Thursday, July 9, 2009

Guest in Progress: Anonymous

It’s every struggling writer’s fantasy: your first book is coming out in the fall. What a magical, perfect time—everything’s coming up roses, right?

Maybe not, as this author, who wished to remain anonymous, reports below. (And I’ll have to note that these feelings are not limited to debut authors!)

Secret Confessions of a Debut Author

Less than four months from the date my book is due out, I woke up today at three a.m., sweating. My first thought was one of sheer panic to match the stabbing pain in the middle of my back just under my rib cage. As if someone were whispering in my ear, I heard the clear words that my publisher was yanking my book before publication. Why? With the downward spiraling of the economy and the loss of book sales, my publisher was cutting its losses, contract or no contract. It didn’t matter I’d already held the beautiful ARC in my hands. The immediate second thought was that the book was still going to come out, but that felt almost worse because I knew it would debut to bad reviews and even more dismal sales. My writing career would be over. Ironically, having a book come out was shattering the dream that I could “some day” be a published writer, a good published writer.

What’s the antidote for such panic? Work on book two, everyone says. That’s like my aerobic instructor’s cure for pain—transference. If those leg muscles are screaming, focus on the bicep curls with the heavy weights. Novel two is a forbidding prospect of its own as it sits in various shambles on my office floor. A stray scene waits for the novel to catch up to it—or pass it by. A new character inserted herself mid-stream. Now what do I do with her?

It took me a long time to return to sleep, and I know no unpublished writer will have any sympathy for my three a.m. panic attack. It seems grossly neurotic to confess these fears, too, so I do so anonymously to avoid insulting my editor (after all she picked the book!) or my agent (who selected me out of a horde of wannabes). In hopes that other debut writers might be feeling the same way but equally ashamed of saying so out loud, I’m confessing for you. Now get back to the computer—and find that next scene to focus on. Transfer that anxiety and make it work for you. I’m giving it a try.

About: Anonymous’s first novel will be published in October 2009.



DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.