Writing with the door open: how your writing life changes after publication

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You’ve published your first novel. Congratulations. But “published” isn’t the most important part of that sentence. “First” is.

“When is the second book coming?” Or worse: “How is it coming?”

“Slowly,” you say to yourself, “slowly.”

When you’re working on that wonderful, magical, eye-opening, self-defining first, it’s your little secret garden that you retreat in to. It’s pure love. First love.

I don’t think I could ever love my second, or the process of writing it, as much as I do the first.

With the first (I talk of the first draft here, not the published novel), it’s truly yours — yours, however you want it to be. If it walks funny, so be it. If it looks funny, all the better . You write purely for yourself, as you want to, with the door firmly closed.

Fast forward to the second, third and so on. The door is now open. Whether you attempt to hold it shut, lean on it, or push heavy furniture against it, it will never be fully closed again.

There will always be a tiny crack. A tiny crack through which the world has let itself in. And there it remains.

You can switch the wifi off while you write — something I do — but that doesn’t matter. You have now been read.

You have had reviews — good and bad; you have been discussed, written about, and now there is a weight of expectation.

You may have fans, you may have haters, hopefully a mix of both, because, if you’re not stirring any powerful emotions in anyone, you might as well stop.

You are now wondering, have I still got the magic? Assuming you must have had some in the first place in order to write a full-length novel and get published.

So there you are wondering about all this, wallowing in self-doubt, and now that you’re published, you have made the cardinal error of adding the word “writer” to your social media pages.

After your day’s work (hopefully not during), you’re posting about your day’s work. You’re reading about everyone else’s day’s work. You’re now thinking about their work instead of your work.

You might be putting up quotes from your novel. You’re posting about your reading list. You’re reading about someone else’s reading list.

Now you’re thinking about what you’re reading compared to what everyone else is reading. Is it obscure and intellectual enough? Are you reading enough? Are you reading quick enough?

So now you’re not only stressed about your writing speed, you’re also obsessing about your reading speed. Add to that the pressure that you now have to promote not just your book, but yourself as well, as a writer.

You have to tell the world, preferably every couple of days (as Facebook insists), that you are an interesting person who has lots of interesting things to say and unique ways of saying them.

Also, you will probably feel obliged to have an opinion on everything. And express it.

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