I had planned to write my next post on the autumnal equinox and the change of seasons, or a heartfelt piece on rescuing a dog with a few hidden warts. (In our ignorance, Harry and I made so many mistakes, but that’s a topic for a later blog).
Instead, I find myself writing about the naivety of novice writers, which was toward the bottom of my list of blog post topics, and probably unpopular. But, today I read on two of my favorite author’s blogs about a trap many uninformed writers may fall into: self-publishing. Many writers are so excited about seeing their work in print that they pay to have their books printed. They get sucked straight down the easy path to frustration because being printed is not the same as being published. And self-publishing does nothing to market their books. Those who try it may find their books in NO book store near them. Visit Tess Gerritsen’s excellent blog to learn more about why self-publishing is probably not the right choice for a fiction writer.
Here’s my advice. If your novel doesn’t sell the traditional way, maybe there’s a good reason, a reason you just can’t see because you’re too close to the project. You need to let it go and move on to another story. Write another book. And another one. If you’re really a writer, you’ll do that anyway, because you can’t help yourself from telling stories. Don’t get sucked into thinking there’s a short cut to publication. There really isn’t. Sometimes it takes years, sometimes decades. Sometimes it never happens at all.
I was a freelance editor for about a year. I spent much of my time educating new writers on the publication process. I wrote an article outlining the steps toward publication and posted it on my Web site just so that I could refer potential clients to it. I still get occasional notes from writers wanting help in publishing their novels/stories/books, but totally uninformed about how to begin the process. There is no substitute for reading and researching the writing and publishing process if you want to be an author. There is a plethora of information out there, no excuse not to read it, unless you want to fall prey to dishonest folks who might use your naivety to empty your pockets.
I think the two major misconceptions of many writers is that their first draft work will sell and that publication is easy. Both are false, but that fact seems to surprise many writers, as is evidenced by the reaction that I get almost every time that I tell someone that I write fiction. They respond with “I have an idea for a book. I could write about ___ if I only had time.” About 99.9% of the time, it ain’t gonna happen. In the process of publishing their first book, writers must have not only talent, but drive and determination. They must eat rejection on a daily basis and learn from it. All while holding down a full time day job.
Most writers are naïve about the publication process. This is underscored by the high school student who wrote to me asking me to mentor her school project, which is to write — and publish — an entire novel in one semester while taking a regular class load. I replied that her goal was lofty. That perhaps she should write only an outline or proposal and an introductory chapter or two.
Her comment was:
I understand why you think that a semester is a short amount of time to write a novel, but really, it’s not so bad. I’m planning to try and write more of a novella, with a goal of around 30,000 to 50,000 words. I know I can do that, as mentioned before I’ve done 50,000 in a month. I’m also doing all the planning this semester, making out an outline and researching what needs to be researched.
Perhaps she will write a draft of a novel in that short time, but what about taking that first draft through several edits and polishing it? What about the endless hours she will need to spend putting a marketing package together and contacting agents? She is simply ignorant of the publication process. I am going to mentor her, because her letters to me were well written and because she listened to me. She is reading ON WRITING by Stephen King. I hope her book sells like wildfire.
Meanwhile, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t written a creative word, other than work related test development, since my last blog post on September 11. King Alex has gotten in the way of my writing, while worming his way closer to my heart.