I did an interview – yet to be posted – where I was asked how being published changed things for me as a writer. I answered that it increases the pressure on you.
First, people who like your work want you to write more. And quickly, because they can read a novel much, much quicker than you can write and edit it. If you don’t have unlimited time (who does?), this piles the pressure on. How do you fit in writing time for the next book when marketing the current ones takes up so much time? (And you have no idea how much is involved if you haven’t self-published yourself. Seriously, it’s a full time job by itself.) When I wrote The Dr Pepper Prophecies and After Wimbledon, I basically had nothing else to do. For TDPP I was studying in France: taking classes in the morning and writing in the afternoons and evenings. For AW, I was travelling around Australia and spent a lot of time writing in my bunk. Now I have a home, a husband and a child to look after. Oh, and did I mention we’re buying a house and preparing ours for sale? I want to write more. I have plenty of ideas, just not the time or energy to get them down on paper.
Second comes the not-good-enough-itus. The thing is, people actually pay to read my work. And it’s read by people who don’t know me, will probably never know me, and have no incentive to sugar-coat their opinions. It’s no fun being told that your work is crap. Or having it returned. Publishing anything is scary.
Now, you’re probably thinking that having two, generally well-received, novels completed would take away that fear. Not a bit of it. People keep saying scary things like ‘you’re only as good as your next book’. And bear in mind, I wrote TDPP and AW a long time ago. The first draft of TDPP is over a decade old. AW’s is five now. When I published TDPP – largely on a whim – I hadn’t written any fiction in years. What if I’ve lost my writing ability? What if I’ve changed too much in the interim to be able to repeat my success?
My current project is also a bit of a deviation from my novels. As I wrote before, I’m using my experience as the mother of a premature baby in a story. It’s something I felt I needed to write, but it’s not classic chick lit fare. In fact, I’m classing it as women’s fiction. It’s not a comedy, although I’ve tried to keep it light. Will anybody actually want to read it? Or will everyone decide that my new work just doesn’t live up to their expectations and ignore me from here on out?
Apparently, Stephen King threw the first part of Carrie in the bin and it was only rescued by his wife. They say writers just can’t judge their own work. The trouble is, nothing you write will appeal to everyone, so even a few outside opinions aren’t enough to bank on. What I really need to do is get everyone in the world to read my new work and see what the majority think. But then there would be no one left to buy it. Hmmm, tricky…