One thing I often get told when I mention my novel is some version of : “Oh, that’s great. You must feel so proud it’s getting published!”
Which I am, of course. But it sort of got me thinking of exactly what I feel about Zero Alternative being published. And I’ve discovered that it’s a lot more complicated than just feeling proud. (Not in conversation, I’d come up as the worst bore of all time if I tried to say this casually. But a blog is about thoughts, as well, I think.)
So how do I feel?
Nervous. And excited too, curious to see what people will think of it. But nervous is definetely a part of it.
I once tweeted to a fellow author – Nick Cook, about his highly-awaited CloudRiders – that sending a novel off after the final proofread feels like saying good-bye to a good old friend who’s been sleeping on your sofa for too long. There’s relief that he’s found something better and is finally out of your hair, leaving you to concentrate on other things. And a tinge of sadness because he is a good friend, you’ve had some great times together and it’s never going to be quite the same. And this is all true, but there’s no fear involved in that scene.
I guess in reality it’s something closer to sending your kids off to University, or a gap-year, or somewhere where they’ll be on their own for a long time, away from you. (Mine are actually still too young for this sort of thing, thankfully, but not so young that it’s beyond the horizon).
You’re there, standing on the door and they’re about to go and face the whole wide world, alone. Of course you’ve done all you can to make sure they’re prepared for the journey and challenges, but you always wonder what you’ve missed, what piece of advice (or of editing, proofreading, which ugly line of dialogue, extra adverb, missing tidbit… you get the picture) you should have come up with.
There’s always the niggling fear that they’re not quite ready enough, that if you just had an extra day, week, month you could have made them better prepared for what lays ahead. Even though you know it’s time to let go.
Books also carry an extra downside that kids don’t have (though sometimes teenagers can get you pretty close, I guess) – and it’s the author’s revulsion at his own writing. After so many drafts and rereads, you become vaccinated against the good things you put down, and the obsessive search for warts, mistakes, the extra bit of polishing mean that after so long concentrating on getting rid of imperfections you think too often about the ones that might be left – and you risk the classic kill by overcare. And even that extra bit of intellectual arrogance that every author needs to decide to show the book to other people – this is a story that’s worth telling, and you should read it! – can break down to the point that self-doubt becomes hard to keep at bay.
And then out it goes, and the little voice in your head (not the one about pickaxes and stuff, the slightly more reasonable one) is certain that it’s not good enough yet. Which is when you should sit down, read a good book by someone else and start thinking of your next project. And have a drink or two. Because the little voice is wrong – you’ve done all you can, and now you’d just start becoming an overbearing parent.
So yes, I’m proud. And a little scared too.
Not so much that it’s going to stop me from writing another one though.