The other day, I posted the following on the Casablanca Author's Blog. I'm interested in what my blog readers have to say about this. Let me hear from you!
Yesterday I had lunch with a new-ish friend who read and loved Line of Scrimmage. The last time we dined together she asked if she could read another of my books. I said sure and sent her my latest, a romantic suspense. Today, she asked if we could talk about the book. She had so many questions about the process and the origins of the story. (She also mentioned that my brain must be a busy place. Personally, I prefer the word chaotic.) Did I want to talk about the book? You betcha!
As writers, we wait FOREVER (or so it seems) for our work to see the light of day. It can take years from when we finish a novel until the day we hold it in our hot little hands as a real, live book. "Same Time Sunday" will be out in the Spring of 2009—only 10 years after I had the idea and three years after I finally wrote it. In many other creative fields, the gratification comes a little sooner. Write a song? Here, let me sing it for you. Complete a painting? Put it up on a wall for all to admire. Finish a book? It's kind of hard to shove 400 pages at your visitors and say, LOOK! I wrote a BOOK! So we wait months, sometimes years, to learn whether the story that touched our hearts will touch others as well. That takes perseverance.
I've been very lucky to have a corps of dedicated, enthusiastic readers who have read every word I've written and who kept me going during the long road to publication. Some writers shudder at the idea of showing their work to readers prior to publication. I'm not one of them. I've been asked if I worry that no one will buy the book when it comes out in print. Every one of my readers bought copies of Line of Scrimmage for themselves and everyone they know. I signed scads of copies for each of them. Most of them re-read it as a book and found the experience—as I did myself—to be entirely different. Their reactions, their comments, their passionate response to my stories and my characters have provided me with my own focus group over the years. Without them, I probably would've given up long before my seventh novel became my debut book. I think it takes a lot more courage to show our work to people we know than to put it out there for the masses. Our writing is a window to our soul, one most keep closed to others their entire lives. We choose to expose ourselves and our innermost thoughts and imagination to the world. This takes courage, and it takes perseverance.
I'm closing in on the end of my twelfth novel. And like a proud mom, I believe in and have high hopes for every one of my dozen "children." Each of them has taught me something new or forced me to go places I'd never been before. I've delved into alcoholism, chronic illness, murder, ethical dilemmas and family dynamics. I've ventured into romantic suspense and learned that while I love the outcome, the process is draining. After I finished the first one, a book I called "The Wreck," I was a wreck! I didn't write a word for three months while I recovered. I've written two series, which taught me a whole other form of storytelling. The first series began with the book of my heart, "Treading Water." This is the one that if and when it is one day published, I will be able to say NOW, now I have achieved the goal of my lifetime (other than raising two healthy, productive human children, of course). Every mother has a special affinity for her firstborn. It is no different for writers. While many may come after it, none are ever again quite the same. As I hope for the opportunity to share more of my stories and characters with readers, these experiences, along with the friends I've met along the way, sustain me.
What sustains you during the long wait from finished novel to printed book? Do you allow non-writers to read your work? If so, why? If not, why not? To the readers out there, do you like reading a book in manuscript format?