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So, Fretting in T.O.

Aren't we supposed to develop calluses as we get older?

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.


Feb. 14th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
You know, there's this ... mystique, for lack of a better word, that artists ( writers, painters, etc) anyone creative HAS to develop a thick skin about their work. I disagree. I think you need to have one, up to a degree - because let's face it, we all deal with rejection on a regular basis as opposed to once every blue moon - but why should we want one?

I can tell you the first book of yours I read - Hunter's Oath. I was on my way to quit a horrible job with no other prospects - and I went to the library a few hours beforehand, to try and calm myself. I found your book, and I can honestly say that it put me in the right frame of mine to quit - with a clear head and heart, if still shaking like a leaf.

I -have- managed not to let critiques of my art or writing really get to me, but only insofar as they are commissioned pieces, of non-fiction pieces. Then I can take the crits and grow from them. My fiction writing and my personal art are a completely different thing.

They -aren't- out there to crit. They're there to share worlds, to allow me to share little pieces of my soul. They are intensely personal, to me.

I don't think you have anything to fret about, because your work is beautiful. It reaches your readers, brings your creations to life.

That being said -- well, I stopped ego surfing myself, largely because I find that while before there were many legitimate crits, the internet these days simply gives allowance to bullies and jerks to say their piece. I'm not about to invite any of them into my home ( figuratively) or my psyche.

Hey, do you ever come our to Writing Festivals? SIWC ( the Surrey International Writer's Conference) is one I attend every year, and I find it does a wonderful job in -building up- good energy. This might make for a fabulous panel - or a good conversation with fellow writers.