You Gotta’ Know When to Fold ‘Em

I’ve called off the presses for #Scars. What went wrong with my self-publishing goals is not nearly as important as what I’ve learned in the process. Here’s why putting #Scars on the back burner was important for me.

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If you were only going to publish one book in your life and you had to choose between publishing a book and publishing the book, which would you choose?

What’s the difference between “a” and “the,” you ask? Mediocrity versus quality. Resentment versus passion. A checkmark on a list versus a dream come true.

I think some writers—myself included—can get so intoxicated from the idea of having their hard work displayed on a shelf that they lose sight of the fact that printing doesn’t make a book its best.

I don’t want to self-publish a book. I want to self-publish the book. Because that might be the only book I ever publish—and I want it to shine. And what I have come to realize over the last four months is that Scars is not the book.

I wanted it to be—you have no idea how badly I wanted it to be. And I think someday it can still be. I really did fight for it. But if I’m being honest with myself, it’s not the one. Not today.

I know what you’re thinking of me because I guarantee I’ve already thought it about myself. I’m a quitter because it got hard. And it did get hard. The task of revising and editing became a chore I hated. What was first a passion for the story itself became resentment because I wanted it done so I could move on to the next project. When I realized what had become of my goals, I also realized I had lost sight of what was important. The story is what is important, not seeing it in print or on Amazon.com. I’ve never been in writing to make money, so why would rushing a book to print without ensuring it’s my best work make sense?

I think I had already subconsciously surrendered to the realization that self-publishing wouldn’t happen with Scars before I admitted it to myself out loud. I spent less and less time working on it because it frustrated me. The deeper I dug into it, the more I realized the story is too one-dimensional. I never took the time to develop my characters. There are hard questions I need to answer, and these are not things I feel like I can address in the next four months. I was quickly becoming agitated with my labor of love, and that’s not fair. It deserves better than that.

Last weekend, I read an article by K.M. Weiland posted on Pinterest called “3 Signs You Should Give up on Your Story.” The article explained that if you are losing focus, lacking passion, or feel it in your gut that you should stop, you should stop. I waved my white flag. Message received.

I met all three criteria from the article, particularly the gut part. My gut was screaming at me that pursuing Scars wasn’t right. Don’t force it. Don’t overthink it. Don’t do it if it’s not fun anymore. You’re losing time with your husband and adding stress to your life when you know this story is not the one.

And that’s when I realized that Scars and I needed to take a break.

My friends will be disappointed, I know. And I carry that guilt. I also carry the shame of announcing to the world that I was going to accomplish this, and here I am, seemingly giving up. Do I regret making my decision to self-publish public? A little. This is what I feared from the beginning: failure. But I don’t regret this journey. Tearing Scars apart has raised some important questions about plots, subplots, character development, and point of view. Point of view was a major problem in Scars, and I want to get this right for #Maryn, the next project.

The more we learn, the more our goals change. It’s a mark that we’re growing as individuals and as writers. I’m going to cling to that and try not to feel too bad about putting Scars on the back burner. And I’m going to focus on #Maryn because, you guys, this story…. I’m so excited that I don’t have to wait to get started on #Maryn.

And for the record, to say I didn’t get this far to only get this far has a totally new meaning now. I haven’t quit. It’s all part of the long journey.

 

 

Standing on the Corner of Writer’s Block and Dead-End Street

Self-doubt can be a writer’s most dangerous obstacle while the will to finish is the writer’s most important tool.

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I never imagined how incredibly hard publishing a manuscript would be.

How lonely publishing a manuscript can be.

How frightening it can be.

How hopeless it can be.

After all, when you’re doing what you love, it’s not supposed to be work, right?

Revising my manuscript has brought out an ugly side of me—a side that doesn’t like to write or read or talk about it. An alter ego who wants to run away and hide instead of wishing there was more time to enjoy it.

Over the last three weeks, I have spent more time thinking about quitting than I have actually spent working on my manuscript.

There’s a lot of personal pressure to see this book published. Sure, I put most of that on myself, but that doesn’t make it any easier to manage. When the hubs and I have kids, my manuscript will be shoved to the back of the bottom shelf in the pantry where all the cookbooks I never use are stored. That whole new and complicated and sleep-deprived and selfless chapter of our lives will be amazing, but this is something I have to achieve for myself first.

There’s also the looming deadline of the West Virginia Book Festival, which is where I had planned to launch #Scars. There’s nothing like being less than 10 days out from the registration deadline and fighting your way through serious doubts over whether the book will even get done. Which takes me back to the question at the root of my torment: “Is this one worth finishing?”

And have I told you what it’s like to try to revise a manuscript? I’m so far deep into rewriting, deleting, and rewriting again, I got to where I wasn’t sure what I’ve kept and what I cut back out. I seriously got stuck in a manuscript maze. I couldn’t tell up from down or right from left, and I got to the point where I just wanted out. I didn’t care if I published—I didn’t want to do it anymore.

