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Friday, October 28, 2011

In Which I Reflect and Make an Attempt at Painful Honesty

It’s funny, when things are going great, how easy it is to forget (or not talk about) the times when things didn’t go so well. Last night, posting pictures of my ARC, which had just come in the mail, I told some friends that I was going to write a blog post about how, a year ago, I was ready to give up.

But then I immediately thought, how could I have been ready to give up when I was frantically writing Masque?

And I wondered if it was okay to write a post that would draw attention to the fact that not only is this process not effortless, but that I’m not a shiny new debut. My book is shiny, but I'm not shiny at all! 

The first novel that I ever completed and polished was published…way back at the end of 2008. I won’t say that it wasn’t a great accomplishment; I’m very proud of it. But afterwards there was a long difficult period. I struggled to keep writing in a genre that wasn’t my true literary love. I tried to write a book that would be the right follow up to a book that had come from somewhere inside of me, and had no logical follow up. There were three complete manuscripts between Handcuffs and Masque, and one of them is, in my opinion the best draft I’ve ever written. Masque in its current state is by far my best book, but the other one, the one that hasn’t happened yet, I don’t know. I opened it the other day and read a few pages and I still loved it.

Between December 2008 and February 2011, there were a lot of ups and downs.

I frequently tell the students in my creative writing classes that if I knew without a doubt, if I could look into the future and know that I would never publish another book, that I would scrap the revision process. If my stories were just for me, then they could just float around, an ephemeral haze in my head. I like making up stories and characters. The rest of it is hard work. But with no ability to look into the future, I just kept writing. Signing with my current agent was a major boost of self-esteem, but when a book that we both loved didn't sell, that was hard.

So, looking back to the October of a year ago, I can say that I was on an emotional precipice. I couldn’t stop writing Masque. I was writing it in moments of downtime, staying up to late, getting up early the next morning…the book excited me, but there was also a little edge of crazy peeking out, and my husband said more than once, if you don’t sell this one, I don’t know what you are going to do. He knows me better than anyone, and he was genuinely worried about me. 

I do think it’s possible that I need a little edge of crazy to write the things I write. But he's known me for a long time and he was nervous. If I’d had time to stop writing, I don't doubt that I would’ve been nervous too.

When I wasn’t writing, there was this hard emotion that might have been defeat. It was flat and colorless and heavy, I didn’t like it, so I didn’t give myself much downtime.

And now I’m holding this ARC. And people are adding it on Goodreads, bloggers have been kind enough to feature the cover, to say they are looking forward to its release.

It’s easy to bask in that. It’s easy to be hopeful, because this book is (I think) as dark and as beautiful as its cover. It was so well edited and polished (at my editor’s direction, I can take little credit there), that reading it makes me feel oddly giddy, and giddy is an odd emotion for me to admit to.

But as I write the sequel, I remind myself how bleak things looked last year, when this book was going forward because I was afraid of the silence when I wasn’t writing.

I’ve matured as a writer, and I’ve become less and less afraid of the dark corners of my mind. And hopefully that will help bridge the gap between shiny and effortless and…whatever I am now. 


Blogger ryan.gebhart said...

It is very beautiful. And your story is heartening for the disheartened. Thank you for posting this.

October 28, 2011 at 7:22 AM  
Blogger ryan.gebhart said...

btw, by "story" I meant the story of getting Masque published, not the novel itself. derp :P

October 28, 2011 at 7:23 AM  
Blogger Suzanne Young said...

I think you're shiny :-)

And this book is amazing and your talent is amazing. Thank you for not giving up!

October 28, 2011 at 7:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t know. I opened it the other day and read a few pages and I still loved it.

If this is the book I think it is, it deserves every bit of that love.

And yay you for being awesome and not quitting. :D

October 28, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger The Unbreakable Child said...

you gooo grrl! ;)

October 28, 2011 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Daisy Whitney said...

Bethany! I am so proud of you for your tenacity. I know the feeling. This post brings tears to my eyes. Cannot wait for this book

October 28, 2011 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Bryan B. said...

This was something I needed to hear amidst all the Twittering of things like, "I never wrote a book before this and now I have a 7-figure advance and a movie deal!!!!" These people should not be allowed to use Twitter. I do not like these people. So, thanks. It was a needed read.

October 28, 2011 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Krista Ashe said...

Thank you so much for this post, Bethany!!! I'm so thankful you perserved through the hard times. You are an inspiration to other writers!! Can't wait for Masque!!

October 28, 2011 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Elissa J. Hoole said...

Amazing post, and I am so glad you wrote to keep that despair away.(I also hold out hope for that beautiful book in the middle, because I love that book!)

October 28, 2011 at 9:17 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Bethany, what a heartfelt post! you really have been on an emotional roller coaster. in fact, most writers are, but for some reason we never hear their stories and so us new writers who are trying to get into the biz think that it will be an SM deal or some other crazy rare type of deal and then when things don't happen so easily, we feel so crushed and like a failure and question whether or not it's worth it to go on. But stories like yours remind everyone that the journey is HARD. And the only ones who truly have no chance of ever making it are the ones who give up. And thank GOD you did not give up. Handcuffs is one of my favorite contemps and I know I'm going to LOVE this books. Congratulations and big hugs!

October 28, 2011 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Err...virtual hugs only, of course. :D

October 28, 2011 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Alina said...

Bethany, I can relate to this because I don't think my debut is my true literary love, either, just a story I had to tell. I find it inspiring, both that you didn't give up and that you are receiving so much love for a sophomore novel so different from your first.

I'm so excited to read it and recommend it. You're amazing!

October 28, 2011 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Cheri Williams said...

You Are. Bomb.

October 28, 2011 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Chanelle said...

You're amazing. That is all.
Oh, and I'm glad you didn't stop writing because that would seriously suck for your loyal fans and supporters :)

October 28, 2011 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger bethany griffin said...

Oh you guys. I'm okay with hugs. Virtual ones or real ones. And also, look how lucky I am with all my supportive friends. Wow.

October 28, 2011 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Heather Dougherty said...

With Handcuffs as one of my fave reads, I believe that Masque will be just a dark and beautiful as the cover. Thanks for sharing the dark parts of your journey with us.

October 28, 2011 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger Amanda Morgan said...

Bethany, you rock my world. I'm going to go write now.

October 29, 2011 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

I can never read enough about how a writer/artist persistence prevailed. Thank you for this post.

October 29, 2011 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Trish Doller said...

Bethany, I'm so glad you didn't give up. And thanks for this post.

October 29, 2011 at 2:45 PM  
Blogger Nova said...

I relate to this so much, and I'm just so happy for you. I can't wait to read it, Bethany. And I hope you give yourself room to celebrate and bask in all the good things!

October 29, 2011 at 2:46 PM  

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