As many of you know, I have just published my first novel, Dragon Riders, and I am close to publishing my first book of haiku. I have also written my second novel, and will begin the process of revising and publishing that shortly. I have been thinking a lot, therefore, about why I write and why it is important to me to publish what I write.
My thoughts have been further expanded and clarified as the result of some books I am reading. I just finished reading Miss Buncle's Book by D. E. Stevenson and I am currently over half-way through the sequel, Miss Buncle Married. D. E. Stevenson was a Scottish author (1892-1973), first cousin to Robert Louis Stevenson, who began writing when she was 8 years old and published over forty light romantic novels, most of which are now out of print.
What has intrigued me the most with the novels featuring Miss Buncle is that Miss Buncle is a new writer, navigating the world of publishing and dealing with the consequences of writing first one and then a second best seller. Miss Buncle begins writing in middle age during the depression because, as she told her publisher, her dividends were dwindling and she couldn't abide keeping chickens. She writes about her village and the people in it, thinly disguising them with new names. Miss Buncle has the ability to see inside people, get into their skins, and thus her characters are richly drawn and completely compelling. Of course, when the books are published, those who are not favorably portrayed threaten libel and make life in the village very unpleasant and Miss Buncle, who wrote her books under the pseudonym of John Smith, lives in daily fear of exposure. Eventually, as the first book ends just as Miss Buncle's second novel is published, Miss Buncle does have to leave the village and start anew. She, of course, has married (hence the title of the second novel) and in fact marries her publisher. She settles down in a new home, a new village, and a new life, determined never to write again.
Of course, events transpire so that once again Miss Buncle is in the throws of creativity. She writes novels much the way I have, quickly, compulsively, doing nothing else until the words are down on paper. Her third novel has just been written (at the point where I am in the second book) and her husband is thrilled. It is her best yet, and he is sure that this will earn her even more money. But when he mentions this, Miss Buncle is adamant that the book can never be published. Her husband is dumbfounded and tries all sorts of ways to convince her otherwise, explaining that the characters can be changed so they won't be recognized and therefore Miss Buncle and her husband won't have to move again. I don't know how things will turn out, but what struck me most was Miss Buncle's answer to her bewildered husband's understandable question. If she hadn't intended to publish it, then why did she write it? She answers that it was bursting in her head and she had to get it out onto the paper but now that it was out, no one else could read it, although she was very pleased that he liked it so much.
I thought then about why I write and why I am publishing what I write. I totally get the writing in a whirlwind. I finished the first draft of my first novel in twenty days and my second in twelve days. I ate, drank, slept, etc. my novel and I couldn't stop writing. Interruptions were annoying. The words wouldn't stop. I have friends who are writers, and very good writers, who say they work in a totally different way. They write for two, three, four hours a day each and every day and then do other things. They plan novels in detail and appear to write in a more organized fashion. It obviously works for them as they make their livings writing books.
I seem to be more like Miss Buncle. I didn't ever have to do it instead of keeping chickens, but like Miss Buncle, especially after her first novel is published so that economically she really doesn't need to write anymore, the writing takes on a life of its own and I just have to get it down on paper. Furthermore, for me, I need to see it completed in a published form. I use the wonderful services at CreateSpace.com to help me self-publish my works because I want to see them in published form. Oh, obviously I am thrilled when someone says they read my novel and loved it, and I hope that will continue. But I needed to write the book and I needed to see it as a "real" book, a concrete object.
My "Year of Haiku" is nearly ready to send off to CreateSpace for layout and design. I was reading it yesterday, editing the 365 haiku, drawing doodles for each month, and it was clear that this book captures 2012 for me. I remembered each scene I'd written about, each change in the seasons or my life. I hope at least some of those haiku will resonate with others as well. I hope others will enjoy it. However, I am publishing it for me because I am compelled to do so. Miss Buncle, at least half-way through the second book, is horrified at the thought of publishing her third novel. For her, so far, it was enough just to get the novel written and out of her head, and that I do understand and I too have written many things that I also would never want to have published. But there is something about the publishing process that allows me to revisit my work, revise my work, and then have a final completion of the process.
I am already a bit nervous about my second novel because it is even more autobiographical than my first, and I have some characters in the novel taken directly from real life. I haven't started my revisions and I will, of course, rework things, but I had to write the story as a way of showing not only how my main character overcomes horrible odds, but how I also have survived and grown. The novel is fiction, and in fact takes place in the same fantasy world as the first, but it is even more my story than the first. I needed to write it. I had to write it. And I have to see it through to its birth in the real world. Only time will tell how it will be received and whether it will be enjoyed by others or speak to others. That is something I have no control over. But my novel will fly for me and that, after all, is all any artist can do.