So, in my previous post I mentioned that I might stop answering emails asking for personalized advice. And, as always happens when I post something like that, I immediately got an apology email from a very sweet and awesome reader who had recently written me for advice.
That was NOT the point. It isn't about the people writing me--it is, as most things are, ENTIRELY ABOUT ME. ME, ME, ME. Ahem. Sorry. Okay, fine, one more: ME.
When I get an email that says, "How do I do this? How do I write a book? How do I take the stories in my head and commit to them and get them all out on paper? And how do I overcome the terror that seems to accompany every aspect?" I don't think, "Gosh, that's so annoying, quit writing me."
No, I think, "I DON'T KNOW BUT IF YOU FIGURE IT OUT PLEASE FOR THE LOVE LET ME KNOW."
Because while I have all of the visible checkmarks of success--got an agent! sold my book as a trilogy! hit the NYT bestseller list! lots of blog readers! shiny hair!--when I sit down to write a story, you know what I still think?
"Oh my gosh. This. Is. Impossible."
Every single time. It always feels impossible to me, and hugely intimidating, and overwhelming. How do you take an idea and make a book out of it? How do you take a voice and fill it with 72,000 words? How to you create characters and lives and stories out of NOTHING?
And, once you have all of those things in a Word document, how do you fix the horrible mess you've made out of them?
See, I've written enough books now that I have no more delusions. I know that I'm not going to whip out an amazing first draft. I know that it's going to take time, and be hard, and even when I "finish" I'm never going to be FINISHED. (Until Paranormalcy is done being translated into Finnish, but that's a different story.) And I know that my particular method (chapter by chapter by chapter, linearly, with minimal outlining, fueled by sugar and obsessive daydreams) is not your method, nor should it be.
And even when you have a book and you have success--wild success--more success than your very realistic dreams allowed for--it is still scary. You still worry about the next book. You worry that you've forgotten how to write, or that you've lost your voice, or that you don't have enough ideas. You worry that whatever you write next that isn't in that world will lose the magic you tapped into. You worry that your next book will flop and you'll forever be seen as a flash in the pan, some sort of one hit book wonder. You worry.
And even when things go right, I don't know how they've gone right. It's not really a quantifiable thing--so many different successes have to line up just so, and 90% of them are utterly and completely out of the author's control. So when people write and ask, "How do you write a breakout first novel/bestseller/book everyone will love?" I think, "Heck if I know!" I wrote a story I loved, for fun. Everything else just sort of happened. When they write, "How do you have a blog and a twitter feed that people will want to follow?" I think, "I have NO IDEA why ANYONE reads MINE, other than that MAYBE they REALLY LIKE random CAPITALIZATIONS that SHOW UP when I have had TOO MUCH DR PEPPER."
(Honestly: I have no idea why people read this nonsense. But I'm glad you do. I like you. My only explanation for twitter and this blog is that I love doing it and have fun with it, and I think that communicates itself well. Also, everything I write is littered with subliminal messages that I have studied a lifetime to be able to use. So when, this August or September, Supernaturally not only breaks all sales records but I am also elected Supreme Dictator of the World, don't be surprised. But I'm not telling you how I do it, because that would defeat the purpose of controlling your minds.)
To sum up, the real reason I cringe when people ask me for advice is because of the unspoken assumption that I have anything figured out. Friends, dear friends, believe me when I tell you: I have nothing figured out. I'm just muddling along as best I can, enjoying the occasional flashes of brilliance and trudging through the work--because that's what writing is, it's WORK, lots and lots of work, wonderful work, but WORK--and if it looks like I know what I'm doing, well, that's because I lie for a living.
And I am a very good liar.