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Writing Under Contract
I am writing book 2.
And I am in agony.
Everyone told me that writing your second book (first book under contract) would be much, much harder than writing your debut. I knew to expect it, knew that it would be likely I'd be grappling with doubt and imposter syndrome, and yet here I am in the middle of writing book 2, feeling completely blindsided by the process. Even though I knew this was coming, what I couldn't comprehend was how hard differentiating what belongs to me and what belongs to the outside world would be.
Here's the thing: the universe is full of possibilities when you're writing on spec. When the story you're writing belongs to you and you alone. You can choose to share your work with others, or not. You can choose to play in that sandbox today, or not. You can choose, you can choose, you can choose, and I hadn't realized how much freedom there was in the choosing.
Something changes in the writing process once you know your book will be read.
It's a different mental space to occupy, that's for sure. Before, writing was my escape, my private playground. Mine. There's something delightfully indulgent about keeping something entirely to yourself, almost sinfully selfish. You are writing to please yourself, and no one else. What other people think of your work is immaterial, because it's yours and yours alone.
I wrote Wintersong while working a full-time day job, so naturally I thought I would easily be able to do the same with book 2. What I hadn't anticipated was how much of my mental space would be devoted to Wintersong after I had finished writing it. How much time I would spend answering emails or questions or just plain thinking about it while trying to write book 2. Before I started pursuing publication in earnest, every previous novel I had written had gone into the drawer after I had finished, like toys I had outgrown. Writing those books was fun while it lasted, but as I grew older, grew better, I moved on. It seemed like the natural progression to things.
This, I think, was perhaps my first taste of how being an Author is different from being a writer. A writer creates, but being an Author is a job. It's a job that like any other job, which requires things like emails, meetings, phone calls, travel, presentations, and—worst of all—performance reviews. So in addition to my full-time day job, I had the secondary gig of being an Author, but it took me a long time to realize that I seemed to have less time to work on book 2 because I had fewer "off-hours," so to speak.
Similarly, the psychic pressure of "performance reviews" was another thing I had to wrap my mind around. Wintersong ARCs are out in the world, so for the first time, I'm hearing what people outside my critique partners, agent, and editor have to say about my story. I'm not necessarily upset by bad review, or even indifferent reviews, but it was unexpectedly difficult to shut out everyone else's opinions, an endless refrain of what will they think, what will they think, what will they think. It's hard to pick out your own voice when others are crowding it out.
I've only just recently started to navigate this strange, new headspace. Part of it did involve blocking Goodreads and limiting my time on social media, but the greater part was finding that private playground again. Remembering that writing, that the joyous act of being creative, is still mine and mine alone. These are my toys, and I can play with them however I want.
What about you? Have you written a book under contract? Can you reassure me there's a light at the end of the tunnel?