Don’t get me wrong, finding an agent and then selling a book does change your life. For sure. How much? I can’t really say. It’s still too early on my path to publication (waiting on my edit letter, in case you were wondering) for me to know.
But what I can say, for me at least, is that it hasn’t done diddly about decreasing anxiety, fear of failure, and overall writerly neurosis. If anything, it made them worse. Yep, that’s right. This might be because the stakes are higher now than ever before, but I’m not entirely sure.
To give you an example, I recently completed the second draft of a YA sci-fi novel (not under contract) and sent it to one of my critique partners. Lori read it and sent me her comments just like she did with The Nightmare Affair. Based on some tweets, I had a pretty good idea that she liked the story, but even still I had to force myself to open the document and face her comments.
Seriously. I really did! Even though I knew she liked it, and I knew that what she had to say would be completely invaluable for my next revision, this terrible, paralyzing dread came over me. One so strong, it took me more than 24 hours to work up the nerve to read through it.
Of course, I’m now completely over it and am delighted by all the great feedback, but that initial dread was so darn hard it was literally painful. Actually, the entire process of writing the book has been hard. I threatened to quit multiple times, and I barely even liked the story when I finished the first draft. I was afraid of it, afraid of the genre, afraid of it being a complete dud, of discovering the book deal was just a fluke and I’m nothing but a hack, and so on.
Fortunately, I have people like Lori and my sister who make facing that fear worth it by being both supportive and helpful. My sister and brother-in-law read the very first draft of the YA sci-fi, and by following their revision suggestions, I ended up really loving my book by the end of it. After Lori’s feedback, I’m a bit over the moon. (Side note, this of course doesn’t mean the book will be successful in a publishing sense, but let’s not stir the neurotic stew too much right now, okay?).
Moral of the story – find good people to give you the right kind of support. One that is honest, tough, and also encouraging. Oh and then be brave enough to read those comments, process them, and incorporate them. And most importantly of all, just keep writing.