by Janis Patterson
The world is full of fear - knives, nutcases, terrorists, falling trees, floods, fire... The list is endless, and aside from a few constants, different for every person. And we as writers heap even more on ourselves.
At least, this writer does. Even after nearly 40 years in the business I still quake with terror every time I release a book out into the wild... and, to a lesser extent, every blog post. It's an exposure not only of my skills, knowledge and ability, but a blurry look into the inner workings of my mind. In a mental sense, it's the equivalent of walking outside in my underwear.
While we're still working on the book, it's ours. Whatever foibles or errors it has, they are strictly between it and us. Once it leaves our hands, though, whether to beta readers, editors or to the great wide world, it ceases to be ours. We can no longer protect it - or ourselves.
Yesterday I sent in the manuscript for FIRST DATE, a suspenseful romantic adventure novella written for a new box set called DESPERATE MEASURES, organized by the incomparable Nicole Morgan and due for release at the end of January. Now after 40 some odd books you'd think this would be old hat - a good story, a genre I love and write often, a well-known setting, a hero to die for...
Wrong. I loaded the email and still my finger hovered over the 'send' button. The story was sound; the manuscript had been edited not only by me but by Laree Bryant, the gifted editor (and an author herself) I've used for every single book for years. It had been vetted by two of my trusted beta readers, and passed with flying colors. I had been over it several times until I felt positive every elusive typo had been tracked down and corrected. (That is a false security; the accursed Typo Gremlin is alive and well, and has doubtless insured that somewhere deep in the copy a single typo is lurking, ready to break out in its full obvious glory on release day. I always wait for it with a fatalistic sense of doom.)
But... but... As long as I didn't hit that button, the book was still mine - under my control and protection. I could look through it just one more time. I could have a third beta reader go over it. Maybe do one more run of spell-check...
Obsession can be ugly. I am a grown woman, and have done everything possible to make FIRST DATE (and every book I've ever done) as professional and polished as possible. Sometimes it takes all my strength and courage to push that 'send' button, but I do - and I did - admonishing myself that next time I won't be so silly, that I always do everything I can, so there's no need to be afraid or even worry. The manuscript is perfect.