I had several titles for this blog, all related to the same topic. Among my favorites were: The Book That Just Won't Die, The Hardest Book "Evah", My Book: Elisabeth's Self-Inflicted Torture Device, and my personal favorite, A Writer's Guide to Losing Your Eyelashes, One Agonizing Page At A Time. As clever as those were though (and true), they didn't capture the true essence of this post, which in a nutshell is what happens when you shift from writing for you to writing for someone else.
I have always been the type of person who works well under presser. I am, by nature, a procrastinator. Give me three weeks to get something done and though I will work on whatever it is steadily, I will save the bulk of the work for two days before the deadline. I did this when I was teaching and had to figure grades. I did this when I was running the school yearbook and had to turn in pages to the publisher. I did this when I was querying agents and got requests on manuscripts that weren't "quite" finished. I did (am doing) this with regard to the conference (shhhh...don't tell Paty). It is - I have learned to accept - my pattern. It's not one I want to pass on to my kids, but for me it works. And I always do my best work, right down to the wire.
Being a procrastinator in this writing business though is probably going to come back to bite me in the ass. I'm already seeing the effects. The book I'm working on now is taking way too long. Wavy talked (jokingly) about excuses earlier in the week, and man-oh-man, could I give you excuses as to why this book isn't done. The kids are home for the summer, it's light too late and they don't go to bed, thus cutting into my writing time, I'm tired in the evenings, DH's work schedule has been erratic, I've been traveling, my two-year-old is in a mommy phase, this book is bigger than the rest, it's a reunion story and harder to write, no publisher is waiting for it yet. I could go on and on, but I'll spare you. Because I know you too have a thousand excuses you could pull up for what's keeping you from finishing your book at the present time. All of those excuses are true and valid and serious reasons as to why this book isn't finished, but last night, thinking about this blog and my propensity for procrastination, I realized at the heart of what's hanging me up isn't the daily stresses or my affinity for pushing things off. It's the fact that before this book, I was solely writing for me. It didn't matter when I finished a book or how long it took, it only mattered that I did.
Since signing with my agent, all that has changed. Suddenly, it's not just me or my friends reading my book, it's an industry professional who's patiently waiting for me to finish this book so she can start subbing it to editors. When I was subbing to agents it was different because they didn't know what I'd written in the past. This time, my agent knows what I wrote before and loved what I wrote before, and somewhere inside me there's this fear that the next one won't be anywhere near as good.
I've heard this before. Mostly from published authors who are trying to make their second sale. They call it the second book syndrome. What no one tells you though is that this can happen to you even before you sell, when you're simply waiting for that first sale and continuing to write. I talked to a writer at the Rita awards in Dallas who's repped by the Knight Agency and she said the same thing happened to her after she signed with her agent. Suddenly, she just couldn't finish anything if her life depended on it. She even went so far as to tell her agent she wanted to back out of her contract because she felt like a fake. Her agent, though (smart woman), encouraged her to stay on and keep writing, and she has.
Before I was agented, I thought getting an agent was the hardest thing. Now I know waiting to sell your book and continuing to write good books is much, much harder. And once I do that, I'm sure there will be even bigger obstacles in my way.
I am roughly sixty pages from finishing this book. But before I can go on I have to go back and fix some serious errors in the beginning. This is my process, and it works for me, so it's not something new and daunting. Seriously recognizing what's keeping me from finishing has been a big eye opener, and hopefully, will allow me to get this puppy done. At post time, I'm about halfway through the wip in my revisions and last night, after my little revelation, I added roughly fifteen pages of new material. I can't begin to tell you how fabulous that felt. Page totals aren't changing that much, but maybe, just maybe I'm on the right track.
If you are a published author (or agented), I would love to hear if you have experienced anything like the second book syndrome. If you aren't, please share how you deal with fears and self doubt and what works to force yourself to keep plugging away at your goal.