Finding your voice after the publishing panic

Feb 6, 2014

So there's something I've heard before about getting published. It's that, once you get your first book deal (or second or third, I don't know how long it goes on, maybe forever for some people and maybe it never happens to others), there's a panic. There's a pressure. Suddenly, somebody wants something you wrote, and now they will want more-- and so you have to write more. And you have to write more better and faster. And you stare at the document full of a dozen story ideas you've had over the last few years, and you panic.

None of them are good enough. You are not good enough. You can't do this. People expect you to, there's a timeline, a deadline, and you have to deliver, and you don't know if you can. What if people hate your first book? Worse, what if people hate your second book, which means your first was just a fluke, which means you're a hack and you should just hide because you're writing that first draft of that second book right now and you already know it sucks and it's taking too long and you don't want anyone to read it, anyway.

It's kind of paralyzing. You spend a lot of time second-guessing yourself. You analyze everything you write to make sure it's done "the right way." You want to be original, but not too out there, and you don't know if you're doing that, or if you're doing anything right at all. Because the thing is, getting a book deal didn't suddenly make you a better writer than you were before. You've written a book before, but you've never written this book before, and it's hard as hell.

It all comes down to this: now that you have an audience, you stop listening to yourself.

But hopefully, you get to the point where you realize you've stopped listening. Maybe it takes you a week or a month or a year, but once you realize you've stopped listening, it's actually pretty easy to start again. You turn off Twitter with its helpful but overwhelming tweets on how to write EVERYTHING. You turn off Facebook with its wonderful friends who can't wait to read your book. You'll turn them back on again, because you love those things and those people. You appreciate them, and you need them. But not right now.

Right now, you need silence and you need a blank page. You need to look at that new story and find yourself inside it. That's the story you were missing-- the one that belongs to you, not to the people you think you have to impress in the future. This is what agents and editors mean when they tell you to write what you love, not to the trends. Let the story be what it will be, and let it be yours.

Shut the door. Forget the world. And write the book.

15 comments:

ilima said...

Yep.

I went through several months of freaking out and not able to write after my book deal and I hated it. But I got over it. :) Another round of freaking out writing the sequel to a book, worrying about matching up to that first one. This industry is brutal, but so so much fun.

Kathryn Purdie said...

Very well said, Shalee. I don't have a book deal yet, but so many other things can paralyze me as a writer. I love how you bring it back down to listening to yourself. So perfect. And you're absolutely right.

Chantele Sedgwick said...

Um...yes. Totally did this. It took me months to get over it after my first deal to just relax. And I'm not gonna lie. It happened when I sold my agent sold my third book too, so I'm guessing it will happen every time. :) But I get through it and find my confidence again. Sometimes we just need a moment to panic and that's okay. :)

Louise Bates said...

Thanks for this, Shallee! I am just now, ever so slowly, starting to put my hands over my ears and just WRITE. Again. Like I used to, only hopefully better this time.

Donna Hosie said...

I think my book deal helped me prioritize. I was spending way too much time on social media, building that author platform, that I was in danger of not giving readers anything to read! So I cut back towards the end of last year, did some culling, and that space helped stop the panic.

Mark Murata said...

From a different art form, Gene Hackman and Dustin Hoffman starred in a movie together, and they agreed that after every movie they would get the horrible feeling they would never work again. So if they can feel that way, maybe you can make an allowance for yourself.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

This is so funny. Because it's so true. ha.

I was just thinking about sales and promoting and how to increase sales and how I needed to get my butt in gear to get out more, but what if they do suck!? eek!... I had to stop myself. When did I become about sales or reviews?!

We are the writers. We write with passion and magic. That's all that matters. Yes, we will write more and each one will be just as hard to write as the last ones.

Your post hit home!

Steven said...

We all have doubts about ourselves. The brave ones admit them and gain strength from that.

Lauren said...

I can see how that could happen. You write something that's awesome and now you must top that. I would think that the sophomore effort would be the hardest. For the first book you had tons of time. Now you have others waiting.

Even though I had no book deal nor plans of one, starting on my second book was tough. I can't imagine how much harder that would be if I had expectations to live up to. But, at least a published writer knows that they have it in them :)

Haneen I. Adam said...

Sound advice Shallee. It works with other aspects of life too not only writing.

Margo Kelly said...

You're a genius. You put into words exactly how I have felt recently. YIKES. "It's kind of paralyzing." But I'm climbing back on the wagon and getting back to my writing. :)

Lynda R Young said...

I've have to shut everything off for a while to write my latest story. It's actually been wonderful. The story still needs a lot of work, but it has potential... I think. lol. Best wishes writing your next story.

LisaAnn said...

Umm... Did I black out and write this post?? You have just NAILED my thoughts exactly, my friend! I literally just went back and read the last paragraph three times to really absorb that wonderfulness.

I am so glad we are both going through this at the same time... Makes it less overwhelming to know we're together in our panic!! :)

LisaAnn said...

Oh, and in our ultimate TRIUMPH as well. Obviously.

David P. King said...

I'm pretty much going through that now, but there's a light at the end of the tunnel. :)

 
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