Thursday, June 2, 2011

Release, Or How Authors Cope With Emotional Ups and Downs

Today is "release day" for my second YA novel, FORGIVEN. I've known it was coming for almost a year; I turned in my last batch of edits over six months ago. Since it's been out of my hands for a while I've had plenty of time to stew, fret, get excited, get crazy, and generally experience all the other emotions that accompany the birth of a book.

Would it surprise you to learn that yesterday I thought I'd be sick? That I was so nauseated I couldn't eat (think of it as the "writer's diet"). That I haven't slept well in days. That I'm too strung out to work on the novel I should be working on. That I can't open my email or check Twitter without a pang of fear.

Some readers will love my work. Some readers will hate it. Most will fall somewhere in the middle. In this age of instant communication, impassioned points of view can be expressed to followers in a heartbeat, and this is what authors everywhere must cope with - the emotional high of having a reader love, love, love your book versus the devastating news that a reader has consigned it to the trash heap of literary history. I've read reviews of my work that make me weep with joy, and, well, I've done the other kind of weeping, too.

What matters most, however, what should matter most is how I feel about my work. Did I make the best possible effort to express what was in my heart? Did I give it every bit of my time and attention and say what I wanted to say? Is my character true? Is my story real? Is it the best I can do with the skills I have at my command right now?

I've heard apocryphal stories about authors who edit their work long after it's been published (yup, I do.) I know that expressing true and deep emotion is all I can aim for, and sometimes, sure, I miss the target. Most of the time as I write I struggle to say what I really mean. As I edit I try to carve through to the emotional heart. Each novel I write may (or, oh fear of fears, may not) take me closer to the bull's eye, but I must keep trying.

What all this adds up to is that I do have to let go of my novel. Release it. Okay, maybe I'll secretly take a red pen to my own dogeared copy, but in truth it's time for me to go on to the next novel. It's time to hush the evil genie of self-doubt and move on. It's time to try to find the heart of that new story, to try, try, try again to craft a story that rings true and fine.

"The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself." Anna Quindlen


Irene Latham said...

Janet - congrats on the release of FORGIVEN! Love the Anna Quindlen quote. Thanks for sharing.

Janet Fox said...

Thanks, Irene!!

jan godown annino said...

BIG kudos for the arrival of FORGIVEN & for the author.
Kula's story is shimmering.

ENJOY all the hooopla that surrounds a launch.

Smiles from Florida Janet!!!!

jan godown annino said...

KUDOS on the arrival of Kula & her story.
It's wonderful Janet.
ENJOY all the hoopla surrounding it, but I feel we all understand the tummy butterflies. Seems they flutter all over creation.

Happy dance here for you.