It’s nervous breakdown time

The next idiot who tells me, “Oh, you just crank’em out, don’t you?” will find my hands wrapped around his neck in a strangle hold.

I don’t know why non-writers think that writing books is so easy.  Ask any novelist, and you’ll hear about the sleepless nights and the attacks of self-doubt.  You’ll hear the pitiful whine that “no one will ever buy another one of my books!”

I’m going through that right now.  I’m two thirds through my second draft, and if you’ve been reading my blogs, then you know that the second draft is a really, really tough part of the process for me.  I’m seeing all the flaws.  I’m wondering what ever make me thought I could write this story.  I’m questioning every single one of my plot decisions.  My neck aches, my stomach is upset, and I’m having nightmares.

It’s par for the course.

I don’t know if the really big names go through this.  I assume they do, unless they’re so big that they employ ghostwriters who do all the hard work while they, the “brand name,” sit back and cash the checks.  I’m still a lowly writer who hasn’t yet hired an assistant (although maybe I should), who still answers her own email.

And, yes, who still writes her own books.  Every single damn word of them.

So that means I get to wince in embararrassment when I read all the bad sentences and lame metaphors that make it into the first draft.  

On May 31, I’m boarding a plane for Istanbul.  Which means my book really, really has to be done by then.  Which means that I can’t afford to waste a single minute until then.  The only reason I’m blogging right now is that I’m tired and loopy and I want to remind myself, the next time I sign a contract, that I won’t say, “Oh yeah, sure I can meet that impossible deadline!”

But it’s just like getting pregnant.  As soon as the kid’s born and you’re holding that beautiful baby in your arms, you forget all about the labor pains.  You just think: “Wow, I want to make another one of these.” 

And now, some more photos of my books around the world:

From Chrissy in New Zealand:

dog nz             flea NZ


 From Izat now in New Zealand:

                             izat in Nz


And from Georgia in Tuebingen, Germany.  The Neckar River is in the background:

                                Georgia in Tuebingen, Germany

34 replies
  1. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    Well, Tess, I’m trying to be patient while my agent submits my mystery to the first round of NY houses. I don’t have any hair on my head, but the eyebrows look like tiny tornadoes went through them. Why do we sign up for this crap?

    Trade you a Xanax for a Valium.

  2. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    istanbul?your author photo for Vanish makes you look like you could be in an eric ambler or alan furst novel set in that place-have a good time there-and doomer is 100% right-why do you think you’re not a “big name”??-because you answer your own e mails-well,that makes you a real big name with your readers 🙂

  3. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:


    Have you ever tried the trick that Thomas Edison used? He would sit in a chair and allow himself to drowse into a light slumber. He held in his hands a couple of ball bearings, as he fell asleep the balls would fall into a metal bowl and wake him.

    He said that there were times when his conscious mind couldn’t solve a problem, but when he allowed his mind to relax it would come to him.

    The idea of waking himself up was to avoid having him forget his inspiration in a dream.

    Who knows? Maybe that’ll help you figure out how to improve parts of your plot that are problematic. You have a logical scientific mind as well as a highly creative one. You just have to get those differing aspects of your brain to work in harmony with one another.

    Be well, and have a fabulous trip to Turkey.


  4. Dru
    Dru says:

    Hi Tess,

    You’re definitely a *big name* author to me and others. And I truly like that fact that you, a big name author, responds to emails, personally.

    Have a great trip to Istanbul.

  5. dustinhood
    dustinhood says:

    Hey Tess,

    I do not blame you for wanting to strangle the next person who says that, especially if they are a non-writer. If you are not a non-writer, you don’t know what writers have to endure; the pressure, the second-guessing, the revising, and, in some cases, “the impossible deadlines.” Writing is easier for me, because I am not signed yet, I haven’t even wrote a novel yet, but I’m working on one now. (Any advise?) I am only 15-years-old. But I do know the stress that comes along with making a novel. I am Reading Advisor for author Terry Trueman, which means I am along with him on his novel journey.
    And Tess, your books are great!! You can tell you work your a** off on them. I have learned so many new things just from reading your books and then reading your blogs to get a behind-the-scenes look at the book. Well, good luck catching that deadline! And never give up, it’ll pay off in the long run!

