Deep breath. Okay, so I killed a book last week.
I hope, in your head, that statement was accompanied by the image of me stabbing a Basilisk fang into a leather bound book. Even though the actual event was more like clicking the close button on a file.
No matter the setup of the scene, the book I worked on for the past five months, Dr. Feelgood, is dead.
I went through all but the last steps, and yet, I decided to close it instead of pressing publish.
Back when I was writing my first book last year, I had no idea what I was doing. Sure, I had written little ditties for decades, but a full beginning, middle, and end that actually hooked people and made them fall in love? No freaking clue.
I stumbled around a lot and gave myself a deadline, which is why you could actually go to Amazon and purchase it. I forced myself to put it out there, because I had this crazy idea that the only way to learn was to do it. Over and over and over again, preferably under pressure.
I was proud of my debut because I did it, but when it came time to write my second book, I wanted to do it better.
The second time around, I had more help. I felt like I had snuck into this secret world of writers, author groups, book blogging, and talking about all things fictional and swoon worthy. I didn’t feel like I belonged, but they let me in anyway. They taught me and pushed me, and at the end of the day, they helped me become a better writer. By the end of book two, I felt like I started to get the hang of it. Yay! So, of course I turned around and got to work on book number three.
And I promptly hit a wall. I was writing a book because I thought I should. I mean, I was a real author with two published books, which meant I was supposed to have a game plan. Writing standalone books in a series seemed like the smart thing to do.
So that’s what I did. Book three was a follow up to book two, and it was torture. Just ask my husband, I was grumpy cat in human form.
For all that grumpiness, I liked the characters enough and the plot was solid, but it never felt right. I couldn’t put my finger on it. It just felt like the heart was missing.
Probably the last thing a romance author wants to hear. Ever.
Ah, but I am stubborn. I kept pushing, until a good friend finally pointed out that if it didn’t feel good, maybe I should stop.
It had occurred to me before. Oh, maybe a ten times a day, every day, for months. I just didn’t take the idea seriously until I heard someone else say it.
If it doesn’t feel good, you can stop.
I don’t know why I didn’t sooner; it felt like taking off a straightjacket that was cinched an inch too tight. I think I was scared of becoming a wandering creative—you know, that artist who is always chasing the next idea without ever finishing the one they’re working on.
I think I was also worried about keeping up with the industry. Indie romance authors make a Gilmore Girls’ monologue look an afternoon snack with the numbers of words they pump out and the number of times they press publish in a year.
At the end of the day, I didn’t love this book. No matter how much time I spent on it or how many times I edited it, it didn’t have the heart because my heart was never in it.
And love isn’t rational. It wasn’t a bad book, but in an a world of five star reads coming out every single time you blink, sending a pretty good book out into the world didn’t feel right.
Now, I know I am in an extraordinarily lucky position. I am a self published author, which means I have an extreme amount of control in this situation. I am also a relatively unknown author with a small following, so I don’t have people sending me hate mail for going back on a promise (or trying to dig through my recycling to find my first draft). Most importantly, I am very fortunate that my family doesn’t rely on my writing paychecks to pay bills.
Just because I spent five months working on a book and had a draft ready for copy edit sitting on my computer, didn’t mean I absolutely had to continue.
So I killed it.
I got honest with everyone involved in the process: my betas, my book promoter, my editor, and the handful of bloggers that had signed up for ARCs.
I wasn’t in the love with the book, and I was deciding not to release it as planned.
Will it remain dead forever? I hope not. I hope in a few months or a year, I’ll go back to it with fresh eyes and more experience and figure out how to make it better.
Right now, it still hurts a little too much to think about. As much as I can joke about killing Dr. Feelgood, I still feel as if I failed, and that never feels good, even though I could probably write a whole separate blog post about the things I learned by failing at this book. It might start and end with trust your goddamn intuition, but there are at least a few dozen bullet points in between those book ends.
It’s still stings that it didn’t work, and I couldn’t figure out how fix it.
It hurts that I have to put myself out there and admit that it wasn’t good enough. I’m terrified that people will turn around and think, “yeah, like your first two books were real page turners too.”
But, at the end of the day, fear aside, I need to write stories I love. Stories that have me running to a notebook to jot down a conversation characters are having in my head. Stories that make me so excited I can barely wait for my son’s nap time to be able to write more.
I’m working on one of those stories right now. A book I haven’t been able to stop thinking about since the idea popped into my head.
I promise you, I will work as fast as my fingers can type to get that book out.
And I hope you understand, as reader and a friend. I want to put books in your hands that make us both feel good.
With any luck, I will. In just a few short months.
Until next time…