Monday, June 17, 2013

Next Year's Book

Here’s a little-known truth of writing: you’re always in love with next year’s book. Next year’s book is the new guy at work, the strap-hanger on the bus who looks a lot like Ryan Gosling, the new barrista with the cute smile. Next year’s book makes your heart race a bit, and the more you work on it, the more in love you fall.

This is it, the One, the relationship to end all relationships. Nothing can stop us, baby—you and me now and forever.

And then, into this little bower of bliss, an editor drops the ultimate bring-down: last year’s book. You know, that past relationship, the guy you thought was so cool, the one who was going to be the One. That one.

It is, of course, fruitless to complain, to claim that you’ve moved on, that you don’t want to look backward toward that old relationship. You have to go back to him, at least for a little while, because there’s no way your editor will let you off the hook on this. The two of you will be a couple again for the length of time it takes to fix all the weak spots you didn’t see when you were in love.

At first it’s a painful process. You find yourself shaking your head in disbelief. Why didn’t you notice how weak he was in secondary characters? Why did you think his plot structure was so great when it’s clearly a mess? And oh, how could you have missed how shaky he was in the subjunctives? That alone should have been a tipoff.

But as you spend some quality time with last year’s book, it’s possible you may fall in love again, at least a little (although it will never be as good as what you have now with this year’s book—or so you tell yourself). You remember how he made you smile with that little bit of dialogue. You find yourself growing nostalgic over that elegant Big Black Moment. Ah, good times, good times.

Still, it has to end. Yes, the relationship was good while it lasted, but it’s over now. Time to move on. You bid last year’s book an affectionate good-bye, sending him on his way to find other lovers (you hope), who’ll appreciate him for all the sterling qualities that made you fall in love with him in the first place.

And now it’s back to your new love. Next year’s book is so fantastic, so beautiful, so clever. He’s everything you’re looking for in a book. Perfect, just perfect. And he will never be last year’s book. Until, of course, he is.


PG Forte said...

Dear Meg,

I'm in love with this blog post. I want to marry it. Don't judge me. I'm sure you and next year's book will be very happy together. You won't even miss us.



Slick said...

I love the insight into the writer's mind. It's kind of the same for a reader, we love the hero in the book that just released, we don't think you'll ever top it, and yet at some point you do or you at least equal it. Then as a reader you feel guilty because you are totally two timing the hero you've loved for so long. Sad, but true and it happens all the damn time!

Selena Robins said...

One of the best blog posts on writing I've read in a long time. Thank you!

@Pg. LOL!

@Slick, yes, writers feel we cheat on our own hero's as well. Writing and reading, same thought processes.

Only a lover of books can understand our minds.

Meg Benjamin said...

Okay, PG, you can marry the post. I've got my next year's book, after all. Slick, that's an interesting point, particularly when you're reading a series. Selena, thanks!

Sydney Somers said...

Awesome post, Meg!

Skylar Kade said...

Meg, I'm going to fight PG over this blog post. Talk about the honest truth.

Juniper Bell said...

OMG, it's like you're peering into my mind with this post! I JUST went through this with my ex -- er, my last book. I'm hoping we parted on good terms. But things were dicey there for a while. It didn't help that I was "cheating" with the new guy. Great post, thank you!