on vulnerability and what happens next

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (and I hope you do!) you’ll know that last week I handed in the structural edits of my third book. What happens next is that my editor reads the book again and decides if it needs more work or not. And I sit at home hoping that it does not!

I always find this to be a really vulnerable time in the process – perhaps even more so than publication day because by publication day you know it’s too late to change anything and you’re more accepting!

When I send the first version in to my editor I always know that it’s going to need work, I’ve often got an idea of where that work needs to happen and while I find structural edits difficult, I also find them quite rewarding because it does make a better, more rounded book.

However…

When I send them back I always feel like I’ve opened my heart a little bit more. The sections that I’ve rewritten have always got a lot more of “me” in them than the original version did, the parts that I’ve moved around like jigsaw pieces have been moved to find a deeper meaning to what I’ve written (even if only I will ever see that meaning). There’s something about this stage that makes me feel vulnerable because it’s the stage at which I most desperately need to feel that the book is loved!

Now I know that my book needs to be loved on publication day too, and of course I want my readers to laugh and cry and feel all the feels when they read it. But when my editor reads my structural edits, I’m waiting for her to feel what I’m trying to convey because I know if she does then my readers will too.

And if she doesn’t….well I’m not going to think about that right now!

This book has left me feeling particularly vulnerable for several reasons.

  • Firstly, my heroine in this one has chronic illness. I really hope I’ve conveyed what it’s like to learn to live with chronic illness without the whole book feeling depressing. I’ve lived with chronic illness since I was 18 and my life has had countless small joys and big adventures – it’s not a death sentence or a reason to not feel alive, but it is hard. So I’m hoping I’ve got all of that across.
  • Secondly, I have a new editor for this book. She’s lovely and so far I feel that we’re totally on the same page – but still, it’s a bit of a step into the unknown.
  • And thirdly (eep), this book is the last one in my contract. Which means I’ll be writing my fourth book not knowing whether it will be published or not and hoping that my third book is strong enough to hook me that next publishing deal.

Vulnerability is a good thing.

When we open ourselves up to our own vulnerability I think we also come across as our most authentic. Life isn’t easy, it’s full of all kinds of struggles and worries and anxieties. But it is also a wonderful thing. I believe it’s important to be honest about our lives – we don’t have to overshare, we don’t have to tell the people in our phones our most personal secrets and desires – but I do think we need to share the flip side of the coin sometimes. Getting a book deal has been a dream come true – but it has also been one of the most anxiety-making things I have ever done and it’s been bloody hard work.

So this is me, trying to tell you the truth as it is right now, and hoping that my editor will like my edits and my fourth book will find a contract.

What makes you feel vulnerable? How do you feel about opening up to that?

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One Comment

  1. I am constantly scared that the book I’m writing won’t be good enough for *my* standards. I’m a perfectionist and can’t stop myself from fiddling with it. But possibly the worst fear I have is to get the facts wrong. And I cringe at the thought that two years from now I will re-read it and die of embarrassment. But that’s my own problem.

    Vulnerable… I think the only thing that could really hurt me would be negative opinions from authors I value. On one hand, I’d love to see – say – Marian Keyes falling in love with my novel, on the other I would die inside if she said didn’t like anything about it. It’s fine when I get negative feedback from beta readers, as I found out I can even learn from people who tell me openly it’s not their genre. But I can’t shake off the impostor syndrome and in particular the fear that someone I admire would point it out…

    My main protagonist also lives with a chronic illness. A large part of that came from my personal experience, really “writing what I know”. I’d be extremely upset to find out this put people off reading the book.

    I’m already scared of so many things and I’m still not finished writing the whole thing!

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