Since Grunge Gods‘ June release I have been overwhelmed with compliments. Family and friends of family have come up to me or left me a message on Facebook to tell me they bought and read my book. That they loved my book. That they can’t believe I found the time to write a book with three kids. But because I know so many writers who have also done the same, I have a tendency to shrug it off like it ain’t no thing. “Aw, it’s nothing,” I say.
But last night I got to thinking about writers and writing to publish. And you know what? It’s not just writing that’s hard to do in general, and I’m not just saying that because I have three kids (Danielle Steel had eight), but because writers who write novels do so without knowing if it will ever pay off. Think about it. A writer spends a year or more sacrificing time with family or even just time doing fun stuff like shopping or playing Candy Crush. They might spend their lunch hours (because they have to have a day job) working on their manuscript or they might lose sleep staying up late to work when their kids are in bed (a la Danielle Steel). After they’re done pulling their hair out in frustration over plot holes and runaway characters, they’ll send their manuscript to critique partners for feedback and then use those criticisms for revision. It might take them another year to revise. At some point, they will start researching the publishing industry (if they haven’t already) and prepare a query letter and synopsis which, all writers know, takes foooorrrreeevvvver to do and we freakin hate it. At which point they will send their novel to agents hoping someone will love it enough to want to pitch it to publishers. That could take awhile. These agents may not be able to sell a novel, so that one gets trunked while these authors then writer another novel. (breath) But we’re not done. Let’s say the author gets a book deal — hooray! They may get an advance, which the author may or may not earn out. It takes a year or two to publish. Finally, the book is released into the wild. And now the author’s greatest dreams have come true. But…that author then has to sell that book. To everyone. Everyone needs to read the book. Writers need to eat so they’re working a day job, but if they want to publish again, their book has to have a modicum of success. So now, they’re hustling at book signings and library talks and social networking has become their second life and they’re begging, begging bloggers to review their book — all these things just to get people to read this damn book that took them years to get published. All because, they, we, I wrote a story I loved so much that I was willing to do all this shit to get it out there into the world. And you know what? …
Yeah, I wrote a friggin book. And I plan on doing it again and again.
Thank you to everyone for their praise and compliments. Thank you for buying Grunge Gods because you have your choice of thousands of books, but you chose mine. It’s a big deal. Next to those three kids, it’s the biggest thing I’ve done.
I’d like to think I’m not a whiny, pregnant lady. I mean, I’ve been strong. People ask me how I feel all the time and I say, “Good, thanks.” I try hard to keep my visible discomforts to myself, and reserve the biggest complaints for my husband (because let’s face it, he deserves it). But I’m eight months pregnant and this is my third baby and I’ll be 35 years old in ten days. There are days when I’m so tired (like today) where the idea of emptying the dishwasher seems comparable to climbing Mt. Everest. Just last week, baby girl’s foot was up in my throat giving me wicked heartburn. My poor boys are sick of eating cheese quesadillas and fruit because it’s the fastest meal I can do with minimal effort and even more minimal cleanup.
Truth is I am not just overwhelmed because I wake up three times a night to pee or because I can’t breathe when sitting down. I feel like I can’t write. My brain is mush. My body is huge. I’d rather browse Etsy and comment on Facebook than think. And I feel so guilty about it. Because I have the time. My kids are in bed by 8pm. My husband is content watching the myriad of crime shows on the DVR. He’d be fine with me disappearing for a couple of hours to work. I could be writing and I should be writing, but I’m….wait, Braxton Hicks contraction…sigh, tired.
I’m taking a mystery writing class online and I have a piece due before Tuesday for critique. I have a little bit done, but I need to work on it for a few hours. Critiques are too valuable to pass up.
Someone tell me it’s okay. That I’m too pregnant and I deserve to cut myself some slack.
I’d blog more, but I’m just too tired………
I’m feeling overwhelmed with writerly obligations. Wah. Wah. Call me a waaaambulance. I do know how to put things in perspective and my writing problems are issues of my own making. But damn, do I feel overwhelmed and I just gotta announce it to the universe so I can move on.
So what’s piled up on my plate that’s stressing me out?
Not to mention takingcareofmykidscleaningmyhousefeedingmypetdoingthefoodshopping
Now how am I going to get this shit done? What did my friend Stephen say to me today?
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Well, get me out a fork and knife because I have an elephant to eat.
Who else is feeling overwhelmed? What’s stressing you out? (Frasier voice) I’m listening….
The other day I emailed a critique partner and whined that I was going through some kind of author identity crisis. The poor girl had to talk me off a ledge — via email.
I had been sending her scenes from my WIP to get early feedback. Was the Key West setting descriptive enough? Did she like my protagonist? Was the pacing strong? Typically, I don’t let anyone read my work until I’m satisfied with the writing, but in this case I wanted someone to reassure me that this novel had potential. But at some point, I stopped and reflected on whether I wanted to finish it by September, as I had hoped, or finish it at all.
No one is holding a gun to me head to write this story. This book isn’t under contract and I’m really only 10k words into the story — 1/7 finished, technically. Why would I stop when I invested so much time in characterization, plot and scene lists?
I stopped because I want to write a historical mystery. History is my first love (I have a BA in history) and historical fiction is my favorite genre to read. I recently finished The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni (a fellow PA writer) and was inspired to work on my own historical mystery. Her prose, build-up of suspense and 19th century setting created such an incredible story that I felt driven to write one of my own. I have a penchant for early to mid-20th century history and so I had a vision of a mystery set in a boarding house in the 1950s with the female protagonist hiding her Jewish identity.
All of a sudden, I felt energized by this new narrative but also saddened to quickly give up on my WIP. I mean, who was I? A spec fic writer? Or a historical mystery writer? And why did I have to choose?
As my crit partner told me, the nice thing about writing YA is you can write in any genre and still be a YA author. Maureen Johnson writes contemporary and speculative fiction and no one questions that (because she’s Maureen Johnson and no one should ever question her anyway). And yet, I still had to wonder what kind of author I wanted to be — what would brand my work a KGG book?
And so I emailed my crit partner and bounced some ideas of my YA-expert-on-retainer and decided to write just the opening scene of my new novel. Just one scene. And while it’s not a perfect scene, it’s the start of a new project with a lot of potential. And that’s enough because the only kind of author I need to be is a good one.
It’s Friday night and I’m sitting in my bed, my three-year-old son sleeping next to me, listening to the rain. My husband is downstairs, watching the news loudly. My infant son is with him babbling and toddling around. As I blog this, I feel like the day has gotten away from me.
I have laundry still sitting in the dryer, begging to be folded. The kitchen is a mess, dinner not even started, although the meat is marinating in the fridge. My boys have yet to bathe and I wonder if I will be even able to get Bobby down to bed, if he’s napping at 6pm.
To be honest, it’s a nice evening — the kind of evening where no one is in a rush to do anything. Maybe that’s my problem. I could’ve easily tackled some major plot holes and added to my word count for Camp Nano, but I didn’t. (I’m two days behind).
It’s a night of contradictions. I feel both anxious and relaxed. I’m anxious about my work. I wonder how I’m going to fix the book. I wonder if I’ve overplotted. I wonder if the idea is unique enough to snag an agent when the time comes. I wonder how long it is going to take me to finish. I wonder why I didn’t take advantage of the precious free time I had today to write. And yet it’s Friday night. I have the whole weekend ahead of me. There’s this breeze floating into my bedroom and it smells earthy.
I know I should just be grateful I’m safely at home with my kids. I can work tomorrow. I can always write tomorrow.