There’s a light at each end of the tunnel

Well, I’ve finally done it.

I’ve intimidated myself.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I finished a novel manuscript earlier this month. When I say, “finished,” of course, I mean that it has been completed. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Currently, there are a few copies floating around in various friends’ and family’s inboxes, waiting to be dissected, praised, critiqued, loved, hated, ignored, and yelled at. I myself wait for the same.

So while I’m waiting for these copies and comments to come back to me, I felt as though I ought not to be actively revising. Fair enough – I would like to know what people are talking about if they reference a specific line, page, chapter, etc. But I have things to say. There is that niggling voice in the back of my head and it’s been there since August and I can’t get it to shut up. This is good, you might say, you might, and I recognize its value. At the same time, I’m losing my mind. The words, the scenes, the images, they’re there, and they keep coming. It isn’t a set that appears every day. New ones, several times a week, and what am I supposed to do with that? You can’t work on a half dozen novels at a time – not and be halfway proud of the work and research you’re doing.

I said to myself, “Self, you have to wait for the copy to come back. Meanwhile, a sequel is in order.” And that’s precisely what I want – I want the foundations of a series so I can go to agents and say, HEY, look at what I have. This is good, it makes sense, it’ll build customer – I mean reader – loyalty. That’s great for everyone.

But I was sitting at my computer the other night, about 2500-3000 words into this sequel, and it dawned on me how much work went into its predecessor. I just put out 84,995 words in two months. That’s preposterous. (More than that, actually, because I started a different piece for NaNoWriMo and got about 15,000 words in before I got bored and started this one. So, actually, about 100,000 words, which DOES NOT HELP my mental state.) I remember the crazy days and late nights and lost sleep of November, the 5000 word days, the 8000 word days – the 0 word days. I remember stressing over plot twists – and what shouldn’t twist – and names and ages and heights and weights and magical abilities and if I should have sex scenes or not and if my romantic subplot was corny and if my non-romantic subplot was corny and if I had any believable characters at all.

Panic. That’s the word for what I’m doing. Let’s not sugar coat it with soft words like intimidate; let’s be real, here. I’m select-your-favorite-gerund panicking. And that’s bad, because deep down, I want it to be good, I need it to be good – hell, I know it’s good, dammit – but I’m looking forward to the next two months (probably longer) of, ah – hell.

Writing this sequel is terrifying. More terrifying than the prospect of finding an agent, and then a publisher, and then dealing with that shit, and cover art – because if they try to turn my narrator into some kind of tramp-stamped trailer trash, I’m going to be LIVID – never mind whether or not anyone actually buys the damn thing.

So pardon me while I have another glass of wine.

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