A long journey

When I started out writing my novel, which I hope to have finished and on Amazon shelves by the end of the year, I was definitely on the path to commercial publishing.  I “finished” my novel and sent it to agents, making the classic mistake of amateurs by sending it before it was ready.  Of course, I got no bites.  Out of the ashes however, came my decision to self-publish.  I can feel the literati cringing, but let me explain.

I didn’t make the decision because I think my writing is a gift to humanity and perfect beyond criticism.  I made the decision because I knew I was going to do this until I published.  I would bang my head against that wall until it cracked, or I did.  My problem with the system as it is set up, is that I received no feedback on why my novel was unpublishable.  That’s not a critique of or bitter reproach to agents, I get it, they have no time to tell every greenhorn that they need to take a writing class.  I came to that conclusion myself over time.  I had natural story-telling ability, but the technical aspect of writing eluded me.  I knew things were wrong in my novel (horribly wrong), but couldn’t put a name to them.  There isn’t a writer’s group in my area, so what was I to do?

They say, “Didn’t sell your first book?  Write another one.”  It’s a proven mantra.  I was having trouble with closure on my first novel though, probably because I knew it could be so much better and actually finished.  I couldn’t shelve it forever and begin work on my zillion other ideas just yet.  I loved my characters, and they deserved better.  I began searching the internet for help and found Holly Lisle’s website, her writing courses, and her advice on self-publishing and my life changed.  I’d read Stephen King’s ON WRITING (two or three times), and I had a copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE sitting next to my computer for easy reference, and they were helpful to a large degree, but Holly lays it all out there in a way that I connect with.

I took my novel into my own hands that day.  I wanted to self-publish it, and to do that it had to shine like diamonds.  So far, I’ve taken apart the first chapter, my biggest trouble spot, and put it back together to make real narrative.  Biggest indicator of a problem here?  I was bored.  I was bored reading my own stuff, not a good sign.  Granted, I’d read it over a dozens times, but I’ve read my favorite book more than that and I still get lost in the story.

Unfortunately for me, I can’t afford a copyeditor.  More cringing from the literati.  I’m going to do my best with the help of a copyediting guide, but it will have to do.  Fortunately for me, my soulmate is an artist and has a good eye for design, so I won’t have stick figures on my cover.

The best part of this is that self-publishing gave me a reason to grow.  No one else would be responsible for what I put out there, but me.  Every error, every inconsistency would be my fault.  This is the kind of pressure that works for me, so I’m doing better this month than I’ve done in the previous year.

AN UPDATE TO THIS POST 7/25/12–  I’ve read a lot of articles that critique self-pubbed authors for not having a pro editor go over their manuscript, and for the most part I see why.  Editing is difficult when a writer tries to do it from within the manuscript.  I was lucky enough to have several beta readers with a firm grasp of storytelling and grammar edit my novel before its release, in addition to brutally hacking it up myself (oh, my darlings).  I am confident in its quality, both technically and artistically.  I urge anyone to read samples of a book before they buy.  It is the easiest way to know if you’re getting bang for your buck.

~ by Rachel Francis on May 18, 2012.

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