Thursday, October 21, 2010


On Tuesday I finished working on the book I’ve been writing for the past ten months. I did a final check, I printed it out, I put it in an envelope and I posted it to my agent. She says she’s going to read it this weekend and let me know what she thinks. That gives me five days, at minimum, during which I don’t have to work on it.

I have neglected my family for this book. I’ve let my husband and kid go off and play without me. I’ve spent mornings during my holiday writing, when everyone else was at the beach. I’ve let the house get absolutely filthy, I’ve had an empty refrigerator for weeks, I’ve gone off on weekend-long research trips or writing marathons, I’ve turned down invitations from friends. I’ve hardly left the house. I’ve dreamed of the book, thought of the book constantly, stayed up late working on the book, got up early to start work again. For the last two weeks, during my last intense push to revise the huge manuscript into something readable, I’ve been popping ibuprofen every four hours and wearing a wrist brace, to stop me from suffering too much from typing-related repetitive strain injury.

One of the first things I did after posting the manuscript (after going for a little lie down) was to go out with a friend for dinner. We had a glass of champagne to celebrate my achievement, and then she told me about what she’s been doing. She has crazy six-month deadlines to finish up writing a big trilogy, and at the same time she’s going on a promotional tour for the first book, interacting with her growing army of fans, and doing copy edits for a different publisher. She hardly has time to eat or sleep or talk with her husband. She is constantly in the world of her trilogy. Whatever we were talking about, the conversation slid back to her characters, and the look on her face was priceless: the look of a woman in love.

I was wildly jealous of her. Not of her success, which is well-deserved; certainly not of her lack of sleep or social contact, which I’ve got plenty of myself, thank you very much.

I was jealous of the book-love.

For me, the crazy obsession takes a little bit of time to wear off. I send the book, and then I dwell on all the things I could have changed. I think about the characters and their story almost as much as when I was writing. But then the reality sinks in. It’s over. My love affair is done. It’s no longer just me and the book. It’s time for someone else to read the story, and judge it.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s incredible to send off a book and have it read. I await my agent’s judgement with fear and crazy anticipation. But there’s a wearing-off period when I feel sad that it’s over, that it’s not my entire life any more. It's time for me to fall out of love. I feel exhausted, inadequate, at a loose end, and really lonely.

Obsessively working on your novel is bad for your health, it’s bad for your social life, it’s bad for your family. It can’t be doing your sanity any favours. And it leads to a consumption of wine and chocolate which is truly disgusting by any civilised standards. But it is wonderful. Just wonderful.

I miss it.

Come back on Sunday, when Anna Louise Lucia will be posting.


  1. First congratulations!!! I can't wait for this book to come out.

    I do sort of know what you mean but as yet I haven't really let one i get to dip back into the world and play with it a little bit more.

    Take good care of those hands!!!!


  2. Thanks, Liz.

    It is incredibly tempting never to let a book go, to dip in and keep on playing. But there comes a point for me when it's just playing. And it gets unhealthy. You have to let it out into the world.

    Not easy though.

  3. Congratulations!! Champagne next time I see you??

    I need to get on with mine and then set it free. At the moment I am having a long distance relationship with it.

  4. Congratulations on getting your latest book finished and sent!

    I love the feeling of being completely absorbed in writing a book, so you are living and breathing it, so that the characters become a part of you. I miss it

  5. Congratulations! That's an exciting event, the moment when you wave goodbye to your blood, sweat and tears. I sent off a manuscript myself last week (a non-fiction, not quite the same re: world-immersion, but still something I'd been constantly working on for ages). Suddenly there's all this free time! I hope you've lots of relaxing planned.

    I totally understand what you mean by book-love. It took me completely by surprise the first novel I wrote. It's not all that different, I would say, from the sort of addiction one feels to spending time with another person at the start of a new relationship. You drink it up while you're with them, and while you're apart they're always on your mind...

  6. Thank you, Sofie. Hope you find the book-love again soon. It's a very special thing.

  7. Seabrooke, I agree completely. A writer's relationship with a book is very similar to a relationship to a person. But it's not, which is what makes it special, and also difficult.

    Congratulations on sending your own manuscript. I hope you have some very good news soon.

    Relaxing? What's relaxing? I'm catching up on everything I've been neglecting for three months...

  8. Congratulations on finishing the latest book!

    If book-love is like a relationship with another person, then I'm at the stage where I know it has to go out to work but I want to steal some extra time with it between the covers and stop it leaving the house for a bit longer!

  9. LOL, that's a pretty good place to be, Kath!