Leading Up To The Release...
As the day draws ever nearer for The Unmentionables release, I'm left wondering why I am feeling so much more than just elation. So, as any first time author with too many a typo and too fast a typing speed, I figured I would try to figure out what's up.
Who knows, maybe my weirdness will help someone whose finger is hovering over the "publish" button, and who feels the same miasma of emotions that I am currently.
What I can say, first of all, is definitely push that button.
Go on. Right now.
This has been my first experience in larger scale publication. I have stories in anthologies and journals, and I am extraordinarily proud of them, but I have never before undertaken something as huge as this project.
Initially, neither my co-writer nor I had any hope for this going anywhere. We were too used to our work finding its audience online on AO3, and not outside of that sphere. But we decided that if any of our work was worth attempting to send out into the world, this one was, so we pulled it from its initial home and let it fly into the frightening world of "real publication".
And we got interest. Our first choice publisher accepted the manuscript and we were given a contract, and suddenly we were on our way to having our words reach more people than we could even imagine. This was it. We were going to be novelists, not just writers of short fiction. This was it. Our big break together as writers!
But life changes as life is wont to, and we didn't end up remaining friends. Our lives went separate ways and we both got busy with new projects and new people, and our connection faded out as quickly as it had initially sparked up. Now, I've never been through a marriage, and thus never been divorced, but editing this story together felt a little like what I imagine attending very calm and civil lawyer-supervised meetings in regards to who has custody of our novel-child over the summer would feel.
Besides discussing who would edit which chapter, and when we wanted to get the work in by, we didn't talk. I felt like the spark that had been there when we originally created these characters and this story was gone, and I was absolutely terrified that it would come across in the editing and production work.
But - just as kids of divorced parents grow up to be healthy and happy adults most of the time - the novel took on its new shape with the help of our amazing editor, and became what it is today. 93,000 words of love, anguish, history, forgiveness and moving forward. I couldn't be more proud of the novel.
So... why bring all this up? Why does it matter?
I guess because there is an expected reaction to knowing your work is going to be published that is often celebrated and publicized, and since I am feeling those things and also many more, I felt for a long time like something was wrong with me in regards to how I reacted to the news that on September 6th this year, this book would be available for others to hold and read and fall in love with.
For one thing, I feel like this is an ending, not a beginning for me. Saying that, I don't mean it negatively. It just feels like an end of an era; an era of writing with this person, of bringing our characters to life together, of staying up late talking and supporting each other through tough times. So, in a way, when this book releases I can release a lot of pent up tension and worry that has been hanging over me like a cloud for the last ten months.
For another, I feel like this is my first and last novel. I've never managed to write anything of this caliber alone - and I've tried many times! I guess I'm a short story writer, not a novelist, and that's alright with me. I am so proud of my short work, and cannot wait to collate it into an anthology to share with others. So this has been a road of discovery, for sure, in that I now know more clearly who I am as a writer.
I also feel like I am standing on the edge of a cliff about to fall off. The last time I felt this way, I was literally sitting on the edge of a plane, ready to fall from it for a charity parachute jump. I feel like my stomach is going to fall out my butt, like my throat is too tight to breathe, like everything is going to come at me so quickly I won't be able to enjoy it before it's all over. I'm scared I won't let myself live in the moment. I won't let myself sit back and watch people pick this book up and give their honest opinion on it.
I won't lie, I am terrified of bad reviews. I always have been. I immediately resort to a 12-year-old state where I decide that clearly if one person doesn't like my work then no one else can like it and I might as well just quit. Just thinking about it now makes me laugh, because I know how ridiculous it is, and all at once it makes me tense, just waiting for the ARC readers to give their feedback.
Finally, I feel good. I feel genuinely good at finishing something so enormous, I feel good having gone through this process with such a professional team, I feel good having experienced what it's like to kill your darlings (in our case, 40,000 of them). I feel fulfilled. I guess this is how parents feel when their kids get awards.
In the end, I just wanted to say that there is no such thing as a "wrong" or "right" way to respond to publication. Just as there is no "right" or "wrong" way to respond to anything. I feel legitimate in all my feelings, I feel like someone walking into a bright future with a novel to my name and piles and piles of words before me to discover. I hope if you're still hovering over the "publish" button, you decide to press it. Because while this is one of the scariest things I have ever done - yes, including jumping out of a plane - it is also one of the most magical.