by Tess Gerritsen
I have not been out of my house in days. If not for my husband delivering nourishment to the refrigerator, I would have starved weeks ago. My neighbors think I’m the crazy recluse next door, probably destined to turn into one of those weird cat ladies shuffling around in a bathrobe and slippers, muttering to myself. Except I don’t own a cat. But I do shuffle around muttering to myself because this is the very worst time of year for me, the time of year when I don’t answer my phone or my mail, when I turn into Greta Garbo and moan, “why can’t I just be left alone?”
It’s deadline time.
It’s also called the I hate this book stage. I’ve heard that some authors (I don’t know any of them personally) completely bypass this stage. They rocket through the process of writing a novel with overwhelming passion and joy and they think their story, at every stage, is grand and a work of genius. I suspect those people are merely psychotic. Or maybe I’m the psychotic one, to put myself through this with every single book.
And it does happen with every single book. It’s utterly predictable. I will start off with an idea I love. And then, somewhere between the first and second draft, I will start to hate the whole damn project. By then, my publisher has a cover design in the works and riveting flap copy written, both of which seem so much better than the story they’re actually supposed to sell. But no one knows it yet, except me. And I’m afraid to tell my team how much I hate the story, because then they’ll worry that it really is as horrid as I think it is.
My literary agent, though, takes my misery in stride because she has heard it all before. At some stage in the writing, she says, almost all her authors have whined, “I hate this story and I hate these characters.” That, she says, means the book’s done and it’s time to send it in.
My husband has heard it all before, too. “You said this the last time, so just finish the thing already,” he says. Such an understanding man.
If you are writing your very first novel, this stage will terrify you. It will make you question your talent, cause you to surrender, make you wonder if you shouldn’t toss this deformed monster in the closet and start a different novel instead. My advice? Don’t. Stick with it. Fix it. Shuffle around scenes, re-write dialogue.
That’s what I’m doing now. Fixing things. Feeling alternately optimistic and hopeless. Unlike the newbie novelist, I have the advantage of knowing this stage is perfectly predictable. I also know that I’ve forged through this every time before. Twenty-two books later, I have to believe I can do it again.