re-entering life

It’s a weird feeling, finishing a manuscript. For the past few months, my every waking moment was overshadowed by anxiety about finishing my next book. I worked seven days a week, and into the nights. I practically lived in my office, scarcely stepping out of the house. I let the email pile up. I didn’t write any Christmas cards. Any holiday shopping I did do was while sitting at my computer screen (thank you, Amazon, for being a one-stop shopping mall for everything from bread makers to telescopes!)

Then, last week, after completing the fourth draft of ICE COLD, I finally got up the courage to press “send”. For better or worse, off it went to editor and agent. It was only one day late.

For the rest of the day, I wandered around the house feeling lost. I cleared piles of papers off my desktop and discovered unopened mail from seven months ago. (“Sorry for the tardy reply” sounds pretty lame at this late date.) I tackled the emails in my in-box. I invited my mom for dinner. I finally wrote Christmas cards. I watched some mindless TV. Mostly, I just felt relieved.

Writing can be a schizophrenic existence. There’s life “before delivery” and “after delivery”.

But that’s only true for some writers. Last weekend, I attended a party with a very successful novelist who seemed puzzled that I would feel any writing pressure. He’d never experienced deadline hell. He didn’t understand why I’d feel so frantic about delivering my manuscript on time. For him, writing isn’t a panic-stricken process of creating with one eye on the calendar. That’s because he doesn’t have deadlines. He writes literary fiction and his publisher allows him to take as long as he needs to to complete his novel. If it takes five years, that’s okay with them.

Genre writers can’t enjoy that relaxed schedule because most commercial publishers want their authors to turn in a book a year. It’s hard to build a successful career as a thriller author if you only turn out a book every few years. Even though I envy that literary author his relaxed schedule, I know that my ability to be (relatively) fast and prolific is one of the reasons for my success. Even if it does mean life sometimes gets frantic.

5 replies
  1. therese
    therese says:

    Your success is also because the stories are good and well written. Is there really a huge gap in pay between the commercial author and the literary one? Or is the rumor true that commercial fiction is what the publishers use to fund the literary masterpieces – even though they don’t earn out?

  2. mchastain
    mchastain says:

    When will the book be released? Those are the same feelings I experienced in graduate school. Hell, I felt it in undergrad.

  3. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    You work so hard Tess, but, when you write those last few words of a novel, do you really feel relief, or does it feel like an anti climax? I can certainly understand that you must feel a little lost and imagine you already thinking about your next novel.
    Whatever the answer, enjoy the holidays with your family and take a well earned break – you’ll need it in readiness for starting on your next masterpiece. We’ll all be “impatiently” waiting.

    Best wishes – Gordon

  4. Regina
    Regina says:

    I am so excited about you pushing yourself truly hard to make this happen. I look forward to buy ICE COLD! Can’t wait! I am so glad to know you are doing so well and meeting the deadline. I know the feeling about meeting the deadline even I am graduate student (trying to complete my final thesis paper). Ack! Many blessing to you and your family and Happy Holiday. You made it happen for all of us to read ICE COLD for 2010! Perfect!!!


  5. soniavcf
    soniavcf says:

    Tess, I understand what you mean. I’m glad that you have already sent the draft to the editor and agent, and I hope that now you enjoy a lot the time with your family and friends! I am sure that your book will have much success 😉

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