    Dustin Hood, 15

  6. Amy MacKinnon
    Amy MacKinnon says:

    Tess, you are one of the big ones; your humility is so encouraging. The only way to reassure yourself is to remember you’ve done it before and you’re perfectly capable of doing it again. I can’t wait to read The Bone Garden.

  7. lwidmer
    lwidmer says:

    I don’t think we ever get over the feeling that we’re still auditioning, do we? I just wrote an article last week – and I’ve written upwards of 200 – and as I sent it to the new publication, I had the panic attack -what if I screwed it up? What if they don’t like it? What if? What if?

    I’m sure your book is fine. It’s self-doubt getting in the way of productivity. 🙂 Have a margarita and your doubts will disappear. :))

  8. DanaKaye
    DanaKaye says:

    Anytime I get frustrated in the re-write process, I remind myself that this is my job and I’m lucky to have it. I could be working a 9-5 in an office or digging ditches or asking someone if they want whip cream on their mocha. And knowing that if I don’t finish the book I may end up doing one of those things, makes me plow through and write faster (and hopefully better).

    I’m in a similar situation. I finished the second draft, thinking it was just about ready to go on submission, but then a member from my critique group pointed out a major plot flaw and it seems I’m back to square one. Although going through and practically re-writing the entire book is frustrating and tedious, I know it will be a better product in the end. So don’t worry, I’m sure Bone Garden will be fantastic.

  9. Darwyn Jones
    Darwyn Jones says:

    Tess – You validate me. (Whoa – that was a little too Jerry McGuire.) Uh, what I mean to say is that you’ve made me feel better. I’m just a newbie, submitting my first ms. to agents right now. All of my insecurities, fears and worries are spread on me thicker than peanut butter on bread. However, I read your post and realize that if Tess Gerritsen can feel this way (and she IS a big name), then I can allow myself to breathe. It’s okay. Sorry that it is such torture for you, but nice to hear we’re sharing seats in the same boat.

  10. JD Rhoades
    JD Rhoades says:

    Of course you’re first draft sucks. Its why it’s called the FIRST DRAFT.

    Hang in there, T. You know you can do this, and I know it’ll kick ass like always.

  11. Cynthia Reese
    Cynthia Reese says:

    From one writer to another, good luck and keep the faith — you’ll get through this rough patch, THE BONE GARDEN will be great and Istanbul is the carrot that will you get you there! And thank you for answering your own e-mail! 🙂

  12. dustinhood
    dustinhood says:

    That’s another thing I forgot to address. Answering your own fan mail is a great thing. DON”T ever stop that. You are also very good at answering back. It raises the spirits of a writer when they can personally talk to you through e-mail. It is a since of accomplishment. That is what keeps me writing, is talking to authors. And especially great authors like you. I’m not saying this to sound like the addicted fan, but you are my favorite author.

    Dustin Hood, 15

  13. Chrissy
    Chrissy says:

    I always got a little annoyed at some peoples romantic ideas of authors living in beautiful houses, alone, happy and at peace while they write their books – as if NOTHING could go wrong, as if writing was just like breathing.

    I don’t think there is a job out there that is always simple, always easy… and the only way a job is going to be rewarding is if you have to suffer through the tough parts of the job first. My mum always told me that. 😉 It usually frustrates me when I’m going through that ‘tough’ patch, but afterwards I always realise she’s right.

    I hope you continue to answer your own emails, I think everyone appreciates to hear from you personally. 🙂 (I know I sure do! I was over the moon when I received an email from you the first time.)

