Thursday, May 19, 2005

Put Up or Shut Up

The sixth book of 2005 was actually supposed to be the eighth on the schedule, but it's hitting the page early. My publishers have changed my delivery dates twice, and a third change is imminent. This time I'll be prepared if it does; if it doesn't, I turn the manuscript in a little early. Good for me either way.

This book is not going to be an easy one. For me it's that book, the one you think about writing for years but you wait, because you're not ready or the story hasn't percolated enough or you don't have a market for it or whatever. In my case, all of the above. I have been not-writing this book since the original proposal was rejected in 1999.

I wasn’t worried about it. With books like this, you make promises to yourself, most of which start with someday:

Someday, I’ll take a couple of months off and just write it.
Someday, I’ll have the experience to make it a great novel.
Someday, I’ll sell the proposal to a wonderful editor for the right money, and it will hit the market at precisely the right moment.
Someday, maybe, it will be the book of my career.

Someday showed up last spring. I reworked the old proposal and pitched it, mainly on a whim. They won't buy this, but what the hell. And sold it, much to my shock and dismay. It seemed that the time had come for it at last. Perfect editor. Money on the table. Receptive market.

Put up or shut up.

I will write the book. I don't live with a story in my head this long only to choke at the starting gate. It feels strong, clear, all the bugs worked out. We've got tone.

Still, there's a chunk of me, a six-year-old with a shiny toy no one knows about, and she never wanted someday for this book. She wanted it all for herself. She wanted to keep it shelved in the private library in my head, up there, out of reach where no one can see it and no one ever dog ears the pages. When I began formatting the manuscript document the other day, she had a screaming tantrum: No they can't have this one it's mine mine mine.

I'll ignore her and keep writing, because she's six and she doesn't pay the bills. That and let your inner artchild get the upper hand too often, and you end up not-writing everything.

Never wanting someday is not to say the book is too good for print, or I'm being snobby about what I let the public read and what I hold back. I do hold back things, or set them aside, but only because I don't think they're good enough or marketable in any practical sense.

This book is simply different. Maybe it's been with me so long that over time it's evolved into something else. What, you got me. Maybe I fell in love with it all those years ago when it first took shape. All I know is that it's shiny. It's wonderful. I never get tired of thinking about it, tinkering with the tiniest details, walking through every scene. If novels were houses, this one would be my mansion.

Once it hits the page, though, the story stops being a vision and becomes something real. I have to turn it loose on the big playground of publishing, another marble thumbed into the ring drawn in the dirt. It will never be just-mine again. I can't wait to write it. The six-year-old can. I know I will write it, and let it go like the others, and la-dee-dah along and hide the wrench, that god-awful two days after it's gone when I adjust to letting go and separating from it.

For now, I start to write. I already wrote three chapters when I pitched it. I'll re-read those; see what needs to be polished. Tomorrow I need to write a teaser to send to my editor so she can put it in the back of the novel that comes out before this one. Then I write new material.


  1. You, me, Monica.

    Something funky going on, I think. I smell a hint of magic in the air.

  2. Anonymous11:01 AM

    I'm sure it will be wonderful and I can't wait to read any of these magical books. Marie

  3. Anonymous11:30 AM

    Good luck with it. I'm looking forward to this one, as I do with all of your books. :)


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