What brings this to mind is my recent visit to some schools in California. The students often ask me how long it takes to write a book, and I when I recount the five-year saga, they often gasp, since five years is typically half their life span! But yesterday I explained why it took me so long to create my first children’s novel. I thought I’d share this with you, too.
Put succinctly, I was afraid. Bruce’s fears about heights and flying were nothing compared to my trepidation about showing my work to someone. What if my writing wasn’t good enough? What if no one liked my story?
Two years into the process, I finally got the nerve to show the first chapters to my husband. I donned my virtual suit of armor and waited. Even when his reaction was extremely positive, I still wasn’t sure I'd be able to pull it off—I’d begun numerous stories before, and all of them sat unfinished in my file drawer.
But showing it to him allowed me to cross a threshold. From then on, whenever I reached a stumbling point, his encouragement helped me fight my way past it. His usual words were, “Just keep writing.”
Even now, with my new book, I face the same fears. I’ve never written for young adults before, so I’m in unfamiliar territory, and unfamiliar things are uncomfortable. The story line I’ve chosen requires that I do new things, like creating a system of magic and the rules by which it works, developing languages for non-human creatures, and building a new world that, while similar to earth, is different enough to be a challenge.
All of this is FUN and I love it—but it’s hard because of the fears that creep in. My critique group likes the story—so why am I still afraid?
I’ve read that even well-known authors struggle with this fear each time they begin writing a new novel. It’s no different from the performer who gets stage fright before the first night of a play or an artist trembling as he unveils a new painting.
When I ask myself why I feel this so strongly, I realize it’s because I care deeply about what you think. I don’t want to turn out a book that’s just so-so. It has to be a good book—one you’ll enjoy page by page, and one you’ll still think about after you read “The End.” I have to be proud of the book and know I put a bit of my soul into it so it will reach yours.
For those of you waiting for my next book to materialize, know that I’m hard at work on it and I’m pleased with it so far. But creating a book that will make me proud (and you, too, I hope) takes time. Thanks for your patience and encouragement.