May 22, 2010

Ten Writing Highs

By Christine Thackeray

I find that in writing novels there are certain huge milestones that make you feel accomplished as an author. I like to think of them as writing "highs" to offset the many lows (such as writer's block, rejection letters and pathetic sales.) Here's the moments for me that make writing all worth it.

1. Completion of first draft- The minute when you are able to honestly type "the end" at the completion of your first draft is thrilling. That moment when all the little plot subtwists come together and you can't believe you've actually done it. (That is what is so good about NANOWRIMO.)

2. Completion of second draft- But then (yes, I started a sentence with 'but') those endorphines wear off as you start editing and realise that what you typed at three in the morning wasn't even minorly cogent and that entire paragraphs are indecipherable even though you're sure at one time you must have had a point to what you were saying. Still when you finish and it's shrunk by a fourth and you've caught the fact that you called your MC's brother three different names by accident, that's the real accomplishment.

3. Reader Feedback- With that second draft you send it out to your friends. Now this is where you suddenly get a reality check. When half of them don't reply because they never quite make it through, that's a bad sign or when they return your draft with every paragraph covered with red highlighting, that's another. But every once in a while you get an awesome revue that makes you feel like you can really do this! A real high.

4. The Acceptance Letter- I don't care how many books you've written, when the acceptance letter comes, it's victory dance time!

5. Finishing Editor Edits- Now this may be a high only because because when you get them, it is such a BUMMER! Rebecca can attest to this. Little is worse than being told to cut down your word count or to strengthen an entire chapter. (What does that mean?) Still, when you are done after being tied in knots and going through a complete emotional breakdown when you're asked to kill your favorite scene, it's a high because you'll never have to do that again.

6. Receiving the Galley or Proof- After a while the acceptance letter seems like fiction. You've sent in your edits, and you wait and wait. You wonder if they've decided to drop the book after all because you were so hard to work with. And then one day you pull up your inbox, and there it is. Your PDF file with your proof. It's actually and book and looks kind of cute. At this point you start reading and are amazed that you wrote something so wonderful. It is a perfect moment with no lows at all. Marketing and sales are so far ahead they haven't started weighing you down yet and all your edits are behind you. At this point I'm totally soaring!

7. The Cover At Last- Getting your cover is euphoric. It's the cherry on top of an already perfect moment. That's what happened to me yesterday for my next book "Lipstick Wars" and I'm still dancing around. Now I do have to say that is only true if you like the cover.

When it's hideous and you have no say in making any changes, you may feel differently. My mother was not happy with the cover of "Hannah Mormon Midwife" at all. It really upset her that the woman on the front wasn't more feminine. Then the artist told her he loved the book so much, he had used his wife as the model. I think she regretted being so vocal about it. Oops.

8. Holding that First Copy- Nothing compares to when the FedEx box arrives at your door and there it is. Holding the book in your hand, you flip through each page, you smell it, you hug it to your breast and you scream in delight. You see, this means you really aren't delusional. It wasn't all some elaborate dream. Someone out there thinks you are worth investing in. Now the work begins.

9. Reviews- It is nice when your friends do a blog about your book and like you so they like your book, but when a total stranger gushes over what you've written, I don't think anything can top it. I got two reviews for my first book that I framed and admit I read now again for that positive rush. On the other hand, a bad review can be the pits. Total devastation, especially when it's someone you really respect. You try to channel the constructive criticism but it still smarts.

10. Great Sales- Now I imagine this would be the best high of all but I haven't experienced it yet. Still crossing fingers but I've been practicing for my happy dance for this event when it comes. Until then, I'll just keep writing.


  1. I'd like to design and print a poster of this list to hang above the desk where I consider the opening chapter of my first book. Maybe with the dream spread out before me I would actually capture the ideas that seem to endlessly mull about my mind.

    Wonderful list. Beautiful dream. I'd like to make it mine.

  2. Love this list Christine. I like your take on these experiences. I look forward to them!

  3. I'm on #5! I love this list! It made me even more excited about the rest. Thank you!

  4. Having experienced only the first three personally, I can appreciate and look forward to the other seven. For me a writing "high" is when a character gets into my head and begins to tell me his or her story. Then I get into the zone, and it's like taking dictation as I discover the complexities of the people who will inhabit my book. If that can be classified as an addiction, I'm addicted.

  5. Christine--the cover looks FANTASTIC. I can't wait to read it (again) and see how it all came together. Congratulations!


  6. Love your cover too!

    This was a great post! I'll give it two thumbs up!!!

  7. Great post...I too will print out and tape up.

  8. You've summed it up well. Love your cover. I hope those sales make you do the happy dance.


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