The Next Big Thing: I’m Doing It Wrong

Two months ago, Olivia Chadha, a friend and former graduate school colleague whose lovely novel, The Balance of Fragile Things, was published in 2012 by Ashland Creek Press, sent me a set of really excellent writerly questions. These questions are part of a forward-rolling blog series called The Next Big Thing (and the nature of it is to pass it forward, and so if these questions would help you, reader, please take them, please use them, please post), and Olivia was awesome to pass them to me.

What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The problem is this: I can’t answer them. 
I mean, of course, I could. These are all things that I’ve thought about before (though the “who would you cast?” question is a rabbit-hole that I could fall down forever and still not get it quite right). One of the reasons that I have (again) dropped off the face of the blogging-earth is the completion of the first draft of the novel I’ve been vaguely alluding to since June. I have a draft. I have a whole, complete project and it’s the first time since I finished my dissertation. And I have never been happier with a manuscript. (Don’t let that fool you; the revisions will be vast, of course, but I’m already feeling like I know what those revisions are, which is a wholly new experience as a writer.) But I look at these questions and all I can hear is jinx
I’ve written before about being, on the whole, unable or unwilling to discuss the work in progress. That’s true and it isn’t. In one way or another, this book is the only thing that I’ve spoken about in six months because even when I’m not talking about it, I am. In the back of my mind, every conversation arrives there. (I spend considerable time hoping no one notices that, too.) But there are probably only two people who’ve heard real details throughout the process, and now the process is done (at least draft one). Now, there are six people who have or have had the manuscript in-hand, to help me figure out the algebra of revision. I’m glad to be in this space. 
But I still can’t talk about it, not in this specific, useful way. It still feels too soon (and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little writerly paranoia underwriting it all–don’t give away too much, lest someone else take the idea and fun with it, better, faster, farther, nevermind that I also believe, truly and firmly, that there are no new ideas, only new ways of approaching them, and all of those ways are valuable. I am aware that this is a vast hypocrisy). I do think that these questions are phenomenal for someone whose book has just come out or whose book is under contract or for someone who is far more brave and confident about the publication process. 
Part of me, of course, is convinced that my reticence here is base cowardice. Part of me thinks it’s pragmatism. I’m thinking that it’s some of both and a bit of neither. What I am certain of is that these are important questions to be able to answer, particularly in the context of seeking publication for one’s work. And so I am answering them, just not here. I hope, in days and months to come, to be able to answer them properly, clearly, and without the sense that I am somehow sabotaging myself.
Blog post the next: What do I do after the draft? (More about writing than Fantasy Hockey, but that’s sure to factor in.)

4 thoughts on “The Next Big Thing: I’m Doing It Wrong

  1. Love it, Holly. Especially the jinx part. And the way all conversations arrive at the manuscript. And the way you've arrived at the completed first draft. Fantastic.


  2. Yes, this. Nicely said. Can't talk about the writing during the process because then all the working through is over and nothing happens on the page.


  3. Everybody's process is different, and we all have to muddle our own way though–for me, the moment I start talking about is the moment I cease working on, and the transition is usually irrevocable. So I'm usually pretty reluctant to enter into discussions beyond venting on Twitter to the effect that “I hate my process”.

    Less doom-struck, though: there is only so much time, and I have only so much energy, and I don't ever feel bad husbanding those quantities to put into, rather than around, the stuff I'm working on…


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