Biting Off More Than I Can Chew

As writers, the biggest challenge we face is choosing to follow through. The only ones who ever fail are those who never try.

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This is me, excited about my decision to self-publish.

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And this is me after realizing just how much work I have to do in the next six months.

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As someone who struggles with anxiety, overthinks every obstacle, lives her life believing she is the Murphy that Murphy’s Law was written about and approaches each new challenge as a pessimistic realist, self-publishing by Halloween 2017 may be my emotional and mental downfall.

Yes, I’m a little dramatic, too.

But I also now understand why people use the phrase “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

A week and a half ago, I pulled out my hard copy manuscript and the edits from two beta readers, the professional editor I hired last year and the overwhelming feedback provided to me by a small publisher specializing in young adult fiction. I jumped right in with both feet and began reviewing the publisher’s feedback. She was very kind to take the time to give me the extensive critique she did. This is not the norm from a publisher at all, and anytime anyone, especially someone in the publishing industry, takes the time to provide feedback, it’s your job as the writer to consider their advice on your manuscript. It’s your manuscript, and you don’t have to make any changes you don’t want to, but from my experience as a writer and an editor, I would make the case that nine times out of ten, you should probably make the changes. Like most writers, I am very protective of my manuscript, and I certainly don’t like hearing someone tell me I’ve done something wrong. The hard truth, though, is that when you are the author, you live and breathe the story and the characters, and it’s nearly impossible for you to step back far enough and see the structural problems as well as the grammatical and spelling errors.

Knowing all this, I began to review the feedback. And then I had to put it down. From changing my point of view in the book from first person to third person to addressing weak scenes to revising foundational elements that didn’t make sense, I realized:

  • I did not spend nearly enough time developing my characters or some tricky elements of the supernatural world.
  • I have a lot of content to reorganize and new scenes to write.
  • I am going to be hard-pressed to get this book done in time for a Halloween launch.

So, I did what any determined writer does: I wallowed in self-pity for about a half hour, and then I pulled out my manuscript and got to editing.

It only got worse from there.

See, when I made the decision to self-publish in January, I had in my head that I had this great manuscript and it was ready for publishing. It is anything but. My friends, who have read the manuscript, tell me I’m overreacting, but I really don’t think I am. I hadn’t read the manuscript in a year, and in reading it last week, the flaws were glaring. It embarrassed me to think I had let anyone read the manuscript with some of those flaws in it. And it made me physically ill to realize I have no idea how I’m going to pull this off.

This past Sunday, I finished my read-through, and I had to have another lengthy conversation with myself about the probability of finishing on time. I considered tossing the manuscript and deactivating my blog and my author page. I’ve heard people say a writer’s first few manuscripts are toss-aways anyway. But the stubborn Mountaineer in me says I work better under pressure and if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it. I argued that I can’t even figure out how to do the social media stuff I need to be doing alongside this, and my inner voice told me to chill. Who cares? The book is more important. Get the book done.

So, if I don’t share blog posts as often as I should or if you don’t see me posting on Facebook for long periods of time, I guess you’ll know I’ve got my nose to the grindstone in order to make Scars the best novel it can be.

This last week has been such a roller coaster of revisions that I’m documenting it: the good, the bad, and the ridiculous. Check back next week to find out how I walked right into some of the pitfalls I knew to avoid and how I had to scramble to pull myself back out.

Author: Jennifer Jett Prezkop

You and me—we have something in common. I can tell. Maybe you have big dreams and even bigger obstacles getting in the way of those dreams. Or maybe you say yes to everything and then wonder why you have no time to pursue your dreams. Maybe you're a first-time author who’s so excited to introduce your creation to the world that you just can't stand it. Or you're about to embark on a journey into self-publishing, second-guessing yourself with every step. Maybe you've moved and you're homesick, and it’s glaringly obvious every time you go out in public in your blue and gold that you're the thing in the scarlet and gray world that doesn't quite belong. Whatever our similarities, whatever brought you to my blog: welcome. If you stick with me long enough, this die-hard West Virginian who works as a magazine editor by day and moonlights as a wannabe novelist might just show you something worth sharing.

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