Essay–Post Literary Syndrome

Post Literary Syndrome. Yes, it’s a term of my own creation to describe the wonderful feeling of success after completing a tale. But more importantly, I attribute it to the crash that occurs after I think about all the things that might be wrong with that tale. It’s a mess of triumph and defeat. It chews at your confidence and tells you your writing is nothing but shit.

Last night, I finished the first draft of a new novel. Said novel is already sold to a small publisher (and I’ll certainly let you know whom when I have the all clear to give you details). For now, though, let’s just agree that it’s a pretty big move for my writing career and I’m damned excited about it. And that excitement is probably the reason I’ve written 85k words on this novel in the space of two months. For me? That’s an f’ing record since I started writing again while holding down a day job.

For the first time since Closet Treats, I’ve written a novel that is a novel and not a collection of shorter tales. It’s also the longest book I’ve ever written. Yeah, I know, I like to write short books. I can’t help it–it’s what I do.

One of the main differences between writing a shorter work and a novel is keeping everything neat, clean, and focused. Novels have a tendency to stray, or become incongruous.

I am a “discovery” writer, also known as a pantser. This means I don’t spend a whole lot of effort in outlining a book or knowing everything about the characters before I start writing. Instead, the idea of the characters drives the story. As the story plays out, the characters become more real, their relationships more solid, and the plot writes itself.

This latest book is a first for me. My stories usually focus on a single character. Three at the most. This one? Hell, I have points of view from fish and robots. I’ve never done this before, but strangely enough, it’s how a lot of thrillers are put together. So I decided to give it a shot.

And, just because I don’t know when to stop trying something different, this book doesn’t have serial killers, psychotics, telepaths, or daemons. Instead? Well, that would ruin the book, now wouldn’t it?

I went to sleep last night fervently planning to start working on the second draft. But when I awoke, I realized that was the worst idea in the world.

I’ve never really let a book sit before, but this one needs to. It needs a chance to breathe. And more importantly, my mind needs a chance to process what I’ve just been through.

One might think that finishing a story is the destination, but really, it’s not. The destination for the book is to be podcasted, published, and etc. The real destination for this journey is for me to become a better writer. That is a goal I will constantly move toward, but will never reach. I can always improve and hopefully with each tale, I have.

Perhaps the most honest voice about us writers and our somewhat dubious reasons for writing is Matt Wallace. Mr. Wallace is a writer of some notoriety and I personally think he’s one of the best voices out there. He’s also extremely, um, acerbic. Mr. Wallace bitches at us writers for thinking we’re special and therefore privileged.

He’s right. We do. He also says that if you’re writing for validation, then you’re a pussy. Again, he’s correct.

I don’t write for validation. Between the great support I enjoy from my readers and listeners, the frequent invitations to submit to anthologies, and a book contract, validation is the last thing I’m looking for. I like writing. I love it. And I want to share it because I want to make my living at this. That means I have to somehow break through the wall and create stories that people are willing to pay for.

So I have the shakes about this book. I’ve been told I have nothing to worry about, but that doesn’t mean I won’t continue second-guessing myself or the tale. I do that whenever I finish a story. It’s just that with a novel, the self-doubt compounds itself.

I have to focus on something else to get past this post-literary syndrome. Therefore, I’m working on a new Garaaga’s Children novella. I’m going to get back to work on the novel Flames. I owe a story pitch for two anthologies and a second book to the publisher I’m working with. And when I’m ready, I’ll read through this novel and begin making sure it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. And more importantly, it’s something you’ll enjoy.

This is a big year for me. We have already published The Street, two Garaaga’s Children trade paperbacks are going to distributed everywhere, a novella/novel I wrote for a certain NYT Bestselling author will more than likely be published in the next six months, and I will probably be publishing another novel by the end of the year. Busy busy busy.

So today I’m taking a breath. I’m taking a break. I’m going to kick back with a beer and enjoy a day of rest. When I head back to the keyboard tomorrow, I’ll be ready. The words will be there, because they need to be. The characters will speak to me because that’s what they do.

Writing isn’t the definition of “hard work.” That would be post-hole digging in the middle of a Texas summer. Writing is brain work. It requires discipline  and using the instincts you hone while practicing the craft. That means getting your ass in the chair and having the courage and determination to pluck words from your imagination and put them down. It ain’t hard, kids.

What is hard? Simple. Having the faith in yourself to keep trying new approaches, attempt more difficult tales, and not worrying about whether or not the story is good enough. Find the will to make it good enough.

More content is coming, Fiendlings. Trust me–it’ll be worth the wait.

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