Cry me a river: Why authors are crazy

    So I decided last night that it was time to run Marc and Sophie's story through my laser printer, put all 442 pages of it in a box and send it to my editor in New York. I spent the evening printing, then burned it on CD to provide an electronic copy, careful to keep my eyes off the pages. I knew that if I started reading text I'd find stuff I wanted to twiddle with, and that if I didn't quit fussing over the pages it was never, ever going to be done.

    I'm a perfectionist, and I'm never, ever happy with what I write — not entirely. But I think there's more to the end-of-the-book fussing than just wanting to get it right. Yes, I want it to be as good as it can be. I want it to be perfect, in fact. I want my stories to break people's hearts — and then put them back together again, stronger than before. How often do I achieve that? I haven't done it yet, as far as I'm concerned.

    But in addition to the manic perfectionism, I hate letting go. My characters are people I've lived with — intimately — for a long time. I've been writing Unlawful Contact for a full year. That's a long time to have someone in the front of your mind 24/7.

    The first time I finished a book, I expected myself to feel elated. I typed the last few words, fussed over them for hours, then saved. I cheered — and then started sobbing. The grief totally took me by surprise. It wasn't a minor thing — it was truly grief. The second time, I told myself I was ready. And still it tore me apart.

    Ride the Fire was perhaps the worst. I dug deep into my own personal well for that story, delving into some of my own worst experiences to craft the characters. For six weeks afterwards, I could barely talk to anyone.

    It's gotten easier in some ways since then. But it's still hard to say good-bye.

    I left the shipping store feeling numb, got through the work day not even thinking about it. Then I got home and found myself in a furious mood. I was angry at everyone about everything. Then I read Aimee's post (below) — and I lost it.

    Writing is such an isolating activity. For months an author sits at her computer, sinking into the lives of her characters, opening her own emotions to their feelings and experiences. Then it's over. The last page is written, and then what?

    I imagine this all sounds very silly. I think if I weren't a writer I would roll my eyes and chalk this post up to frufru silly behavior of attention-seeking fiction writers. But it's real for me and for most other authors, not just in the romance genre. You have to love to write. You have to give of yourself. You have to use your own emotions. There are no emotional short cuts, no faking it. As Robert Frost said, "No tears in the author, no tears in the reader."

    Given that I cried the last 40 pages of that story — and apparently haven't stopped — I hope you all have tissues on hand in February. Now all that remains is to wait to see whether my editor accepts the story. If she does, then the next stop for Marc and Sophie is your hands.

    After having such a hard crush on Julian, it's nice to end the book feeling every bit as in love with Marc the Badass as I did with Dark Angel. I can't wait to share him with all of you!

    And thanks again for your support!

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