Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Book is the Thing

I've been writing for nine years now. Not a great long stretch of time when you think of writers like Stephen King who started writing his stories as a young boy and he's in his 60's now or Nora Roberts who has been writing over 30 some years now(sorry, I'm too tired tonight to Google and find out exactly how long she's been at the game). I'm wondering if it's just me or if this happens to all writers at a certain point, no matter how successful they are:

There comes a point in your writing process where you finally realize that the book is the thing.

Not the agent.
Not the publishing contract.
Not a launch party.
Not pretty covers.
Not how many sales you've made (or haven't made).

Those things are the wrapping that's around the actual present. THE BOOK.

I was wondering why, since I parted ways with my agent earlier this year, I haven't been angsting about what's coming next. I'm not panicking about whether I've got a book to go out on sub right this very second. I'm not freaking out over the ever shrinking book shelf space or the lack of reviewers out there. I'm not stressing over whether I'll find another agent or get another publishing contract. I'm not worried about whether I'm tweeting or facebooking or blogging enough. I have finally, blessedly, come to the realization that all of those frets and worries and stressors and strains do very little to help get the real work of writing done. It always comes down to one thing: THE BOOK.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very conscious of the business side of things and I try and stay on top of what's happening - I'm not writing in a vacuum. But I understand now that I will still write stories without all of that. Maybe they won't get published or it may take a while to get them out there but I think I may have finally become confident enough about my stories and my writing to accept that not all of them will be going out into the world. It doesn't mean I won't try. It doesn't mean that I don't believe in the stories I write. It just means that I am accepting the reality that this is a tough business to break into, a tough business to stay in and a tough business to keep slogging through.

With acceptance comes a very relaxed attitude. But relaxed does not mean indifferent. Not by any means. I care about my stories and I want them to find supporters and homes and readers. But if that doesn't happen I know that it doesn't lessen them in any way. The act of creating something out of nothing is significant. And all writers need to understand that what they do and what they write is to be celebrated.

You wrote a BOOK. Holy cow, people. You wrote a frigging BOOK.

Stop worrying about the other stuff. Work on THE BOOK. And the rest will follow. If it doesn't? You still have THE BOOK.


  1. It's nice to come to this place. Sometimes writers feel the need to rush rush rush but we can still get our work done, focusing on the story, and without the rush.

    And the stress of social media. I agree. It's the book that counts the most.

  2. Hey, Laura! I think all writers start off this way. The book, the story is everything at first and then we get caught up with all the other stuff that forms part of the journey. I know I did for a while. But I'm glad to be in this place now, again. :)

  3. Yes, I've been thinking a lot of this this past year, too. It's so true. And the book is what I've really believed in all along anyway.

    The hard thing, I think, is to stay in this frame of mind, amidst everything else pushing in on you, especially when it comes time for submission.

  4. I love your emphasis... and it brings up a big issue. The book needs to be good. REALLY good. Brilliant, in fact. Work on it, then work on it some more. And when you think you've finished, make sure some intelligent readers read it, and then get back to work on it.

    Even if we can publish a lesser book, we shouldn't. It will be published, and down the road, we want to be proud of that book.

  5. Hi Anne! It is very hard to keep the drama and angst away but if you get lost in your story as you're working on it, that really helps!

    Hi Shakespeare! No question - for a book to get noticed it has to be pretty much flawless. Yet another pressure to deal with, eh? But all I can do is remind myself that I can only do what I can do. Maybe the book will have flaws but I still love it anyway.

  6. I’d go one further- the writing’s the thing. I heard this from one multi-published writer, and even as I knew he was right, I still didn’t quite get it.
    And YES, she said. Yes. You actually did write a book. Holy Moly.

  7. Thank you for this, Nelsa. Man! You always inspire me with your posts and this one is way up there. The book is the thing--and the joy!

  8. I love your attitude, Nelsa. You're so right that through all the ups and downs, we have to remember that we have something to show for all our hard work!

  9. Hi Mirka- yes, absolutely. Writing the words. But I also add: Finish. Then you have the sense of accomplishment that nothing else - not even a publishing contract - can give you. YOU finished that work. Yes, YOU.

    Hi Deb! So glad to inspire in some small way. :)

    Hi Anna! Yes, no matter what happens, that concrete result, that culmination of words, is such a high, isn't it?