My debut book, The Preacher’s Bride has been out on shelves exactly two weeks. Of course the book had been trickling out before then, but now it’s officially out there everywhere.
Every writer always wonders, “How will readers like my book?” And during the weeks leading up to my release date, I held my breath waiting and wondering, “What will everyone think once they read it?”
Well, no more waiting. I’m beginning to hear from a wide variety of people who have finished the book. Writing friends have been showering me with kind words through emails, facebook, and twitter. Many have been leaving stellar reviews on blogs, Amazon, and other places.
Real life friends are beginning to report back to me. I’ve had several different friends tell me my book was the cause of them staying up too late at night. Others have stopped to hug me and tell me how much they liked the story.
I’ve also begun to hear from genre readers (as opposed to writer and real life friends who are supporting me by reading my book). In fact, I love checking my Author Facebook Page for comments from these readers. Since they don’t know me, they don’t have to say nice things to boost my ego. They don’t have to tip-toe around and try not to hurt my feelings. In fact, they dodn’t have to stop by at all.
So, when readers make a point of tracking me down to tell me what they think about my book, I know they really mean what they say. Not that my friends aren’t sincere, because I’m sure most of them are too. But it’s just different when a complete stranger compliments you on a book.
Anyway, last week, I couldn’t help crying over a couple of comments I got. No, they weren’t tears of joy. And no, the comments weren’t horrible. In fact both readers said something like, “Your book was absolutely the best book I’ve read in a long time.”
So why did I burst into tears after reading the kind of compliment every author longs to hear?
Because I was absolutely terrified.
I hadn’t anticipated such positive responses to The Preacher’s Bride. In fact, when I’d read my galleys on The Preacher’s Bride several months ago, I’d been ready to chuck the entire manuscript out the window. I didn't think it was good enough or ready for publication.
So when I started getting compliments on it, especially the “this is the best book” kind of statements, I was surprised, then scared. If you remember, over the past few weeks, I’ve been in the middle of a second round of intensive rewrites on The Doctor’s Lady (my next book releasing in September 2011). I've had to make a lot of significant and difficult changes. And I couldn't keep from wondering, “What if I can't make The Doctor’s Lady into a worthy story? What if it just doesn’t resonate with readers the same way the first seems to be doing?”
Hence, the fear. The deep, gut-wrenching fear.
I was afraid that I’d fail at my rewrites, fail to get my characters likable enough, fail to make the plot a page-turner, fail to weave an encouraging message throughout. In other words, what if The Doctor’s Lady doesn't live up to my first book?
Fortunately, I’m blessed with a talented team of people who are pushing me to make my story the best it can be. My critique partner Keli Gwyn recently called me to encourage me and share her wisdom. And last week I spent close to six hours on the phone with one of my Bethany House editors going through the book chapter by chapter and talking through the additional rewrites. So while I’m still battling my fears, I’m trying to move forward with confidence.
The point is, no matter where we’re at in our writing careers, FEAR is a very common reaction. We will probably always fear putting our work out there whether in front of beta readers, critique partners, agents, editors, and ultimately readers.
When we step out of our private writing fortresses, we open ourselves up to stinging arrows of criticism and gunshot rejections. We’re bound to get wounded from time to time (yes, even with blog posts that may not resonate with some readers). But it’s in taking those risks we grow stronger. If we cower away and don’t fight the battle, how will we ever win?
My agent Rachelle Gardner recently encouraged me in an email: “The fear you've been dealing with is normal . . .You can do this. You may not do it without fear and trepidation, but you can do it! I know how it feels to want people to keep liking your work. Of course you do! But all you can do is write what you write, keep following the direction of your editors and doing your best, and then it's out of your hands.”
What about you? What do you fear the most in the writing journey? Are you stepping out in spite of your fear? And are you surrounded by others who can help you grow stronger as a writer?
*Picture curtesy of Wendy Delfosse.