile sympathetically and chalk it up to nerves and modesty and think it’s cute that someone so talented isn’t completely conceited.
But if you aren’t in that category, it’s almost as though showing any signs of doubt or weakness is an invitation for your work to be dismissed. You aren’t well known. There must be a reason you aren’t well known. You look nervous. Ah, deep down, you know you aren’t very good.
I mean, it isn’t like every single book published gets dropped on all the famous author’s doorsteps, they read them all and then pick a few select books to blurb. Same with reviews in the major press. A lot of it has to do with name recognition, with an agent and publisher behind the author giving them lots of support, talking them up.
If you’ve got that, you can afford modesty. If you haven’t… Maybe you can’t be too honest.
I suppose there are some people out there who never second-guess themselves, who are completely assured, who trust that every time someone reads their book they’ll think it’s wonderful. I tell you, I wish some of that would rub off.
It doesn’t matter how many people have said they like it. Husbands are suspect (sorry honey). Friends, the same. And I hate to tell you this, but at least for me, that niggling self doubt, the worry that it wasn’t good enough, didn’t go away when I signed a publishing contract.
I’m staring at a September 1 deadline on, well, a handful of things. One of them being turning over my book to my editor, for the ARCs to be printed. Sounds exciting. For the first time, I’ll hold an actual printed copy of this work in my hands – not one I printed on the laser printer, but one that’s come from somewhere else. It’s the first moment that you really, truly know what it’s like to hold your book.
Which is why I’m scared to death.
I’ve been over the thing backwards and forwards. I’ve had readers comb it for mistakes. Kevin just read it, for the first time since the original draft was done two years ago, and even he missed typos that I picked up on when I went through. And damn, he was thorough.
All of which leaves me certain there must be more mistakes in there that I’ve missed as well. Oh, I know, it’s an ARC. It’s not the final version.
It’s just the version the reviewers are going to read. It’s going to be what sells them, or invites them to rip it to shreds.
You think you know how it will feel to be here. How exciting it will be. And that’s a complete and utter fantasy. Well, for me, anyway. I have a bit of a workaholic perfectionist streak to me, about certain things. And this is one of them.
I’ve decided that the reason you ask authors for blurbs is not to endorse your book (although that happens as a result). It’s simple. When you’re scared to death the book won’t measure up, along come the blurbs that tell you it’s wonderful.
So that you can convince yourself it’s worth pressing on for just a few more days and getting it done.
I’m now, officially, tying up the loose ends on these deadlines. I would think it would feel good to pass my baby over and know that it was moving on to the next phase. I’d be able to breathe deeper, right? At least sleep? Because there wouldn’t be anything else I could do anyway.
The past few weeks I’ve been lying in bed when I should be sleeping, thinking about the book. Thinking about the growing list of places the ARCs are going. And felt sick to my stomach. I’ve got to admit it. I’ve been grumpy and irritable and short-tempered. And prone to bursting into tears for no good reason.
Yesterday, I made my trek over to JB Thompson’s blog to see what was new with her. And you can see for yourself what I found her talking about.
It wasn’t long after that that JB emailed me with a blurb for Suspicious Circumstances. I spent a lot of time misty-eyed as we exchanged a few emails, and she told me at length what she thought of the book.
All you really want to do is connect with the reader. To convince them of your story. To sell them on your characters and have them say it’s a damn good read. But books, art, music, movies – this stuff is so subjective. A person might read your work and not be crazy about it, and that doesn’t mean the book isn’t any good. It just means it isn’t their thing.
So when someone comes back and tells you all the things they liked about your work, and they’re all the things you hoped someone would say, you breathe a little easier. You did your job. You succeeded.
Although, since I’m a big pessimist and worry-wart, that feeling only lasted for about ten minutes before panicking and worrying resumed.
I think this is never going to get any easier for me. I’m my own toughest critic.
The up side to that is, I could never imagine just coasting in my career. Of course, the down side is, I’m going to go through this again and again and again…
This is kind of cool. George Pelecanos and Steve Wynn, live.