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Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The down side to finishing a novel 

S.J. Rozan, the author of the Lydia Chin and Bill Smith books, is one of my favorites, both as a writer and as a person. She's managing a unique construct in her series by alternating protagonists with each book (eight so far, the most recent is the Edgar award-winning WINTER AND NIGHT) and especially succeeds in creating a hard boiled point of view when she writes in Bill's voice. Her next book, which she just finished, is the standalone ABSENT FRIENDS, due out next summer from Bantam. Everything's done and the publisher has it in the pipeline--but Rozan has been feeling the crash, and she explains why:

Three things happen when you're done. One is the same crash actors get when the show closes or athletes get when the big game is over, even if they win it, from the sudden let-up of pressure. The second thing is that the world you created and the characters who live there will go on but you can't go there anymore, except as a visitor like your readers. You don't belong now, you're shut out. The third thing is, you look at the book and realize this is really it, it'll never get any better than this. It's not that you can't see the good things in it, but all the time you're writing it and rewriting it there's a chance it may yet come up to the idealized vision in your mind of what this book can be. Then when you're finally totally done you have to face what the book is, and it's never that vision.

She later adds that her musician friends have a similar sort of feeling after a performance, and I must say I can relate in both cases. I used to sing in public regularly when I was younger, and after every performance, no matter how good it was objectively, I was always ready to nitpick each detail right after. Then I'd feel depressed for a few hours. A good night's sleep helped though. In writing, I find myself in a similar pattern. Story or review or column is done, I edit it, I send it off. I look at it later and think it's crap, but then maybe a few months later I re-examine it and hey, it's not so bad. Humans are such self-critical beings, and it's so hard to let go and to keep a distance, but perspective is so crucial. There's always room for improvement, but there's a lot to be happy about as well.

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