The waiting-for-your-book-to-be-published phase

My editor said that most writers hate this phase, but I love it. So far. It’s very validating to have a book that’s going to be published (PEOPLE WHO KNEW ME! May 24!). I’m so, so, so glad it’s DONE. I don’t feel any sadness about it being done. That baby is grown up and ready to move out of the freaking house, if you know what I mean. I’m ready to give my attention to a new baby. So ready that I worry a little that by the time my book comes out, I’ll forget some parts of the story. Should I be admitting that?

In May, Ann Packer (The Dive From Clausen’s Pier, The Children’s Crusade), wrote a piece for the NY Times entitled “Between Books” about this waiting-for-your-book-to-be-published phase.

In her words:

“Novelists do all kinds of things as they wait for their books to be published, from imagining unforeseen commercial success to imagining unforeseen commercial success. Just kidding — we also update our websites.”


In all seriousness, I suppose this phase may be a bit unnerving for two reasons:

1) There’s all that wondering about what will come of the book-to-be-published.
Because this is my first book, I get to be totally, pleasantly naive. Oh, blissful ignorance! I don’t feel like I have that much control at this point, so I’m fine with letting it go. Of course, I want it to do well, but I don’t really have a say in that, beyond writing a solid novel (which I think I did). I would rather not think about the success (or lack thereof) of my book. I don’t want that pressure. I’m just going forward, plodding along, assuming good things are ahead (I’m a closet optimist, don’t tell anyone). I don’t see how I could write another book without that assumption.

and, speaking of “another book”…

2) It’s time to confront the intimidating first draft of something new. 
First drafts are scary in the way roller coasters are scary. You kind of want to throw up, but it’s so thrilling. Characters take turns you don’t expect. Plots run away from you. It’s awesome. I love this part. Until I hate it. There’s the writer’s block, which always seems to hit around page 200, when it would be really sad to give up on the manuscript completely. Thankfully, I have random writing-related things I can focus on (like this blog) to distract me during writer’s block. Usually, if I step away for a while, everything is clearer when I come back.

Packer writes:

Some writers always have works in progress, or notebooks full of ideas, or both. Others have nothing, a position I have found myself in. Fortunately, there is busy work to be done — the aforementioned website maintenance but also cleaning the office in preparation for settling down to new work. We go through our files and reread old rejection letters, a sort of booster shot for immunity against bad reviews. We leaf through our dozens of books on the writer’s craft, thinking that maybe there is something left to be said on the subject and that we just might be the one to say it (a great way to postpone writing fiction).”

This phase seems to be all about a balance of procrastination and productivity, of twiddling thumbs and tackling new projects. My goal has always been to write many books, over many years. I want to have a career as a novelist. After this first book, I’ll probably know a lot more about the process, for better or worse. For now, I’ll take advantage of how little I know and keep pecking away at the keyboard.

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