There’s a Lacuna Coil song called “When a Dead Man Walks” that runs,
In which I think I’m not that confident
A tiny hope that burns into my breath
A bitter smile delights me at the end
But I don’t look back…
This song has been stuck in my head for a couple of days.
Why? On Friday, I finished a fairly solid second draft of Shaken and sent it out to about 10 beta readers. (I rolled with sending it to everyone who asked for it, figuring from some of my blog-readers’ experience that only about half of those beta-readers would even finish the book, let alone give me feedback.) I was excited, giddy even, glad to have earned a break from the book and eager to get some feedback.
On Saturday, I woke up at about 7 a.m., sat straight up in bed, and said, “What have I done?!”
I’d sent my baby out to almost a dozen people, some of them practically strangers! It was like I’d sent them all naked pictures of myself or something! I was crazy to ever think I could write a novel! My plot was stupid, my main character too unlikable! I didn’t warn anyone that it’s R-rated, and I didn’t tell my San Francisco-based friend just how much I’d violated the geography of that lovely city! The world will end if someone notices that I put a hotel on a coast that has no hotel!
I’m sure you fellow writers have your own version of that speech memorized.
Terrified, I got up at that unholy weekend hour, only to find a message from one of my lovely new beta-readers. She’d stayed up all night reading the book and had loved it. My ego could go soundly back to sleep… of course I’ve been too nervous about it since then to even pretend I’ve had a good night’s sleep.
By now, I’ve gotten some more positive feedback, but here’s the nutty thing: It hasn’t helped.
What if they’re just being nice? What if they don’t know me well enough to tell me they hate it? What if they’ve actually been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by doppelgangers who say only nice things? How can I stand not knowing?!
Suddenly the whole submission process has gotten unbelievably real. Yes, I wrote this book and created this character, but I have to let it and her go out into the world and make her own way. I can’t protect it: I can’t tell people how to read it or what to look for. But like the song says, I can’t look back. If I want to proceed with this, I have to let the book go.
I brought up paranoia because I’ve been doubting the good things I’ve heard, preparing myself for the absolute worst, because I know it’s still out there. Rejection is inevitable.
Is it paranoia, then? Or am I being smart, trying to protect myself from getting hurt? I really can’t say.
To the writers out there: How did you feel when you first let people read your novel? Were you terrified? Confident? What did you do to stay busy while you awaited feedback?
My plan is to work on my balcony-garden, do some beta-reading myself, and start writing the materials for a seminar I’m teaching this summer. That was the plan. In reality, I’ve mostly been watching Downton Abbey.