Nerves, Butterflies, and Magic

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It’s three weeks to the day until Congress of Secrets will be published. Yay! And eek! In very good news for calming anticipatory author-nerves, it’s been getting some amazing reviews. Booklist says it “[will] delight her fans and fans of historical fiction in general with its spin on political intrigue, historical romance, dark alchemy, and romance” and RT Book Reviews says:

Below the surface of Burgis’ tale of intrigue, political tension, the dark arts and Vienna’s history lies a multi-layered story that is a perfect combination of romance, historical fiction and fantasy. The lush tapestry includes fictional and historical personages, actual events and surprising elements of magic that capture the imagination and chill the soul. Burgis displays wonderful storytelling and a gift for the imaginative.

You might not be able to believe just how many times I have re-read both of those reviews as publication day approaches. 😉

The funny thing is, Congress of Secrets is going to be my fifth published novel. There was a long time in my life – reaching up until quite recently – when getting five books published seemed like a fantasy too good to ever come true. “Five books” sounded like such a solid number to me – the number that would make me feel like a really established author. Surely an author with five books out wouldn’t ever feel insecure anymore?

Well. Hahaha. Anyway!

The best cure for writer-nerves is always, always to do more writing. Unfortunately, ever since I sent off Draft 1.2 of my MG spies-and-fairies book to my UK editor just under three weeks ago, I’d been feeling a bit lost. I’d spent the last year frantically racing to meet one deadline after another (which was both the up- AND the downside of having 3 books + 1 big freelance project published in less than 12 months!) and once I hit that final deadline, I just FLOPPED. The creative well was empty!

But I hate not writing. I mean, I really hate it. So I wrote an essay for one exciting submissions call; I wrote a few guest blog posts; I played with two or three different random book openings just for practice and to keep my hand in. (That kind of practice-writing feels a lot like playing scales on the piano; it’s never going to be exciting, but if you don’t keep your muscles trained that way, you won’t have much luck playing your next concerto in public!) I’d written the first 1000 words of an adult novella a while back, and that was clicking REALLY hard for me (I love the heroine! I love the voice!), but somehow I couldn’t quite move past its first scene to figure out the rest of the larger plot.

You never know what will be the key to finally escaping one of those creative dry spells…but this time, for me, it was a gift from a friend.

Back when I was powering through my rewrites of my first rough draft of The Storyteller’s Secret (my MG spies-and-fairies novel), I posted on Facebook about my progress for the sake of public accountability. One of my friends cheered me on there and promised she’d send me a reward if I got it done on time.

And look what arrived last week:


Gorgeous butterfly nail wraps! They were such a perfect gift for my spies-and-fairies novel. I laughed out loud with delight when I saw them! I didn’t end up putting them on until last night. But then…

Ohhhhh, do I love having butterfly nails! I smile every time I look down at my glittery, magical nails. They’re so fun and magical – the perfect cheer-me-up combination!

And this morning, when I was staring at my computer screen at the same opening scene I’d stared at many times before in the last three weeks, uselessly trying to figure out what happened next…I caught sight of my butterfly nails. And I thought: Wait a second. It needs to be more magical! THAT’S it!

I grabbed some headphones. I turned on an album (which is now my soundtrack for the project). I started to scribble notes…


And then pretty soon I’d typed 699 words of my novella (working title Snowspelled), aided by that perfect visual reminder of just how fun and magical I wanted the story to feel.

I may never stop feeling pre-publication nerves, as a writer…but there’s nothing that feels better than writing and sharing my stories with other people.

And I’m so grateful for friends who help with that! 🙂


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