July 23, 2011

Cyn Balog Guest Post: What Career Novelist Know

I’m so psyched about this guest post. The lovely Cyn Balog has agreed to tell us a bit about what writing is like after the first sale. I’ve always been curious about this. Thank you Cyn!

Cyn's new YA fantasy Starstruck just came out (and her books never disappoint)
And now... here's Cyn Balog with insider information!

I’ve said before that writing is like eating my favorite flavor of ice cream. Writing on deadline is like eating that same ice cream while having someone hanging on your back, screaming, “EAT!” Yes, it still tastes good. I still love it. But there’s also a lot of nagging pressure. You can’t stop when you’re full. You can’t take the time to experiment, to, for instance, see if caramel syrup would make it taste better. You just have to dig in and keep going until you are done.

I’ve written four books under deadlines now, and sometimes it’s scary and frustrating. But it’s one of those problems I’m lucky to have. I’ll never wallow and say “poor me” because I love what I do, and I’m happy and grateful to be paid for it. But creativity is not one of those animals that does well in captivity; sometimes it needs time to breathe, to stretch its legs. And with a deadline, that freedom simply isn’t there. Considering the optimum schedule for a career novelist is one book a year, how does a writer get her creative well to abide by that timetable?

When you write your first book, it can take you three months or three years. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have a schedule. You can wait for inspiration to strike, for the well of creativity to be full. You can pore over every sentence, make sure every word chosen is perfect. But suddenly, when that book sells, you realize you don’t have that luxury. You’ll have agents, editors, fans clamoring for your next book well before your first book releases. Creativity isn’t one of those things easily forced, which is why, once the initial celebration of selling your first book is over, your immediate next concern will be if you can make it a career. There are plenty of one-book wonders out there, and you will wonder if you will be one of them. You will think that a hundred monkeys working in a room for a hundred days could probably write a publishable book, but well, writing two publishable books, that takes talent. How will you be able to recreate the same magic of your first book?

This is perfectly normal. I don’t think any writer out there thinks that everything he writes is amazing and will be published. There are always fears in this business, whether you are embarking on the first chapter of your first novel or penning the last word of your hundredth. Always. And you’re likely to have setbacks along the way, such as a book your editor hates, bad reviews, poor sales . . . there are a million things that might make you want to close up your laptop for good and go find a career that you don’t suck so badly at. But you’ll go back to it, partly because you’re a glutton for punishment, but mostly because you love it so much.

Every writer who has made the attempt to sell their work knows that writing is hard work. Most people dream of writing a book, talk about it, but never attempt it. Because they know that if they did put in the work, they’d likely fail. And actually publishing it? Well, that’s damn near impossible. And that’s the thing. If you do sell your book, you’ve done the damn near impossible, the thing that 99.9% of the world will never, ever do. Be proud. And when the time comes to write the second one, remember that you have already accomplished what can’t be done. You’re already a superstar.

And no matter what fear you’re hit with on the journey, the answer to overcoming it is always the same: Keep writing, no matter what. That is what career novelists do.

1 comment:

Ashlyn Macnamara said...

I was just tweeting about this yesterday and Emily sent me the link to this blog. It's just the kind of post I need to hear. See, I've sold and I need to write a second book, and it hasn't been going as well as I hoped. Your post and tweets from a bunch of other pubbed authors all agree: I just have to grit my teeth and push through the draft.


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