I wrote a book. Well, it’s not a book yet. I wrote a story, and I’m nervous as hell to release it into the world. Why am I afraid? For over a year it has been just mine. I have slaved over it, changed it, deleted parts, and added others. I gave it to a friend who reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy to get his thoughts: What didn’t he understand? What did he like? What did it need? He couldn’t get into it. I gave it to a successful writer of nonfiction, and he was “stopped dead” after the first page. My girlfriend got lost in all the characters. Then I paid someone to read it and though she was very helpful the lack of interest by everyone else was not a good sign. If my friends and loved ones can’t get through it what chance does a stranger?
So I rewrote it. I added some excitement to the opening chapter (in the form of a new chapter) to get the reader interested in the story and characters. I set a launch date for September 20th, a monumental day in my life, but more on that later.
I read the reviews of a popular writer’s first book to get some perspective. This author has met with a lot of success, but I guess that depends on your definition. The author made some money by self-publishing and continues to reach new readers, even selling the rights to have the book made into a motion picture. Financially successful. They wrote the book on their own terms and published it non-traditionally. Success. It has opened up other opportunities—earning a degree, future novels. Success. I assume these things brought happiness. Major success.
What does success mean to me? One might say that writing a book and putting it out into the world means I am successful. Yeah, that’s true, but as a writer, I want to have people read and like what I wrote. But a “true artist” doesn’t care what people think, right? I don’t know what a true artist feels, but I want to write and have my stuff read and enjoyed. Perhaps that’s a bit shallow, but that’s me.
I know human nature is to complain before giving praise. People are more likely to call up and gripe about poor service than to give compliments. Therefore I dread those one and two-star reviews on Amazon. I read the comments on the author above, and I focused on the one stars, which only accounted 2% of the total reviews. I won’t go into details but suffice to say that I came away realizing that you can’t please all the people all the time. Probably more than 2% will hate what I wrote and demand their money back. Likely a lot more.
I said I was done. Like a download that’s stuck on 99%, I finished the story, but it refuses to let me walk away. Since my editor read it I’ve made some changes. I will spend the next six weeks reading it out loud, stressing over comma placement, and being frustrated by formatting issues. I’ll worry that the characters won’t “ring true” or the ethnic characters are stereotypes, or don’t accurately reflect their cultural histories. Or that my female characters aren’t strong enough, or are too strong and do not speak to the female experience. My worst fear is that I will have used “too” and “to” incorrectly. I like what I wrote. I spent a lot of time with my characters, working hard to flesh them out without repeating myself. Or breaking the ultimate writer’s sin of telling not showing. Gasp!
I’m going to write about the writer’s experience for the next few weeks. Maybe fledgling writers will ask me questions, and maybe I’ll have helpful answers. “Successful” writers might have inspirational suggestions. I’ll talk about my journey, my hopes, and fears, and hopefully, create a dialog. Here are some subjects I will be discussing.
-Self-publishing vs. “traditional” (How fast do you want it?)
-My history as a writer (The hero’s Journey)
-Marketing (Selling out!)
-The politics of the writer (What statement are you making?)
-Categorizing one’s work (What shelf do you want to be on?)
Stay tuned. Comments welcome!