Before and After

Oh, this poor blog. There are cobwebs in the corners and patches of mildew on the ceiling, and I think raccoons may be nesting in the attic. I gave up even my feeble attempts at housekeeping a while ago. When I have to drive by it, I avert my eyes from the overgrown front yard. At least it is not as neglected as my LinkedIn profile, which is where unpromising graduate students in archaeology are sent to excavate for nothing…

One of the things I have learned in the last six weeks is that I am not a blogger, and I take my hat off to all of you people who do blog, who keep it up, who manage to have interesting things to say day after day. I was asked to do a number of guest posts to run on pub day, and they were exhausting. So I have come to the conclusions that to the extent I blog, it will be a random and intermittent blogging, and is more likely than not to feature me thinking aloud about writing problems.

All that said, I’m going to do a check-in/status update sort of post here on the Before and After of being a published novelist. Here are a few of the surprises:

* The most exciting moment was not seeing the books live in a bookstore, which was what I had always expected. The most exciting moment turns out to be when I got my agent – that was making it through the gatekeeper. That was hurdling the biggest challenge. The second most exciting moment was the offer, and the third was getting the galleys, seeing the book with a cover and a binding. I LOVE the finished copies (and people who are buying the e-book are really missing out on a beautiful, gorgeous book with a vellumy-like jacket and an embossed dragon on the front), but the jump from galley to finished copy wasn’t nearly as big as the jump from manuscript to galley.

* The culture of bloggers and reviewers is not something I was aware of before – it didn’t exist when I started writing or sending things out to publishers. I started out submitting before there was much of an Internet, before there was Amazon (that dates me), when the term “social media” hadn’t even been invented. So none of my publishing fantasies included things like Internet reviews or Amazon rankings or Twitter followers. It’s not exactly a huge paradigm shift, because publicity has always mattered to book sales, but the concrete, daily things I do to promote the book are nothing like I imagined they would be.

* The book is finished. Really finished. I can’t go back and make changes.  As I write or talk about Moth and Spark I get ideas for things I could do better, or that I would like to add, or different choices I could have made. I’ve never been in that position before. When I finished something and trunked it, it was done but not final. If I wanted to pull it back out and mess around, I could. (Of course I could do that with M&S, but it would be pretty pointless.) It’s very weird to have that sort of finality to something I’ve written.

* Readings and recorded interviews (as opposed to written Q&A’s) don’t freak me out nearly as much as I thought they would. I expected I would be too nervous to eat dinner the night of my first reading – no such problem. It turns out to be really easy to slip back into teacher mode, even though it’s been at least 15 years since I was in front of a classroom. Probably practicing law has something to do with that – it’s kind of hard to be scared of a group of friendly people after having had to answer questions from a judge. When I did my moot court argument in law school (this was a class, but in a real courtroom with real lawyers role-playing the justices), I had the experience of truly and completely blanking out and not knowing what I was going to say, followed by a couple seconds of panic. Answering questions about my own book from people who are interested in the answers just doesn’t compare for terror.

* My current writing has changed. Even though I am doing my best to avoid reviews, and I always try to write without thinking of the audience, I catch myself starting to make writing decisions based on what I think my real live audience would say. I think, People are going to hate this or If I do X, that will lose me readers, and so on. (These thoughts tend to be pretty negative, of course, rather than positive ones along the lines of something being really loved or wanted. Getting reviewed is kind of like wearing a dress with a spot on it to an important event; everyone else might compliment me on my looks and all I can think about is the spot. So that’s what crops up when I’m writing something new.) So far I’ve managed to put the thoughts aside for now and just do the best work I can, but it’s a new experience to know real people are reading and thinking about what I do – it stops me in places where I haven’t been stopped before.

* And I had no idea people were so into dragons. If I had known that I would have put them in my fiction years ago!


The first flush of publication is over, but there’s still a lot of settling out to do. The novel needs get past the blind-dating stage and land with the right people, and I need to do more than dabble my Twitter-toes in the communities of writers out there. I’m working on finding a balance between reading new and interesting books and writing without feeling derivative or overly-influenced. I have some thoughts on process, and the nature of story, and the incessant ripples and waves in the culture(s) around me, and so on that need to have time to grow and develop and eventually (maybe) be put in essay form. It often seems like there is never enough time to do all that I want to do, not even close to it, and my priorities keep shifting.

But no matter what, it is still an amazing, wonderful, precious thing to look at the book on my desk and know it is my book. I did it, after years and years and years of trying. (And we’re not talking four or five or even ten years here; Odysseus spent less time away from home than I have spent wanting to be a novelist.) I did it. And I’m proud of that.


1 comment

  1. dr susan

    I am so glad I checked your blog! I would never have seen the beautifully elegant front cover under the dust jacket. Although I have not finished Moth and Spark, I already know it will be a favorite that I will read many times.

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