When I considered, for the umpteenth time, what would happen if I just didn’t finish it, I thought about the book festival. I thought about my blog and my author page on Facebook. It would be a failure, yes, and people would ask me awkward questions about finishing the book that would never be done. But then I started thinking about my mom, my sister, my husband, and all my friends cheering me on.

And then I came across this quote on Instagram: “I didn’t come this far to only come this far.”

I was honestly at the point where I didn’t even know what to do anymore. That’s when I stopped my revisions and printed the book with all its changes. The little voice in my head warned me against this, citing that editing vortex dilemma, but my logic told me I had already changed so much, I needed to see where I was headed before I could go on any further.

I chastised myself for taking what seemed like a step backwards, but in hindsight, I think it was the right move. I got through the first 60 the first night, and while there are still some small kinks, I’m happy with where those 60 pages are. It—along with my supportive, albeit biased, fan base—has me feeling optimistic. I won’t meet my original goal of finishing the revisions by March 15—not by any stretch. But I think I’ll finish, and that’s what matters. Because I didn’t come this far to only come this far.

10 Tips for Reaching Your Self-Publishing Goals

When the idea of self-publishing in 2017 occurred to me, I was excited by the goal of finally getting Scars off my laptop and into print and ebook formats. Being the planner that I am, though, I knew I needed a roadmap to get me to this destination. Not just any roadmap—a thorough, well-thought-out route based on solid research and the experiences of those who have self-published before me.

I set to work gathering information, tips, and experiences from my fellow manuscript editors at Inspiration for Writers, a professional editing company, and authors I know who have self-published their works. What resulted was “Self-Publishing in 2017: 10 Tips for Reaching Your Goal,” the first in my series of self-publishing blog posts, which originally appeared on Inspiration for Writers’ blog. (For more great writing, editing, and publishing tips, sing up for Inspiration for Writers’ free newsletter.)

If you share my goal of self-publishing in 2017, I encourage you to follow these 10 steps or do some research to come up with your own—either way, make sure you have a plan in place so that self-publishing in 2017 is a goal met instead of another year lost. Watch for additional posts as I break down each step in this list and provide additional tips.

1.) Finish your manuscript.

If your manuscript isn’t finished, you should be writing instead of worrying about what to do with an incomplete novel. If you’re struggling to get the manuscript finished, make it a point to sit down every day and write.

2.) Begin building your fan base.

Author Eric Vance Walton says it’s important to have an established fan base before your book comes out, and he recommends building a following by blogging and writing regularly on social media. Nina Mizner, who self-published several science fiction and romance novels, believes it’s never too soon to create your social media accounts. Gail Ingis, author of Indigo Sky, best connects with her fan base through weekly blog posts that share personal content.

3.) Polish your draft with edits and rewrites.

When you’ve finished your first draft, you’ll have to go back through the draft several times to cut unnecessary scenes and address problems like too much internal dialoging and telling where you should be showing. Award-winning author Eric Fritzius recommends reading the manuscript out loud, preferably from a printed page. “Nothing brings out errors better than seeing them on a printed piece of paper, and doubly so for hearing them come out of your own mouth.” This is not in lieu of hiring a professional editor (see step #7).

4.) Find beta readers.

Once you’ve polished your draft, pass the manuscript off to at least two beta readers who will provide honest, constructive feedback. If your mother or best friend is only going to tell you how amazing your novel is, don’t pick them for beta readers. Your best possible novel emerges only when people give you constructive criticism—and when you are willing to take it.

5.) Research self-publishing options so you can choose the medium that is right for you.

According to Sandi Rog, an award-winning author, ghost writer and editor, there are several options for indie authors, depending on the format they choose. For instance, Amazon provides Kindle Desktop Publishing for e-books and CreateSpace for print. Other options include Ingram Spark, Lightning Source, and Whitaker House. It’s important to research each company’s policies, costs, and offerings to protect your novel and yourself.

6.) Review the feedback from your beta readers.

Once you receive your beta readers’ feedback, review their comments and address their concerns. This will require another round of rewriting and editing on your part.

7.) Hire a professional editor.

“You could hire your high school English teacher or a college student to edit more cheaply, but they are probably not aware of the different style guides and which one is appropriate for your type of writing, nor may they be up to date on the latest conventions,” cautions Sandy Tritt, founder and CEO of Inspiration for Writers. “A professional editor knows exactly what to look for and how to correct it. Just remember: once something is in print, it’s forever. Make sure you have it perfect before publishing it.”

8.) Hire a cover designer.

“People say don’t judge a book by its cover, but people do, and it’s what will likely get your book into a reader’s hands,” says author Sandi Rog. The cover is the first sales pitch you give to readers and, for that reason, it needs to be the best possible.

9.) Do a final edit on the proof. 

Before publishing, order a proof of your novel and perform one more edit. When you find errors in the proof—yes, WHEN—mark them with red ink and dog-ear the pages with corrections to be made. This ensures you won’t miss any final changes that need to be made. Remember: this is your last chance.

10.) Create your marketing plan.

Author web sites, blogs, social media accounts, newsletters, reviews, special promotions—there are dozens of ways to get your book’s name out to the masses. Do some research to determine which methods are best for your novel.