Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What, Really, Is the Goal Here?

So a writer friend, Tricia Lawrence, was kind enough to post a lovely review of ToML last week, and it got me thinking. Specifically, the last line of her review got me thinking. She said, "And to my very good writing friend, Allison, cheers. You outdid your first success, I think," and I was so touched by this sentiment. And this is why I started thinking. What I was thinking about, specifically, was what the goal of putting out a novel has to be. This past week has been so stressful - are people buying the book?, are people enjoying the book?, will Random House be pleased with the results?, can I come up with a new concept to top this one? - the questions were (and are) unending. But then I read Tricia's post, and I thought, hmmmmmmmmm.

I've long said on this blog that my goal is never to be more prolific or better than any of my writing peers. My goal has been - and will always be, I hope - to simply be the best that I can be. And this is why Tricia's post resonated so soundly. The goal of ToML, for me, was to evolve into a better writer than my last effort. To not rest on the fact that I was now a published fiction author. To, in fact, use the fact that I was now a published fiction author to become a better author period. So when I was writing, I pushed myself to not take the easy way out in the plot, to read and reread my work until I was satisfied with every last sentence (though I still see some and cringe), to listen to the constructive criticism offered by my team and really take it to heart and allow my work to improve because of it. Not that I didn't do this with my first effort; I did. Only now I had a bar and knew I could raise it higher.

And, because I think I met all of these goals, I have to be satisfied no matter what happens with this book. And once I considered this, I felt a little bit more at ease about all of those other questions that are clanging so loudly around my brain. The truth is that you can't control if people buy your book (to a certain extent), you can't control if everyone loves your book (they won't), you can't control your publisher's expectations. What you can control is being your very best, and since I'm satisfied that I did, indeed, put my best effort forward, I can take this satisfaction and hopefully, let the other stuff take a back seat. I think this is true whether or not you're a published author, whether or not you're on your first or your fifth novel. I think this has to be our ultimate aspiration as writers because, if not, you'll get too caught up in the question marks to really come up with any solid answers.

So readers, how do you stay on top of your games?


Amy Sue Nathan said...

I agree that pushing oneself is the key. Never taking the easy way out. Making something the best it can be...and that's subjective, of course. The reason some multi-pubbed authors books decline in quality or appeal is because they rest on their laurels. I also think it's important to not get so caught up in topping oneself that you lose sight of what, at times, might be somewhat simple.

Larramie said...

Taking on the layered complexities of ToML proved you were prepared to raise the bar and you did! Remember PW's words for THE DEPARTMENT OF LOST AND FOUND? Even they are bestowing kudos this time around...and it's all deserved.

Carleen Brice said...

I think this is the reason the sophomore novel is even scarier than the first. Now, readers and publishers have expectations, something to compare you to. Yipes! Hope it goes well for you! Continuing the right attitude will be key.

Bonita Rose said...

As a writer myself I agree. We all must write our best work.. our best.. at the time.. everything else is gravy.

Anonymous said...

Hiya Allison,

I couldn't agree with this sentiment more. You can only do your personal best and no one can take that away from you.

I think the only other thing you can control is to do solid work, which for me means working hard and consistently every day. This requires a certain amount of tuning out the world and just keeping the ol' nose to the grind stone.

I think of the book publishing part as a giant celebration of all of the hard work. And you are demonstrating that beautifully.

Wishing you continued and huge success.