For those playing the home game, a couple years ago I began writing a novel called Asher Beauregard Attempts to Give a Damn. It started as a birthday present for Z Allora and transformed into a 100k+ epic. When she convinced me to submit it for publication as my first solo release, I was overwhelmed, but I did it.
And then, when Loose Id accepted it and my usual editor Rory Olsen sent me the first round of edits….I freaked. I became convinced it was the worst novel I’d ever been involved with. Without a co-author’s honor to defend, I believed every bad thing that popped into my head. I psyched myself out so badly that it took me nine months to return the edits to Rory.
Why does that happen?
I talked to Clancy Nacht and Jessica Freely about it, my Make Mine Manlove podcast compadres. While Clancy has co-written a lot of books with me, she’s also published a lot of great solo novels (like Pride & Justice, her latest, which I fucking love; it reminds me of Pratchett or Douglas Adams), and Freely habitually kicks out solo project after solo project. They expressed very similar feelings to my own…
Apparently I’m not the only one seized with a paralyzing fear of releasing a novel into the wild. I’m not the only one who agonizes over every edit, wondering if I’m making the novel better or worse. This is just part of being a writer. It’s a battle within one’s own mind, a struggle with oneself. The act of writing is first inspiration, then creation, then perspiration, and finally self-flagellation.
Letting other people read ABATGAD has been the most humiliating experience of my life thus far, and that’s saying something. I put too much of myself into Asher, the MC. He holds some of my neuroses, my insecurities, my lack of trust and faith, and having someone else question why he does what he does is like having someone question me about my deepest flaws. When someone dislikes him, it’s hard not to take it personally. Because writing is personal. Whether or not your hero is based on yourself or comes from somewhere else, it’s impossible not to infuse your characters with your worldview–or at least one filtered through your worldview. When someone doesn’t get it–or when someone just asks for clarification of something you’ve never articulated fully even to yourself–it can expose deep prejudices, biases, unquestioned beliefs, and desperate hopes.
Why on earth do we do this to ourselves?
And yet, the single characteristic of a writer is that they write. So I do. We do. We keep pushing ourselves to peel back more of our psyche, to reveal more of what drives us, what makes us think and those things which compel us to put words to thoughts.
Not every novel digs deep. I’ve read countless forgettable books an author kicked out solely for profit, an exercise in writing by numbers. But the best do. The ones I want to write do.
I’ve seen post after post on my facebook feed where authors and aspirants lament their fear of failure, their crippling horror of being so laid bare, of being criticized or misunderstood. I never truly understood till I found myself alone before the lord–or at least Rory–pleading to be good enough, to be passed through the gantlet to the next phase of the publishing machine.
Having a co-author I trusted and loved working with had protected me from the worst of the fear and loathing. I highly recommend it. Does writing 50 thousand words sound daunting? Write with a friend, and you’re pulling your weight if you kick in 25. Standing alone before the critics? Bring a safety buddy!
Wish me luck as I dare this adventure… Asher Beauregard Attempts to Give a Damn is currently expected to drop in June, and I’ll join the ranks of all those brave, solo novelists who have gone before me.