As writers, two of the greatest assets we possess are curiosity, and a
willingness to listen. It was curiosity that drove me to write a
psychological suspense novel in the first place. I not only wanted to
know “who did it”; I wanted to crack open the the killer’s chest and
explore the darkness that what allowed him to commit what we generally
consider the most depraved and unconscionable of human acts.
And what’s more, I wanted to shake down the people closest to the
murderer. How had they lived so intimately with him without recognizing
the emotional disturbance that was festering inside him? What fears and
long held lies prevented them from seeing–and acting–on the truth
before it was too late? What the hell was wrong with these people?
And what about the victim? In life, most victims are entirely innocent;
the character in my novel was not one of them. She had spent her life
pushing limits, almost daring fate to take her down. Curiosity demanded
that I find out why.
When every character had finally opened their door to me, offered me a
drink and given up their last secret, satisfying my curiosity once and
for all, it was then time to listen. I listened to the friends and
family who graciously agreed to read the first draft, weighing every
question about motivation, timing, and factual accuracy. I listened,
too, to my own inner editor as I wrote drafts two and three with a
critical, less impassioned eye.
Since then, I’ve listened–and learned much from–my agent, my editor,
two fine copyeditors and a foreign translator who contacted me with
questions of her own. Sometimes I agreed and made the changes; other
times I decided to let the passage stand. But with every hand and eye
that touched the manuscript, the novel grew stronger, truer, deeper.
However, now that the manuscript has gone to press, the very qualities
that helped draw out the best novel I could write, could easily become
liabilities. Curiosity could lead to a fixation with Amazon rankings
that so many writers warn about. Willingness to listen could cause me to
obsess over reviews–the good,the bad and the nonexistent. It could also
make me feel a need to engage with every reader who takes issue with a
detail in the story.
In other words, being too curious and listening too avidly at this point
could easily bring on a serious case of writerly neurosis, not to
mention the dreaded condition known as second novel paralysis.
That’s why I’ve made “mind your own business” my latest mantra. My
business was to write the best novel I could write. I’ve tried to do
that. Now that it’s about to be released into the world, it’s the
readers’ business what they think of it.
Sure, I’m going to promote like hell. I’m going to read and smile and be
grateful for every opportunity. What I’m not going to do is second guess
myself or my characters–because this book is done.
And besides, I’m feeling pretty preoccupied lately, See, I’ve recently
met a whole new cast of quirky, troubled, fascinating characters, and
I’m so curious about what they’re going to do next I can hardly sleep.
The Liar’s Diary
Dutton, February 2007
7 Comments so far
Leave a comment