When my first book, Into the Dark Lands was published, I read reviews of it with interest, and even when they were substantially negative, it didn't bother me. If they were negative, but they were essentially correct, I'd shrug it off; I didn't take it personally. I just figured that I would get better, with time.
Part of this was full-time work in a bookstore (which followed from part-time work in a book-chain, which I started at age 16); I'd seen so many successes and so many failures, and it seemed there was little rhyme or reason in either – huge publicity campaigns went up in smoke – does anyone remember Ushurak? – and brilliant, brilliant books went O/P in such a short time. Having watched it for years (and taken it some of it personally because damn it, I loved some of those books, and I resent bad things happening to things I love), when my first novel disappeared, I was sad – but again, there was distance; it wasn't personal.
I just kept writing.
But ...when Broken Crown was published, I lost some of that sense of distance between me and what was said about the work.
This seems entirely backward, to me.
But I think that Crown was the first novel I'd written where I felt the book was not so very different from the internal book I'd envisaged when I started setting words to page. Failing because I'd failed, I could live with. Failing when I felt the novel was not a failure? Harder.
It was never enough to stop me from writing – and I'm sure some people regret this – but sometime between the first and fourth book in that series, things actually got worse, which is to say, the level of fretting got higher. The fourth book was late for a variety of family reasons, and I submitted it when I could not stand the sight of a single word. (Although it's generally true that I submit a novel when I cannot stand the sight of a single word; I know I'm just moving them around on the page at that point, and it's to no purpose, so I saddle the long-suffering editor with it.)
I was acutely anxious about Sea of Sorrows because I was absolutely certain that my readers would read it and say: I waited two years for this?
I find it much harder, now, to ego-surf. Because of course the things that stand out are generally the negative things. I find it harder to read reviews, for the same reason. Even when I hit long and intelligent conversations about my books, I'm afraid that they're somehow not worthy of the attention they're being given, and people will of course shortly realize this. I keep adding to my several hundred pages of notes, of time-line, and I cringe when little details fall between the cracks – which they will do, because I started the West novels in 1995.
And since Hidden City is the only novel so far that I've written out of chronological order, I'm certain there are things I've missed. And, also: 4 years between this book and Sun Sword.
So... yes, fretting.
And wondering if anyone else finds that it gets harder with time, rather than the easier it seems, on the surface, it should get.