Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Lucky Unpublished

So my friend, Ally Carter, posted a blog about the green-eyed monster and gave a list of things that make her jealous and one of the items listed were unpublished writers.

I know this probably sounds ridiculous to those of you who aren't yet published and are spending sleeping, working and family time slaving away at the keyboard. But her statement really resonated with me because I feel the same way.

It wasn't so long ago that I was excited by the writing process. I had a fabulous idea and took all the time I needed to refine it to perfection, send it out for test reading, critiquing and entry into a couple of carefully selected contests. I read the books on technique and spent weeks applying one concept at a time to my work. The dialogue flowed from my fingers, my humor was dead on and never forced.

Now, don't think I'm implying for a moment that it was easy - writing is always hard, writing at a publishable level is incredibly hard. But I never felt the burden of producing my book. You see, I hadn't yet been labeled a "humorous contemporary romance/with mystery elements" author. I still had the freedom to be anything I wanted to be - write anything I wanted to write - and take as much time as I needed to do it.

Then THE SALE. And everything changed.

Suddenly, people were making comments like "genius" and "funniest ever" and "better than _____" and I felt the first wave of worry wash over me. What if I couldn't do it again? What if my humor left, what if I couldn't plot my next mystery elements to save my own life, what if my characters and setting (so entertaining in the SOLD book) turned out to be flat, one-dimensional and (gasp) boring?

Then life came into play - the day job exploded with overtime requirements, my husband and I moved and were left with one house to unpack another to ready for sale, and I got a pinched nerve that allowed me to type in fifteen minute increments for almost six weeks.

Not to mention the publishing requirements for the sold novel - writing a marketing plan, putting together a bio, author photo, dedication, acknowledgments, filling out the art fact sheet and praying that I got a good cover (It was fabulous, btw), then line edits arrived and not long after, galleys.

And all the while people were asking "how's the proposal for book #2" or "where's the propsal for book #2" and "the slots fill up pretty fast - are you working on something"

Yes, I was working. I was working my ass off, but the reality is, it just wasn't coming together. Whether it was the outside factors, my own fears or just Second Book Syndrome, for whatever reason, the propsal was kicking my butt. The first proposal was too catagory-like, not a good thing for a single-title author, the second was closer but when expanded was too bogged down in unnecessary plot and not my natural sarcastic humor.

So I unpacked boxes, hired contractors like a madman for the old house and burned the midnight oil until I was as caught up as I could get at the day job. And when I felt a tiny bit relieved, I sat down and started - for the fourth time since December, on my proposal.

And for the first time since I started with this concept (and I've always loved the concept), I feel like the story is coming together. Maybe it was just my time. Maybe my mind finally said "what the hell" and allowed me a break from all the worrying. I don't know and quite frankly, I don't care as long as it continues.

Because you see, even as good as I'm feeling about this proposal, it's only the beginning. Because a great proposal will (hopefully) get me a book offer, and with an October release date on my first book, the second would be due around the time of the first release in order to keep them close enough together for my reading audience to remember me. That leaves me five months to write the perfect second book - which in many ways, needs to be even better than the first. And when I think about how long it took to get the first as good as it is, that's a frighteningly short amount of time.

So I take a deep breath and try not to think about it. Because nothing runs off the muse (or the sense of humor) faster than the stress monster.

For those of you not yet published, don't rush the process. You'll arrive when you're ready (or quite possibly before) and writing will never be the same for you again. Enjoy your freedom of genre. Enjoy the luxury of time.

Selling is an awesome high, and an incredible responsibility.


Kelly Parra said...

Oh Jana, I'm so glad this proposal is feeling good for you. And I very much agree with you on the doubts of writing the next book. It has been tough for me, especially when life throws you off course.

Just remember you wrote a funny, out of the box novel and sold it. It came from inside you and you'll be able to do another and another. Maybe not as quickly as you like, but it'll happen. =)

Jana DeLeon said...

Thanks, Kelly! I DO feel much better than before - so much of the stress has decreased.

And I'm blessed with tons of support from my writing friends. I'm sure that without yall, I would have thrown in the towel before I even sold.

Colleen Gleason said...

Jana, I love the premise of your new proposal, and I am so glad you are feeling right about it now!

I think you're right in that you had to get through this other extraneous stuff in your life before you could concentrate on it. I'm expecting big things now that stuff has settled down! (No pressure, of course.)


Jana DeLeon said...

No pressure, LOL. Like you could beat me at putting pressure ON me. Take a number, honey. :)

Thanks for the vote of confidence. I'm sure with all the great input from the Non-Bombs, we've got this proposal whipped right into shape.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Great entry, Jana -- it's always good to be reminded that "the problems don't go away..."

Jana DeLeon said...

Thanks, Diana. I think so many people push for publishing not really knowing what they were getting into. I knew and it was still an adjustment.

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