May 15, 2004

NYC on hold while I gabble on about writing

Sara Gruen -- an astoundingly good writer BTW -- and I are talking about how one POSSIBLY can write another book after selling the first one. It's so absolutely impossible to consider...We are both trying to write the difficult creature that will next year become our second novel. AND YOU KNOW HOW THOSE ARE. The second novel, everyone tells us wisely, TRADITIONALLY SUCKS.

Never mind that our "second" novels are actually her third and my fourth. It's the second one PUBLISHED that sucks.

Sara asked me, "Why do you suppose that is??Do you think it's because aware of our audience in a way we didn't used to be?"

To which I answer...maybe. I have a 2 book deal, and a deadline, and I am CERTAINLY aware of my editor. Aware of my editor-as-audience. And by aware I mean "living in mortal terror she will hate it," so I just do not think about that. I put my fingers in my ears and say LA LA LA.

I am PAINFULLY aware of the need to be "better-than-or-for-gods-sake-at-least-as-good-as." This is actually the FOURTH novel I have written and I think to myself "never have I been SO PLAGUED by self-doubt and self-loathing and RECRIMINATIONS. Is it good? IS IT GOOD? I can't tell. HOW CAN I TELL????"

Because....In my SUBJECTIVE and COMPLETELY WRONG memory, I THINK that when I was writing gods in Alabama, I KNEW it was good. I feel that I knew it all the way down to my delighted bones. I feel that I was THRILLED with myself as the chapters unfolded in all manner of cleverful beautyness and I pranced about joyfully typing streams of gold. But this is, of course, complete crap.

When I talk to my friends, they remember me as PONGING back and forth between an orgies of self-love where I would suck my own toes and declare them to be vanilla flavored, and weeks spent squatting in a dank hole, plagued with self-doubt and self-loathing.

I think I am simply more aware this time through of PROCESS. At one point, when I hit the WEDNESDAY of the book, you know the HUMP-DAY section, that dreadful time when you have all your characters introduced and your conflict SET UP, you are about 1/3rd of the way in, and I could NOT do it. I lay on my bed weeping fetid tears OH WAH WAH THIS BOOK IS IMPOSSIBLE AND NO GOOD JUST LIKE ME AND I HATE IT AND ME AND WAAAAAAAH I CAN NOT WRITE IT.

And I called Lily James and she -- possibly the world's most brilliant writer living -- who has held my hand through three previous books, said "You always do this at about this point."
And I said, "I do?"
And she said, "Oh yes, 1/3rd of the way in I ALWAYS have to talk you in off the ledge... Just quit working for a week, stop REVISING, stop thinking about it and in a few days a glorious solution will present itself and you will call me burbling over and prattling with thrill."

And of course she was right.

And I am hip deep in this dreadful beast, this second-to-be-published, fourth-to-be-written novel, and I am telling you----if I have to stop the sun in tracks like Joshua, if I have to destroy whole villages like Ghengis Khan, if I have to OH PLEASE LORD NO give up drinking like...well, like no one even HALF as IRISH as me has ever done's not going to suck. So there.

Posted by joshilyn at May 15, 2004 6:59 PM