Hard won wisdom for writers.
Self-belief and affirmation from objective readers is a necessary first step. There are, I’m sad to report, too many writers who have pushed their work into the new world of self-publishing too soon or without the much needed step of affirmation from objective readers. Self-belief alone is a dangerous thing for it can too easily combine with impatience to produce arrogance and self-delusion. I know, I’ve been there.
My first published effort is now a thing of shame to me. Not that it was a bad novel. It had great potential but it was forced into the world scarce half made up. Impatience and self-delusion led me astray. Ever since I have been struggling to learn and get over my shame. My salvation came in the form of my editorial angel, Miriam. Her diligence, generosity and commitment have made it possible for me to become truly independent. I withdrew all my work and it’s all being re-edited with her help.
Here is the first lesson. Please do not imagine you can do it alone. Seek out an editor/proofer you can trust and value them. Reward them as well as you can manage financially and know that no matter how good you are as proofer or editor you really do need that objective eye. One can self-publish at no cost so there is no excuse for not investing a little up front for an editor. It’s simply not worth putting out work that has skipped this step. I thank my lucky stars I learned this before I ruined my reputation pushing novels that were not properly complete. Impatience was what led me astray and now my mantra is – get it right. Then get a proof copy and check it again and again and only then send it into the world of Amazon KDP and Createspace. Only then start the push and the publicity.
I’ve recently had the experience of trying to review a couple of fellow writers work. These were well proofed and had slick social media publicity pushing like mad, but the work was lacking in one fundamental respect. Not proofing errors but something much more intangible and hard to self-judge. These writers had no talent! One created a list of events that was turgid and impossible to read. Another a beautifully crafted compilation of fashionable cliché. No content, no style, no story telling ability. Just wanting to write is not enough. One needs to have a good story to tell. One needs to have rich believable characters and one needs to set them in a location that is real and involving. The writer needs to know the what and where of their work intimately. Write where and what you know.
One can learn the rules of creative writing and there is a whole industry devoted to making money from our urge to express ourselves through the medium of the novel. However, if after all that, you skip the affirmation from objective readers through fear or excessive self-belief, then you run the risk of joining the ever growing pile of 99cent or free novels out there that are just clutter and income for those willing to make money from the creative impulse of wana-be writers.
This is the most difficult question of all for any writer to face: Can I really write a novel worth reading?
By all means try. But don’t be impatient and don’t give up and please don’t publish it until you and a few others are sure it will have worth, real worth. Not just your own desire to be seen in print. I learned this lesson the hard way. I’m fortunate. My work was just badly proofed and needed editing better.
I know absolutely it has worth and my self-delusion has been stripped away. Now I am trying to be patient and will not push the work until there is more out there and then?
Well we shall see.
The censorship on the home page here today is a shock but the message is important. Let’s act.