The new book is almost done. First draft, that is. I haven't read it through since we started the thing months ago. I am afraid to. I have this really bad feeling that it is a heaping, stinking, fetid, rancid pile of crap. I dream about it now, this pile of crap, almost every night, like Richard Dreyfus in "Close Encounters." I wake up in a sweat over it. My only consolation is knowing that I feel this way with every book. And that I am not alone.
Found this entry on Lee Goldberg's blog the other day, in which John Connelly talks about his own demons: "There is always that fear that this book, this story, is the one that should not have been started. The idea isn’t strong enough. The plot is going nowhere. I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way and now have to try to find the right path again."
To which Lee responds: "This happens to me, too...but less often if I have a strong outline to start with (though an outline is no insurance policy against realizing 35,00o words into your book that it's crap and you're a complete fraud). In talking with other writers, I've noticed that the ones who hit the wall the most are the ones who make up their plot as they go along, preferring to be "surprised" by their characters and the turns in the story. Of course, this means the turns may lead to a creative dead end."
My night terrors are especially bad this time out for two reasons. We have a new publisher and I want things to go well. We have a new female protagonist who we are still getting to know. She is a spinoff character from our Louis Kincaid books. Can she carry a new series? Or will she be the Matt LeBlanc of crime fiction? Will our Louis readers follow us to the new one? Have we run out of good plots? Have we finally jumped the shark?
I don't know, maybe there are writers out there who never have any doubts. Maybe Nora Roberts or Joan Didion never break out in a cold sweat at night. But I suspect there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of you out there who are in the same sweaty boat as I am. Because getting published is the easy part, my friends. (I know, those of you who aren't don't want to hear that, but it's true.) Staying published is what's tough. That means consistently writing good books that people want to read. And did I mention trying to always become a better writer?
For those of you just starting out in this business, this is what awaits you. Days spent staring at your computer screen, deep in thought and faith. And nights spent twisting in damp percal. What can I tell you? I offer the same two words of advice I give to my youthful female friends about menopause: cotton pajamas.