Recently I finished reading through the Galleys for The Doctor’s Lady (releasing in Sept.). Review Galleys are usually sent to the author after all the in-house editing has been completed. The author is required to read through the manuscript one last time to accept the changes that have been made.
The author can also do some editing, but usually only minor tweaking. Since the book is moving down the pipeline at a fast speed toward publication, the Galleys have to be back within about a week’s time. They’re in hardcopy format (at least with my publisher). And any changes have to be made in a colored pen in the right margin. The Galley stage isn’t the time to do any major overhauls.
I’ve gone through Galleys before and should have expected my reaction. Nevertheless, I was unprepared for the absolute fear that came over me as I combed through my manuscript. Various thoughts filtered through my mind over the week, growing into near-panic by the end of the book:
“Who wrote this garbage? A two year old?”
“I can’t believe how amateur this sounds, all the stilted words, clunky sentences, and repetitions.”
“The plot is boring, slow, and choppy. And the characters are completely unlikable cardboard cut-outs.”
Finally, the cacophony of distress turns into one last long wail: “I wish I’d never written this book. Everyone is going to hate it.”
And that’s when the truth comes out. I’m afraid. Of failing.
I want others to like what I write. And perhaps the fear of failing is even stronger with this set of Galleys on my second book than it was on my first book. I’ve learned what it’s like to have reader/reviewer feedback (both good and bad). And I’d really like the positives to outweigh the negatives.
That’s only natural. As writers we want our words to resonate with our readers. We want to connect with them. If we didn’t, we likely wouldn’t pursue publication. Instead we’d write for pure personal satisfaction and nothing more.
We need to please our readers. We should want to give them the most satisfying reading experience possible.
But that desire to please the reader often leads to fear. What if they see my mistakes? What if they don’t like the story? What if they fail to fall in love with the characters?
We’ll all face fear—whether that’s during the query stage when we cringe every time we open an email, wondering what agents will say (if anything). We whittle our nails away to nothing while we wait for publishers to make decisions on our proposals. And with each book we publish, we hold our breath as we read each review, bracing ourselves for the worst and hoping for the best.
In handling my recent attack of fear, I tried to talk myself off the cliff with these reminders:
Let fear push us to work harder. A healthy amount of fear is a good thing. It keeps us from getting too proud or over-confident. Fear can motivate us to work even harder on the next book.
Don’t let fear paralyze us. We have to remind ourselves that perfection is not possible. Do the best we can, then let go. We can’t let fear stop us from finishing the story, sending the query, or letting it go public.
Stay self-confident. If my next book doesn’t resonate with readers the way I hope, I can still be proud of myself for working hard and doing all I possibly could.
In our desire to please the reader, we can’t forget to please ourselves too. We won’t be able to please everyone. That’s why it’s so important that at the core of what we write, especially during the first draft, we find pleasure in the story. If we’re not deriving joy from the story, then why are we writing?
What about you? Have you experienced any hard core writer fear? How do you talk yourself off the cliff?