This book I'm finishing (again, for the fifth or sixth time, although not always in this particular incarnation) has been a struggle.
Various reasons for that: First it was because it was an extra project and I never seemed to have enough to time to fully flesh out where I wanted it to go. (It started as a time travel story which when you finally read it will seem impossible. But sometimes characters come to you and the basic story of them falling for each other just as everything else in the world is falling apart, and the rest is sort of window dressing. (Okay, I'm not even sure what that phrase means, but out it popped this morning and I mean for it to reflect the idea that the rest is just setting and plot points but the character arc is the idea I need first and foremost and that has never wavered.)
Another reason: At one point this novel became the potential option book for one of my editors but we could never agree on certain aspects and eventually I began to feel that I was writing a book by committee and said no. I'll do something else but not this. But the story and my reasons for telling it never diminished and so I knew I simply had to get it right, mine out the gold and rip away all the extra plot lines and rambling and confusion that came from trying too hard to please other people.
There are other reasons I could illuminate, all of them legitimate, but in the end I think it is safe to say that ultimately, I hit a wall that I hadn't hit before and I had to step back. I've talked about this before, most recently on Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog, CYNSATIONS in a guest post about surviving and thriving long term in a writing career. If you read the whole series (which I think is still ongoing), you will see some definite similarities in other authors' posts. The industry shifts. Your previous books aren't the financial success everyone hoped. You have time issues or family issues or you just have to stop and fill the well.
Stepping back is hard. The publishing world keeps rolling and the book deals keep getting announced, the festival invites invited, the movie deals confirmed, and there you are, on draft 6, trying to stay hopeful.
Publishing is about many things, but hype is a huge one. We authors love to tell you how busy we are, how many words we've written, how many events we're doing, how stressed we are about all those things, how much you are going to LOVE THIS NEW BOOK, how happy we are to have made this list or that list or whatever list. Mostly, we need to do this because it's part of how the business works.
One of my roles at the bookstore is now Children's Book Buyer and let me tell you, hype is real on that end, too. Editors and publicists send us a LOT O' STUFF (info, swag, notes, posters, bookmarks, more swag, some of it even candy!) about certain books.
So between author generated hype and publisher generated hype, and the general crazy of social media, sitting at your laptop in the wee hours of the morning before work, plodding through draft six of a book (even if you LOVE IT) is sometimes a tricky thing. You feel invisible most days and then suddenly one day you're kind of okay with that because it feels like it felt before you were published. Just exciting and hopeful and totally passionately authentic.
More on all this tomorrow.