The writing high

By PD Martin

My last blog was on my love-hate relationship with writing. However, I did mention that at the moment I’m in the love stage of writing. In fact, I’d say I’m on a writing high. Do you know what I mean?

For published authors it’s that feeling of: “This is the one. The breakthrough novel that will get me from being a mid-list author to a best seller.”

And for unpublished authors it’s more like: “This is the one. The novel that will get me an agent and/or publishing deal.”

Sound familiar?

I guess for me at the moment, it’s kind of both of those things. Having tried the ebook route last year, I’ve decided I’d like to go back to the traditional agent and publisher option, at least for some of my projects. And this one I’m working on at the moment is one that could probably be quite successful as an ebook (young adult, pre-apocalyptic) but I also hope it would catch the attention of an agent and then a publisher.

But I’m wary. Wary of that writing high. It’s the most amazing feeling. Kind of like you’re invincible. Like you’ve got this pooled energy of positive butterflies in your stomach whenever you write or think about your novel. You want to dance around, punch the air. You want to celebrate. But then the logical part of you knows that there’s nothing to actually celebrate yet. Sure, there’s the fact that you’ve written (or are writing) a novel that you believe in, that you’re enjoying writing and that you think will keep readers turning the page long after their scheduled bed time. And don’t get me wrong, that is something to celebrate…sort of.

You see, being a pragmatist, and having been around the block a few times, I know I have to temper that feeling a little. First off, it’s naïve and egotistical to think that a book you’ve written is a guaranteed, sure-fire best seller. Partly because writing is a roller coaster. One minute you love the words on the page and think it’s the best thing ever…the next you’re wondering how you could have thought that such a pile of drivel was actually any good. Know the feeling?

It’s also partly because I know this business is also about luck. Obviously you start with a quality manuscript, yes. But that manuscript needs to land on the right person’s desk at the right time. It needs to have the ‘right’ cover art, it needs to be promoted in some way and, somehow, word of mouth needs to start. This is still the big unknown. I’ve had people in my publishing houses with 20+ years of experience tell me they (meaning the person and publishers in general) still don’t know why one book takes off and another of equal or better ‘quality’ doesn’t. That kind of sucks. But it seems it’s the truth. And we’ve all been trying to crack social media for that word of mouth surge, but if I’m honest I’m still clueless about that, too. Well, not clueless but my efforts in the ebook sphere haven’t resulted in a top 10 or even top 100 book. Sure, I do the obvious — get people to review my books, put up stuff about it on Facebook and Twitter and email my website subscribers but I’m not sure how to take it to the next level.

Anyway, I’m off topic. Back to the high. I mentioned that sometimes that high is also naivety. As a writing teacher, I see that a lot and it’s a fine balance. Someone in your class says they’ve quit their day job to finish their book and then sell it. You want to inspire them, keep them positive, but I think it’s important to counter some of that naivety. They’re on the writing high…great. But it would be negligent of me to at least not mention what the average book deal is worth in $ and how many first-time manuscripts actually get published. Of course, I also mention the writers who have had amazing success with their first novels (JK Rowling comes to mind). Like I said, I want to inspire them, too.

So, I’m about 90% through my first draft of this YA book and I already know what I have to refine in the edit. But I’m still incredibly excited. I want to live that high. Embrace it. And I know I have a tendency to be a glass-is-half-empty person so I don’t want my rational mind to bring me down too much. But I must also remember I’ve been in this place before. Last year I finished my first mainstream drama that focused on motherhood while also touching on some much more difficult issues of fertility, sexual assault and abortion. I was sure I had a winner. And despite some very positive feedback from test readers my first round of about 15 agents all passed. I stopped sending it out and paid a very experienced editor for a structural edit. I’ve yet to action those edits because I’m too caught up in my current story. And I hope that when I fix the problems I can go out to my next tier of agents and have more success. But my point is, when I was writing that I was sure it was The One.

 And now I’m sure this one is The One. So, I’m excited, I’m loving the writing and I’m enjoying that writing high. It’s inspiring me, driving me forward. But I’m also scared. What if I’m wrong?

6 thoughts on “The writing high

  1. David Corbett

    Every parent, I suppose, fears giving birth to a child no one but that parent can love. But right now, in the current publishing environment, it's just so much easier to say no. Publishers are rattled, the whole industry's spooked. It's hard to be creative facing that. But you're doing it, Phillipa. You're embracing the thrill and the challenge of being creative in a frightening world. No small accomplishment.

    You're not fooling yourself with the pleasure of the writing. You're just enjoying it. Yes, don't get sucked into thinking it guarantees anything. But if you aren't enjoying it, you can bet your readers won't either.

    Best of luck with both the YA and the earlier novel.

  2. Reine

    Dear Phillipa,

    I very, very much appreciate your writing this. I think like David, that you enjoy writing. I know about that, and that thrill. I have yet to put it to the test, yet there is something very comforting in your exuberance and understanding of how sometimes luck, or the weather, or nasty gods, even, get in the way.

    β™‘ β™‘ β™‘ Reine

  3. PD Martin

    Hi David. Yes, I think the industry is rattled and the openings are closing up, so to speak. Which sucks for writers!

    Thanks for the pep talk, though πŸ™‚

  4. Ben Solomon

    There's nothing like a creative high and I applaud you for drinking it in…now I have to gently scold you, if I may. And I mean this as humbly as a two cents was ever offered.
    Don't confuse your high with dreams beyond your control–let your excitement be about the work. By all means get off on how the words are flowing through your fingertips, rifling through your grey matter, getting what you want. In other words, appreciate the excitement for the quality work you're producing. That means you can do it again. And again. And again. And when you do, any one of those works could be "the one."

  5. PD Martin

    Hi Reine. Yes, writing is a whole lot of fun πŸ™‚ And it often is a high. Or as you say a thrill. Hopefully you'll get to put the role of luck to a test soon with a finished manuscript.

    There's a great sense of accomplishment of typing 'The End' (I often do it, even though it doesn't wind up in the book!). And an even greater sense of accompishment and excitement when you get the deal, then again when you see your first book in the bookstores. Again, something I hope you'll experience soon πŸ™‚

  6. PD Martin

    Hi Ben. Yes, I do love the feeling of being in the moment, in that writing high and my excitement IS about the work. Problem is, like many authors I do have to think about the mundane (i.e. how to pay the bills!). My Sophie series was five books over five years and ended up being a mid-list series. Now, I need a new series that takes off – and hopefully a little bit better than my first series πŸ™‚

    And of course you're right – any well-written book could be the one, although I do think it's harder in the market these days. But I've done it once before so I can do it again, right?! Back on the horse!

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