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.