    You must be so stressed out right now having a deadline coming up. I always go straight to my blog and it takes a little of the weight off my shoulders. 🙂

  14. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    OK then, quite a lot of food for thought here. First of all, answering your fan mail is always a big thing, whilst a number of authors have ignored thier fans, that one little “thank you” from a favoured author means so much to the “little people” (even if they do tower over you at events. lol)

    Too many people forget the power of the public, its one reason I like actors like Johnny Depp (forgive the spelling) he has time for his fans as he remembers that its the people who put him there and can just as quickly dump them. Whilst this is probably a long way round saying things, its nice to see that the authors we come to love take the time to say a thank you for taking time to respond. Its show that we’re valued and as such makes us feel special.

    As to the whole deadline thing, you’d probably find that the same problem occurs no matter how long you agree on the contract as you can always put off for a bit and like most humans the timescale catches up with you unaware. So you’ll have the same problem if say you had an 18 month break inbetween books as you would with say a 12 month deadline. LOL

    In regard to the query on other authors, well yes they all suffer the same problem and the same feelings. I was told that theres nothing so soul destroying as when a fan comes up to you and says “Oh great book ,loved it read it in less than two days, whens your next book out?” Why is that soul destroying, well the fact that that one book took the author a while to write (from 12-18 months in certain authors cases) and to have it summed up and finished in less than two days really upsets them.

    So yes you do suffer Tess but its for your art and for your fans, we appreciate you and I love nothing more than a reread of books in the series before the next installment. I think that happens to a number of people. The Bone Garden (scheduled for UK release currently as 14/01/08 (My other halfs Birthday so I wont be flavour of the month. lol) is one that will have a difference about it with a large chunk of it set in the 1830’s. Still will have a reread of the others and hopefully you’ll be on tour in the UK again Tess. If so can I please have another interview. Now forgive the ol Latin but Nil Illegetto Carborundum.

  15. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    Oh and if you do strangle someone, make sure to hide the body or commit the crime somewhere you’ll get off with it. Then use the experience in the next book. LOL

  16. 5harmaine
    5harmaine says:

    C’mon Tess!! You can do it, don’t be disheartened! Keep envisioning yourself on that plane feeling hugely relieved as the plane jolts off the ground!

    Well, okay I have a feeling finishing the novel doesn’t quite finish the work- however, you’ll get over this hurdle (and don’t forget to glance back every now and then and be proud of how far you’ve come)!

    We truly appreciate the effort you put into your books Tess! Everytime I read something new I compare them to your books. Which might be a little frightening when you’re worried about getting this done, but you have the determination and the faith in yourself to get through this. Plowing through the pages, and adjusting what you’ve written takes strength and I admire you for that.

    And if you’ve been sitting for too long at a time, don’t forget to wiggle your toes. (It does help ^^)

  17. pascale kiddx
    pascale kiddx says:

    I’ll help you strangle those people if you need it :]. But yeah, I’d just like to let you know that I appreciate all your effort and hard work you put into these books. I am currently writting a ten page thesis on how awesome you are for my sophomore english class. I’m going to be mainly writting about you and your book the Mephisto Club, which I am about halfway through and I just started it a few hours ago. So if you would like to give me any comments that would help me get an A+ please e-mail me at! Thanks! Can’t wait for the next one to come out!

  18. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    You kind of scare me with your anxiety attacks and sleepless nights, Tess! I’m not published yet, so I am able to write at my own pace and get done with projects on a calmer, less terrifying timeline!

    I read so many stories of authors who go crazy when writing finally becomes their full-time job (a dream we all have, but a life few can cope with, apparently). It becomes work, and loses the appeal it once had when they were writing in their freetime to save their sanity… Now, it makes them insane instead of calming them! I’m glad, though, that after 20 books, you still have the new baby syndrome… We want you to keep writing for a good long time!

    How did you make that transition from writing during free times to writing full-time? Was it a hard or easy transition for you to make?

    On a side note, I have to go and buy The Surgeon, because Mephisto keeps staring at me from my shelf (sweetly nestled between The Poe Shadow and The Fifth Vial, your fellow Globe Talkers!), but I don’t want to pick it up until I have read its predecessors!

    On a side, side note… Do you know if you’re going to be at the MWC this year?


