When I decided to stop working on my novels for a bit, and concentrate on my blog and the garden instead, it was with a sense of relief.
It isn’t the writing that’s hard – well, some days it is – but more it’s the silent uncertainty.
When I write a blog post, even a mediocre one, I know if somebody reads it. And generally at least one or two people do. If I’m lucky I’ll get a like or even comment. It’s a lovely feeling.
As I have been fortunate enough to stay below the internet troll radar by being boring, unknown, and uncontroversial, the comments are supportive and encouraging.
Not so with books.
I can spend a year writing a novel which even my family won’t read and feed back on, because they’re too close for constructive criticism.
Without Beta Readers, my only sources of feedback are agents and reviewers. They’re not exactly a chatty bunch. If you hear back from an agent at all, it’s a polite, “this is not for me” message, after weeks and weeks of painful silence. Reviews, which are even harder to get, are all or nothing. Black and white. Fulsome praise or scathing disgust. I have come to dread them.
As someone driven by external validation, despite years of trying not to be, this lack of feedback on my efforts saps all motivation. Currently I have one novel in a competition, and two with agents, and the rest, as Hamlet would say, is silence.
It paralyses me.
Do I work on a current book, without knowing what’s wrong with it? Do I write another one, without knowing which bits I’m getting right, or whether anyone will ever actually read it. Should it matter?
How do novelists slog at a book for ten years, true only to themselves and their story? Where do they bury their self-doubt?
I should really join a writer’s group, although I’m currently a little thin-skinned for that. I’d probably weep at the first unkind word and give up writing forever.
Except I miss writing.
I miss producing books, discovering characters, creating. Filling that blank page.
So I’ll pour those words into my blog for now and try for patience.
Thank you for being listening voices in the void!