Writer’s Angst by Peggy Blair

One of the things that has surprised me about the steps involved in getting published is how angst-ridden the whole process is. Waiting for responses to query letters is anxiety-provoking and often heart-breaking. I think we all imagine that if we can only find an agent, our troubles will be over. But in some ways, it marks the beginning of another nail-biting journey.

Once you have an agent, they have to sell your book. The submissions process to publishing houses and editors has its own set of roller-coaster emotions.

I was lucky: my agents rarely passed on the editorial feedback they received unless it was good. But in my AW discussion groups (Next Circle of Hell and less frequently these days, Rejection and Dejection), lots of aspiring authors get their hearts broken anew every time their book is turned down at that next level.

It doesn’t seem to matter how far they get up the ladder either. There is excitement at being represented by an agent, then anxiety over the submissions process to publishing houses. Anxiety at the inevitable delays in getting feedback, excitement at finding out a commissioning editor loves the book, despair at discovering she can’t persuade her colleagues to jump on board. The fact that the manuscript had made into the inner sanctum of book publishing holds little solace when the book is turned down.

It doesn’t seem to matter what reason is given; each author I know takes it personally.

If the book is picked up and published, a whole new round of nerves takes over from the initial euphoria. In these tough days of publishing, a book has to hold its own. I know authors who check their weekly sales at Chapters Indigo, monitoring  the quantity held in bookstores across the country week-to-week. I probably would, too, if I had time. Instead, I am  addicted to that algorithymic mystery known as Amazon rankings.

Unless one is lucky enough to hit the rarified atmosphere that accompanies a bestseller, there is always the nagging fear that the book is going to disappear like a stone cast in the water.

And then there are the reviews. Talk about angst-provoking!

Some authors claim they don’t read theirs: I don’t believe it.

The reason we go through all of this is because we want, hope, need, to be read. What readers think of our work, whether they are professionals or otherwise, is our raison d’être.

But the idea that some readers may not actually like our work doesn’t seem to really occur to us until we discover negative reviews. The whole process of being published exposes insecurities we thought we’d outgrown as adults. Bad reviews are like the chatter behind our backs, the friends we thought liked us but who turned against us.

Having survived all of these emotions more or less intact, I’ve have discovered a whole new level of writer’s angst– I have no idea what to write about next. I don’t know if there will be a fourth book in the Inspector Ramirez series, but if there is, I have to sit down and write it at some point, and I’m lacking a plot.

It’s not a block, exactly. I’ve written three books and a 10,000 word short story since Easter, 2009. I have characters I really like: I’m just a little tired of hanging out with them . Will our friendships continue if I take a break from them for a while? Will they still be there, waiting, when I’m ready to start again?

It’s all so nerve-wracking.