  19. Craig
    Craig says:

    I think we have book right here. Tess, have you ever considered inserting your sweet sweet self into one of your novels? Here’s the plan–you’re on a book tour and you have a stalker. Someone says something to you like an “idiot” who tells you how easy it is to crank books out. Your stalker witnesses this and then reads your blog and the next thing you know that idiot is on a slab in the morgue. He or she has been strangled. It’s up to Jane to catch this creep. Every time you get on your blog and vent about someone that someone winds up dead. (You’ve already gotten one offer on this thread.) Call it the Blog Murders. Even better is that every one of us who participates is a suspect. Cool!!!! How many of us would actually kill for you, Tess? OOOOWWWWWWWEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOO!! Cool.

  20. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    craig-alfred hitchcock did walk on roles in most if not all of his films and it didn’t detract from them-nicholas royle used two real people in his mystery novel “antwerp”,and in years gone by john d mcdonald and mickey spillane put actual people in their books on an occasion or two-but the authors themselves?-i can’t think of one -can you?

  21. Craig
    Craig says:

    Joe, I sure can’t. The only thing I can think of–and this doesn’t answer your question–is that Kinky Friedman bumped off one of his friends in one of his books–poor Willie Nelson.

  22. Therese Fowler
    Therese Fowler says:

    Hang in there, Tess!

    I’m feeling some of your pain as I wade through the first draft of my new novel–but like you, I’m reasonably confident I’ll get where I’m supposed to go, and by deadline.

    We really DO have great jobs. Just keep repeating this until it feels true again. 🙂

  23. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    craig-i recall(this certainly dates me)on the old george burns tv show,george would go to his tv and tune in the show to see what his family and friends were up to-it was surreal-way ahead of it’s time-a mindbender

  24. john lovell
    john lovell says:

    Now I know why you didn’t make it as a doctor. You’re too damn modest. You’re too unlike the doctor in the joke who suddenly found himself in Heaven. He was standing in line for something, when another fellow jostled him, cutting to the head of the line. “Who’s that guy?” the doctor said. An angel replied: “Oh, that’s just God. Every once in a while he likes to get out and play doctor.”

  25. Tom Young
    Tom Young says:

    “crank them out” Heck, I can’t wait for them…. I wish it was a lot faster, every other week would be nice.

    I never understood the logic behind the fault of some people being more creative than others. It’s your fault for not having more stumbling blocks before you, because they need five to six years to write one bad book.

    Hope your trip is wonderful and safe.

  26. Tess
    Tess says:

    Ha, you guys and gals are all the best! The idea about using a blogsite to recruit a murderer — oooh, that really creeps me out. I may have to think about that. ONLY FICTIONALLY SPEAKING, of course.

    The second draft of BONE GARDEN is done — now onto another read-through…

  27. maatlockk
    maatlockk says:

    hey tess~!

    thanks for featuring the photo i sent you on your blog. paprika is sitting in the same spot as i’m writing this, burried under the covers, and he’s snoring.

    i know what u mean, us writers endure alot of hardship when writing. sometimes when i read whatever it is that i had written, i feel like slapping myself and say “what in the blue f*** made me write this trash??”

    but self-doubt gets us nowhere, and this iswhere faking confidence comes in….and yes, i a non-writer tells us to ‘suck it up’ strangle the moron.

    hope to see your new book soon. good luck and all the best with The Bone GArden~!


  28. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    Joe Bernstein:

    Mark Twain mentions himself in the first paragraph of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

    I think Stephen King might have done it, but I can’t remember which book.

  29. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    Jude–King mentions himself in his Dark Tower series…I won’t give away anything though, but that’s where it happens haha

  30. tilde1d
    tilde1d says:

    I so identified when you used the kid comparison thing. Oh, sure! I can do this! (whoops!)
    I am guessing from your latest entry you are on vacation-HURRAH!
    I had to leave a comment, as I stumbled upon you.
    BTW: I would like in on the xanax/valium trade.

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