Now it's out there -- release week thoughts from an author
This week my sixth book was released into the world. I wrote the first three of these six books totally on my own---no publisher, no story editor, independent---which is a blog post for another time. These last three were through Thomas & Mercer, a partnership. The feeling with all six, however, has been the same. It is a mixture of happiness and sadness. It is both an end and a beginning. There is always great anticipation and awe as well as a bracing for a surprise.
Once that book is released, it is out of your control. Like a kid, there is only so much you can do. The book may succeed or fail. The cool plot twist that seemed so amazing at 3 a.m., may come across to some readers as cliche or jarring. The character that you love, may be hated….and don’t get me started on the typos that were somehow missed. I heard another writer refer to this whole process as “giving birth to a book.” I think that’s true.
Like becoming a parent, writing a book is an act of courage. It’s audacious and completely ridiculous. You’re never ready. In this world of 34 character tweets (that’s the average), pithy online comments, and texts devoid of punctuation and very often complete sentences, to sit down and write a 70,000-80,000 word story is bold. It is also definitely a unique choice as to how to spend your time, but you do it anyway. You get up early in the morning or stay up late at night to tell a story that you hope someone will enjoy. The beginning comes out fast. Then around halfway you get stuck. The critics in your head start chattering: “This is too slow.” “That’s unrealistic.” “Why’d you spend two pages talking about how the main character removes grass stains from pants?” “You have an ending, right? Please tell me you know how this ends, because things are getting weird.”
A couple pages get written a day, maybe more or maybe less. It’s much slower now in the murky middle. Months pass and seasons change. Seventy pages become one hundred pages, then two hundred and more. It’s a marathon. Eventually you get to the end. It should be a happy moment, the crescendo of a great musical score, but the birthing process still isn’t done. Now it is time for editing and revising, tweaking and wholesale changes. There are some authors who are “planners” and others who are “pantsers,” meaning they fly by the seat of their pants. I’m in the pantser category, because I like to be surprised. I like to be open to where characters take me. This, unfortunately, also means that my initial drafts are awful and incoherent. Whole sections need to be thrown out. Characters are exiled to the netherworld. New sub-plots are created. Major portions of the story are rearranged. More months pass, and it finally comes together. The story becomes tighter, polished.
A cover is created. A publication date is set, and then the release day arrives. It is an amazing feeling, because in that moment of a book’s release anything is possible. No reviews have been written. No judgments have been made. It is just there, waiting to be discovered. It is a gift, an offering. Here in the first week of my new book’s release. I have hopes, but know better than to have preconceived notions or expectations about what will happen. It is a story, and I’m proud of it. I put a little bit of myself in every book, and “Without Precedent” is no different. I want people to turn the pages, compelling them to reach the end and think a little differently as a result. If I get one email or one comment or one review from somebody who enjoyed it...I did my job. All the work was worth it.
That’s being a writer, not that other stuff. We tell stories. Sometimes people get hung up on the “right” way to be an author. Thou shalt write query letters and enter contests. Thou shalt obtain an agent. Thou shalt get a book deal. Thou shalt be on the front table of every bookstore and be translated into fifteen languages. Those things, however, miss the point. They are mostly ego and insecurity.
The release day brings it home to what it is really about, creating a gift for people who are open to receiving it. When I walk into a bookstore or a library, I see all these books and I am amazed. So many people sacrificed their time and energy to make these gifts available. Every book is magical. Every book has the power to change somebody’s life or perspective. Every book has the power to make someone smile or laugh or cry. Every book has the ability to create a relationship with a reader that is intimate and special. As I see my book climb up the bestseller list, I’m humbled and recharged to do it all again. It is the end, but also the beginning.