where the writers are
Death and the Novel


I’m putting a few finishing touches on my young adult fantasy novel, and soon the work I’ve been laboring over for four years will be on its way to my agent, so naturally, I’m worried I’m going to die.

I do this every time I wrap up a long-term project. I start getting scared that, before I have a chance to get it into print, I’m going to croak. You would think that finishing a novel would be an occasion to celebrate, to relax, to congratulate yourself on a job well done. But, for me, it’s a time of grim foreboding.

It’s not the thought of dying that scares me. It’s not even the idea that the book will sell a zillion copies and my heirs will get all the money after I did all the work. It’s the idea that the novel won’t ever get a chance. That it will remain unread and untouched until someone buys my computer on Craig’s list and scrubs my harddrive. Four years of work for nothing.

Don’t tell me this is all in my head. I know that. Don’t try to convince me that I can unthink this irrational fear, either. I can’t: That’s why they call it irrational. Perhaps it stems from some underlying belief that I don’t deserve success. Or from having grown up with a father who insisted that he’d been plagued all his life with something he called “Jepson luck” and that I had inherited the curse.

All l I know is that the fear is strong enough for me to wake my husband up in the middle of the night to make him swear that, if I die before I get my novel out, he’ll try to get it published.

“But I don’t know how to publish a book,” he protested, squinting at the clock at 3:00 a.m. But I told him not to worry: I immediately got up and wrote out detailed instructions, including contact information for some of my writer friends who, in their grief over my untimely demise, will certainly help him.

With that done, I felt much better. And soon, I’ll have my novel off to my agent, and I’ll relax. I’ll start a new work. I’ll get back to my normal non-worrying self, the flowers will bloom, and everything will be fresh and new again.