Monday, 1 June 2015

Good Grief

Is this what your next book
is telling you?
My latest book is out on submission. My next book is written but ‘needs work’ and I’m not ready to face it. It feels like I’ve just said goodbye to my grown up baby; I’m left with a sulky unruly teenager, and I don’t have the energy or discipline needed to whip it into shape.

It shouldn’t matter. You need time between projects. You need that space to let go of one thing before you nurture another. New projects need a fresh heart, clear mind, and renewed focus. But until you have all those things, you have to go through a kind of mini-grieving.

If you’ve ever lost anyone you love, you’ll know all about that process - the denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally the acceptance... Losing a book isn’t quite as bad of course, but the route remains the same.

DENIAL – This was me a month ago – reluctant to let go. It’s the ‘just one more read through...one more tweak’ mentality. Everyone else is telling you it’s ready, but you can’t believe it, until there really isn’t anything else you can do... And when it’s gone – when it’s out there in Agenty Publishing Land, life becomes meaningless and overwhelming. You certainly can’t face that disorderly manuscript...

ANGER – Your book has gone... and it’s natural to feel deserted and abandoned but why doesn’t everyone else feel the same as you do about it? Why aren’t agents clamouring to their phones to offer you representation? Why aren’t publishers falling at your feet? Why do the wheels of this industry grind so slowly? Anger and pain go hand in hand. It hurts to be ignored... and disconnected. Anger is your anchor and at least it feels better than pain... 

BARGAINING – How about I rewrite the opening? What about the end? If I work on my character’s emotional journey, will you take me on? I could change it to first person present tense, if that would help? Or I could cut it – huge chunks – if you think brevity is best... Because I’ll do anything you ask. I don’t mind editing... in fact, I love editing. I’ll do whatever it takes... just give me another chance. Please?

DEPRESSION – And after bargaining, when it’s a couple of days or even a whole week later and the mail box is still empty... the depression sets in. You withdraw from life, withdraw from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... and wallow in a fog of intense self-doubt and sadness, wondering, perhaps, if there is anything to be gained from ever writing anything else? You know? Like, what’s the point?

Until suddenly, weeks later and out of the blue... ACCEPTANCE!!!

Out with the old...
This isn’t quite like the usual acceptance of grief – because this isn’t about your acceptance of loss; it’s about that discerning agent’s acceptance of you, the shrewd publisher’s acceptance of your book... your acceptance of yourself as a writer! You start to get dressed again in the mornings, you take all the empty wine bottles to the recycling dump, you call your friends... and finally you have the strength to tame that unruly teenager.

It’s grief. Except, hopefully, it’s good grief.