I can't decide which is more stomach curdling, waiting for a book to come out or starting a new one.
I've just handed in copy edits of my forthcoming novel Shine, which according to Amazon is going to be out on the 5th of September.
The listing's been up for three years, and every time I didn't hand the manuscript in when I said I would, Amazon simply moved the publication date along a few more months.
This time, Amazon must surely have the right due date because the correct synopsis has at long last replaced the wrong one that's been there since 2011 (Written before I knew what my story was going to be about, sorry).
I can't wait to stop being a debut author!
(Sometimes when I'm visiting schools librarians are surprised to discover I've only got one novel published. I'm always slightly embarrassed to confess I've only got the one - as if I'd been forced to admit that I cycle with training wheels)
But the prospect of having a second novel out is just as terrifying as having a first novel.
Will fans of the first one be disappointed? I liked it the last time I read it, but ... maybe I'll be the only person to like it. Or maybe there are so many books being published, nobody's going to notice it. Or maybe it's been a big waste of time and emotion, who am I kidding????
Yup. I am full of fear.
And yet, I've started work on my next book. There's fear there too.
Which idea should I go for? Have I picked the right one? A historical novel? You don't even read historical novels! You don't know what you're doing! Who are you kidding????
Anne Tyler, currently at work on her 20th novel.
In a rare interview (Anne Tyler's given several rare interviews recently) she told Mark Lawson of Radio 4's Front Row:
(Now) I don't say oh gosh, this is never gonna work, I'm stymied, I've been sitting here a week, nothing's happened - goodbye! I feel very sort of zen about it all. I say well ... I've been through this before, it always sort of comes out.
In other words - keep calm and write, everything's going to be fine.
My editor, on our last meeting, assured me that my next book is going to amaze me with the ease with which it will flow from my pen. You know what you're doing now, she told me.
Do I? Will I recognize the signs that the plot is not working? Will I recognize the feeling when the character is thinner than cardboard? Maybe I will and maybe I won't.
Anne Tyler also granted (another) rare interview to Lisa Allardice of the Guardian (It's brilliant - after you finish reading this, go and savour it ).
I especially loved the bit about her writing method. Writes Allardice: 'For a writer who is so protective of her privacy, she is unusually open about her routine'.
... it involves revising tiny sections in "quite small and distinct handwriting – it is almost like knitting a novel" (she insists on white paper, no lines, and swears by "the miraculous Pilot P500 gel pen"). When she is happy with each section she types it up, then writes the whole manuscript out in longhand again. She then reads it into a tape-recorder to listen out for false notes or clumsiness. "You think a character would never say that, but you only know it when you speak it out loud." To avoid typing it all out again, she ingeniously plays it back to herself on a stenographer's machine with a pedal to pause so she can put that comma exactly where she wants it. One of the reasons she doesn't like her first novels is that at the time she felt that to revise them was unspontaneous. "Spontaneity is not always a good thing."Right now she's writing novel number twenty. She says she's taking her time, she's so old (old? 72 isn't old) she hints that she's hoping for posthumous publication.
'I'm trying to make it last as long as I can,' she told Mark Lawson. 'If I write it backwards through the generations, then it could end whenever I died,' she told Lisa Allardice.
Such a relaxed outlook. Especially to a newbie author like me. There she is making it last as long as she can, while I'm hurrying with everything, browbeaten by the passing of time, the terrible urgency of it all making me rush, and rushing making me have to rewrite and rewrite, and through it all consumed with a fear of failure.
At this point in my career, I'm not sure I can keep calm. But if or when I make it to Book Number Twenty, I hope I can be as sanguine as Anne Tyler and write just because that's the way I live.