Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Rush

How do novelists (and other long-form writers) survive without frequent doses of "the rush"?

As a short story writer (and writer of other short-form material), I experience "the rush" on a daily basis. (Thanks to e-mail, "the rush" can now occur even more frequently than daily.)

"The rush" is that moment just before I open an envelope or an e-mail from someone at a publishing company--will it be an acceptance or a rejection, a contract or a check, galleys or pageproofs to review, a contributor copy or an assignment, or something else entirely?

The need to experience "the rush" on a regular basis--like a junkie's need for a fix--is part of what compels me to produce short work. I can't imagine what it must be like when "the rush" only happens a half dozen times a year, or less.

How do novelists sustain themselves during the long dry spells between "rushes"?

4 comments:

Stephen D. Rogers said...

Michael,

I'm not sure if I qualify as a novelist yet but I think of completing a chapter as writing and submitting a short.

The closest I experience to an acceptance, however, is the satisfaction that comes from a carefully turned phrase.

Stephen

Michael Bracken said...

A sense of accomplishment is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but do you get any kind of adrenelin rush from completing a chapter?

There's something about opening that mailbox and discovering an envelope with a magazine or publishing company's return address on it. (Especially when it's obviously not a subscription solicitation!)

Writing and submitting short material is like being on a never-ending roller-coaster ride. There's the anticipation during the slow ride up (writing and submission) and then the drop (that's the response). You might go left, or right, or upside down or... Because writers of short material produce more finished pieces in the time a novelist takes to produce a single finished piece, we have the potential to feel that rush much more frequently.

It seems that a novelist is more like a bungee jumper. They wait in line forever for a single thrill. Then they go to the end of time line and wait again. How many weeks/months/years will pass until the next adrenlin rush that comes with opening the mailbox?

Am I addicted to the rush? Sometimes I think I am. I want that fix every day. Every day.

Chris Well said...

In my own experience, I think I have traded the "rush" for the sheer panic that comes with realizing you have 80,000-plus words due in a matter of months.

Then the novel shows up in your mailbox a matter of months later -- but by then you're already calculating how many words a day to finish the NEXT manuscript in time ...

(I do hope to enjoy all this one day.)

;)

Michael Bracken said...

Panic is a heck of a motivator.

The longest piece I've written on deadline was a two-part serial that came in at 26,000 words.

The editor scheduled the first half for publication before I'd written the second half. There was no going back to revise the bginning. I had to make everything I'd set up in the first half pay off in the second half.

That certainly made my heart beat faster and my sweat glands work overtime.