Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

To publish or not?

on June 21, 2012

OK, that’s it.  Jeff Goins has officially confused me.

It’s Day 13 of the Great Writers Series and the word is Publish.  I was confused from the point of reading the title: Until You Publish Your Work, You’re Not In The Game.  What happened to declaring and believing?  I Am A Writer, and all that?  Is that not actually true after all?  It reminds me of when I started ‘A’ Level French and one of the first things we were taught was that a lot of what we thought we knew about which verbs take être or avoir in the perfect tense wasn’t technically accurate.  As I said yesterday, I expected the habits to become more difficult to master, but when they start contradicting themselves I don’t think that’s playing fair.

Now, I realise that when he says “publish”, he could mean one of two things.  He might mean that work should be submitted to someone in a position to make it an official publication (or part of one), be that a magazine or a book or a film script or whatever.  If this is the case, then I think his challenge for today is a little demanding:

Today, we’re going to publish something. Anything, really. Whatever you do, don’t play it safe.

Just like that, I’m going to have something published?  Impossible.

So it’s more likely he means that we put something we’ve written into the public eye.  In which case, how does that differ from Practise on Day 4 (apart from that the projects he mentions are bigger)?  I understand we’ve got to Do The Scary Thing and everything, but I’m not sure how I fit into this.  Over the last few days I’ve started to wonder whether the whole challenge was for someone who was closer to seeking publication than I am, someone who actually knew they wanted to write for more than just him/herself before the whole thing started.  There have been so many challenges I can’t comply with because I’m just not in that position.  I don’t want to stop but at the same time I can’t do as I’m told and I constantly feel like I’m cheating or trying to bend the rules.

Added to this, he follows up the challenge with the alarming phrase:

Don’t squander this opportunity. You won’t have another like it. You’ve done great work; time to share it.

Why on earth not?  Why is it now or never?  Over the last two weeks I’ve taken so many steps towards becoming more serious about my writing and, quite frankly, this kind of comment does serious damage to my self-confidence.  It encourages that voice inside, who’s been saying the whole time Why are you even bothering? It’s so arrogant to think that anyone else would want to read what you’ve written, let alone publish it.  Who now gets the chance to say You see, you can’t even do it properly, it’s a now-or-never deal so that rules you out if you can’t do it today.

That last comment is closely followed by

The good news is this is no longer something you have to wait on. You can do this right now. The opportunities are innumerable. So why in the world are you still sitting there?

This has me confused, too.  I’ve not been waiting to do anything that I can do today, just like that, let alone a multitude of things that would constitute innumerable opportunities.  Which makes me wonder whether I really understand what he’s talking about, or if, in fact I’m just not the right person (again).

I’ve discovered that what I need, if I want to find out about making contacts with magazines and other publishers, is a copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  It tells you things like which magazines take unsolicited submissions and how to get a copy of their guidelines, to make sure you’re story/article fits with their remit and house style.  I was ready to get one from Amazon until I noticed that there’s a totally new one coming out on 5th July (2 weeks from today) so obviously I want to have that one in order that I get as up to date information as possible.  When it comes that will be another step towards sharing my work.  I just can’t do it today.

The thing that scares me most about my writing is that someone – either someone I know or someone who Knows About These Things – will read my novel and say it’s rubbish.  Well, I don’t think they would say it’s rubbish – some parts of it are rubbish and need a lot more work, some parts of it are probably OK.  What I worry is that someone will say it’s not worth working on any more and I should just scrap it and start again because I got so much wrong in my approach.  Nevertheless, because I think I need help with it, I’m still looking for people to read it and feed back (the first plan fell through so I’m trying again as of today – during the writing of this post, 4 people have agreed to help and 1 person has said maybe.  How utterly and unexpectedly terrifying).  If that’s not doing today’s challenge:

Suspend your doubt for a day and ship something you’re scared of.

then I don’t know what is.  I’ve not actually shipped it because where I come from it’s incredibly rude both to assume someone will do something without asking them first, and to draw attention to oneself (actually, by that reckoning, merely asking is bad enough!)

So here’s what I think: Perhaps I wasn’t in the right position to join the challenge, but I’ve learned a lot from it and made some progress in several ways.  There have been 13 challenges to date and I have done something based on, or in response to, each one.  In addition I’ve formed a daily writing habit and written when I had nothing to say (apologies to those of you who’ve had to read that!).  I have some ideas on how to improve my technique and I thinkprobably would like other people to read what I’ve written (if it was really going to be something they liked!), although whether that’s via official publication involving money etc, I’m not really sure.

So – I’ve been challenged and I’ve benefitted from it.  I’m publishing something, here, nearly every day (I know I am because I’m clicking a button that says Publish).  I hope I don’t sound like I’m making excuses.  I just want to show that I’ve tried.

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2 responses to “To publish or not?

  1. Alice says:

    I don’t think you’re cheating or failing or have been in the wrong place for this challenge. Like you, I don’t have anything to publish and I don’t have anything even near that stage! I’ve found the challenge really helpful but a few of the days have rolled into one or I’ve picked and chosen what I can apply now.

    So for me, sharing my work in order to make steps towards considering publication is the biggest and most effective thing I can do – trying to publish or send to a publisher today would be a waste! But I’ve really appreciated the way the challenge has made me think ‘what am I waiting for?’ and had given me a kick.

    So don’t give up, and don’t feel discouraged – because the journey you’ve been sharing has been really exciting me and I’m so eager to see the next steps for you! X

  2. janereads says:

    I think you can interpret the word ‘publish’ however you like. Maybe it is just another word for sharing it with the rest of the world. Why not blog an excerpt of your book on this blog and ask for comments? I know that’s scary but you already have an audience and fellow blogers are nothing if not supportive.

    Your fears about sharing your work with publishers is something all writers experience. Having worked in the marketing department of several major publishers I will tell you the truth. Most manuscripts come through agents. There are a lot of publishers who still take unsolicited manuscripts, but don’t think that someone will sit down and read your book from cover to cover. Most of the time the first few pages are read, maybe the first chapter before a decision is made. Sad but true. But then a good story is always a good story. Publishers are always looking for the next great writer. There were a few times when people on my team really loved a MS and pushed for it to be acquired.

    You can help yourself by making sure your first few chapters are as mistake-free and polished as possible. Lure the reader in from page one. It will also help that you are a blogger with a following. The marketing potential of the author and book is always a huge factor in deciding whether to publish a book or not.

    Timing is also everything. If you have written a book about vampires and the publisher has already published 10 books featuring vampires and the market is saturated with these type of books, it is unlikely they will select you book. You really need to do your research. Think of where your book fits into the market. Maybe you’ve just written exactly the type of book they need for their list.

    Sorry to go on this rant. I know you are probably not at this stage yet, but I hope some of this might help you in the future. And consider publishing digitally as well. There’s so many new avenues out there for you. I look forward to following you progress!

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