"You can feel completely despairing and hopeless and in over your head and lost and incompetent in the course of writing a book, but that doesn't mean all those things are true."
- Michael Chabon
In Chabon's Wonder Boys, the main character has published one novel to great acclaim and is now irretrievably sunk in the morass of his second effort, a monster that has eaten up the last several years of his life and looks to never be completed. It's based on Chabon's own experience -- after The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, he spent five years of his life cranking out hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS of pages worth of prose, a second novel that went absolutely nowhere and which he finally had to kill so he could move on. And write Wonder Boys.
I once wrote a novel, something I've all but stopped telling people because then they start asking me questions about it and it makes me sad. But I did, and on its strength a well-known agent who specializes in SFFH took me on as her client. Nearly every editor who saw it responded by saying how good it was, and how its author showed great promise. But the market for it was dead. It came freakishly close to being published by Del Rey at one point. Everyone liked it, and liked me, but no one wanted to buy it. Instead they wanted to see what else I could come up with.
I think I got the original idea for Key of Worlds about five years ago. I've been writing it off and on for at least three years, probably four. More off than on, if the truth be told. Every time I talked to my agent (about how she was doing with shopping around my first book and how I was doing with writing the next) she'd tell me how awful things were in publishing right now, how nobody wanted to take a chance on a new writer anymore unless it looked like he could guarantee them a bestseller, how the only money to be made was writing media tie-ins and would I be interested in writing a Spider-Man novel? (I thought the answer would be yes, but to my amazement I found that I really and truly wasn't interested. I tried to come up with some ideas and every one of them was bullshit.)
This is important stuff for someone who is considering a career as a novelist to know. If you can't deal with this type of market and its attendant pressures, you should really look into some other kind of work. The result of all this information for me was a severe case of deer-in-the-headlights syndrome. Just as an example, I got stuck in this loop for almost a year where I rewrote the first five chapters OVER and OVER again because it never seemed "marketable" enough. I went weeks without typing a single word. Finally, my agent terminated our relationship; I just wasn't coming through.
For a while after that, things were a bit better. The bursts of creativity came a little more frequently once the pressure of knowing someone was waiting for the damn thing was gone. But my work habits frankly suck, and I stalled out time and again. And I started hating my novel. Looking at my notes, hell, even looking at the floppy disk it was on immediately fouled my mood.
So I'm thinking of stopping. I'll collect my notes and everything I've done so far and put it all in a folder in my file cabinet and forget about it. Christ. I don't know if this means I'm not a novelist, or not a writer, or if I just need to cultivate some better work habits. The stubborn, masochistic part of me yells that I should keep doggedly plugging away at it till it's done or I collapse with blood leaking out of my ears. But the thought of killing Key of Worlds makes me feel so free and happy right now, and it's tough to ignore that.
On another subject, if you search Google for the keywords philosophus stone against cult terror, you get some REALLY interesting results involving the Kabbalah and Naziism.