In 2004 when my first novel was published, a librarian I worked with said, “Just don’t be like Donna Tartt who took ten years to write her second.”
Donna Tartt, the New York author, who debuted with the brilliant The Secret History in 1992 and didn’t publish The Little Friend until 2002.
I might have laughed at the time, but this has been a fear which has animated me ever since. The fear that I could become one of those writers who just did not follow through.
Fear is a terrible motivation for a writer. And a little fame is a terrible thing too. It’s so easy to become sidetracked from the noble reasons to write and covet the spotlight, the spotlight which shifts away so suddenly. (I had attention for about fifteen months after The Fur, and then very little.)
So that is some of the backstory for the six years I’ve wrestled with my second novel. (I started in 2002 before The Fur was published.) House of Zealots has gone on and on and on through nine rewrites. (My poor long suffering wife.)
But this week I sent it off. It’s highly possible it will come back again, but for the moment, it’s in the publisher’s court. And despite all the sidetracks and times of wrong motivation and stress about not getting enough time to write, I think it’s finally come out okay. I’m just embarrassed I was showing people the first draft four years ago, when it wasn’t okay. 😦
I know how you feel Nathan (well, except about the fleeting fame part). I just found out I wasn’t shortlisted for the Hungerford. Very surprised and disappointed. Any advice you can give a struggling colleague as to what to do with it now? I had hoped to follow you down the competition path but it wasn’t to be 😦
Nathan Hobby said:
Bad luck Guy – that’s tough! It’s hard to know what to do next, whether to keep working on the same ms or to start something new. There’s other opportunities out there, though, and if you keep writing and keep sending, a writer of your ability will have a break eventually. All the best.
Where did you find the time to write?