Embedded within the first burst of creative energy and idea to write a book is the small seed of desire to be published. The initial excitement plops a writer in a chair with a notebook or in front of a computer saying, “This is the next great American novel,” or “I really do want to make it easier for someone to eat better (or understand love, invest wisely, or mentally fly to my imaginary planet of Epothea).”
Usually years later, there is a time between finishing the book and publication day when writers feel a giddy and tormenting quiet before the storm. We tell everyone we know and maybe a few strangers in the grocery line that, “I have a book coming out.” Curiosity, perhaps envy shine in their eyes. Moms and friends spread the word for us. Enjoy this unusual quiet before publication because it has the sweetness of innocence before its loss, an anticipation before passion’s first demanding kiss.
The curiosity and envy I saw in people’s eyes when I said I had a book coming out was a first clue. It was 2005. I had worked on the novel, The Trading of Ken, for several years and was lucky enough to find a publisher. I was proud of the story, but perhaps more pleased I was accomplishing a goal of being a “writer” turned to “author.” Over the next years I learned the backstory of writing and its surprises that aren’t all bad, but they do need thought about how to handle them.
- Being a published writer has become so popular that fewer people say, “Congratulations, what is it about?” than “I’ve always wanted to do that.” That surprised me. When I’d been a teen, a college student, and later a small business owner and said that to people they looked at me like I was out of my mind. Now, it’s a resume booster and the American Idol thing to do.
- People have pesky opinions. Some people like it, others don’t and a few are indifferent. Opinions may be about writing style, the genre, the way it ended and all opinions are impossible for the writer to control. I wasn’t sure how to answer a few who made a face and said, “I didn’t like the husband at all.” I thought, “I didn’t like what he did either, but don’t you see the reasons he did it? I purposely didn’t write a sappy love story.” But, I learned the maxim “everyone reads their own book,” is true, and it was my job to improve my writing skills from their comments. It was time to develop critical distance so I could learn and develop a sense of humor to cope.
- No one will read it vs people will read it! No question, it’s worse when no one reads it. We’ve produced a baby and we want people to coo over it. We want attention or we wouldn’t have put it out there. We want people to like the book and us, and we want to feel liked enough that we are propelled to write a better book that really will be the Great American Novel, but a surprising result of people reading it is disorientation. Suddenly all that privacy we had at the computer poring over ideas, versus the public reaction to our writing can now look like we are the keening women in cultures who publicly throw themselves on the bodies of dead loved ones. Did we really want our self expression to be so open for comment? Plus, a misspelling, use of grammar, or practical explanation of how a character cleans a gun is suddenly there for everyone to judge and perhaps see an innocent (though admittedly sloppy) mistake.
- Number four is no surprise, but its reality is a real problem that may have been shoved under the door with the hope of being forgotten. Selling the books. The very character traits that make a writer write can get in the way of promoting the book. Writers desire (need) to be alone for long stretches of time when they write, they are usually lousy salespeople, and they are often inhibited, shy people who have learned to avoid social situations they find awkward. Unfortunately, publishers, friends, and spouses are right when they say, “Get over it.” Writing is only half the issue, the other half is selling.
- What book is next? Now there’s expectation. A life’s desire has been accomplished, but how many people in this country are satisfied with just one finish line crossed? It’s time to let creativity sparkle and produce a new idea to bring to fruition. Plus, demanding publishers and appreciative readers expect it. It’s the price and frosting of success. The book is also our desire unleashed. Who wants to stay on the farm of being normal when they’ve seen Paree? There’s a kicker to this, a real booby trap that needs to be seen and walked around. Now that there are readers, a real breathing public that would read our second book, it is still important to return to writing with Flannery O’Connor when she wrote, “I write to discover what I know.” The integrity of writing, the growth of an audience depends on it.
There are valid reasons to write your heart and brains out and hide the results in a box in a dark corner of the closet. I respect writers who claim that’s what they do if they are pleased to do that, but for the rest of us who feel compelled to make triumphs and heartaches public, it’s worth a thought or two before publication about how to handle the surprises of having a dream come true.