This is somewhat of a reflecty type post. Yes, reflecty. If Shakespeare can make up words, so can I.
At this point I’m awaiting the final editing pass of my upcoming book, Life in the ‘Cosm, which will be available from Renaissance Press in the fall of 2016. Wow, I totally just wrote that sentence. And it’s actually true.
I’ve been blogging about this book since about a month after I started accidentally writing it in May 2014. I totally swear, I had no idea an entire novel would come out of banging out some words about comic-strip characters I designed 20 years ago. It poured out of me for about a year, intensively. Something that was supposed to be a creative escape from my chronic pain disability turned into a work I really cared about.
For some reason, I decided not to toss it into a drawer. I loved my story and my characters and thought maybe others would, too. I researched articles about how to get a manuscript ready for publishing. It seemed like a big deal, especially the beta-reader part. I’d have to send something out to real people that was only slightly better than a second draft. That sounded like crazy talk.
But I remembered my tech-writing days. You put something together—not a draft that was ready for release—but something good enough, and you expected it to come back looking like a bloodied mess of red ink. I had a super thick skin as a professional writer in the telecom and public industries. If I could handle that, how hard could it be to apply the review process to a comic sci-fi manuscript?
One of the things people notice about me is my confidence. In fact, a young person in my life is convinced the unicorn in Dana Simpson’s Pheobe and Her Unicorn is me. Yay, Ima justifiably conceited unicorn. Is it my fault people cannot handle my awesome?
Um, yeah. I was a confident person. Then I became a fiction writer. Suddenly the self-possession went wheeeeeeeee! Holy schnikies, it really did and still does. Why didn’t I read all the articles that describe about how terrifying it is to craft a book with the intention of publishing it?
Fear. Fear is the greatest obstacle in getting your book out into the world. I’m convinced of it. Fear tempted me to hide the manuscript. Fear told me it wasn’t good enough for anyone to read. Fear almost stopped me altogether from pressing the Send button, when submitting. And when I got accepted by a small press I really wanted to work with? The fear went away. Replaced by white-hot panic. GO ME!
Omigosh, what the heck? I found myself worrying about everything! The book contract, the cover design, the slashing of my book during editing, electrodes being attached to my nipples…okay, maybe not that last one. And guess what? None of my fears so far have been realised. In fact, it’s been an amazing experience. I chose a small press who really wants me to succeed and truly cares about my input. Yes, fellow scribes, there actually are places like this.
And now that I’m so close to the finish line I’m imagining what would have happened if I had let my fears overcome me before the beta-reader phase. What if I let self-doubt propel me to hide the manuscript in my drawer last year?
I’d have missed the whole roller-coaster adventure I’m on now. I wouldn’t have met this great publishing team and my fellow authors who have signed with this small press. I wouldn’t be staring at these business cards with the cover of my book on them. I would have missed out on the experience of being nurtured through the process by a great publishing rep.
What would I have had? An unpolished manuscript. In a drawer. For me, that just wasn’t good enough.
Someone told me the writers who get published are the ones who keep trying. I would amend that to: the ones who keep trying, despite their fear.
We all get a bit petrified as writers. That’s quite comforting for me, because I have people who can relate and give me hugs and high-caloric snacks to calm me down. I half wonder if the fear haunts even the most seasoned authors. Maybe it’s a writer thing.
The trick is to ask yourself, “Do I want to keep this story to myself, or not?” If you do, then that is your choice and it’s a good choice because it’s what you want. But if you want to get out there, push through the apprehension. Know you’re in good company in feeling afraid. Then keep on keeping on, even through rejection email. There are tons of awesome indie authors out there, too, who can guide you on self-publishing, if that’s a better path for you.
All I’m saying is that if you want to be published, go for it. Don’t let fear be your obstacle. Stomp that sucker into the earth’s core.
Now get out there and do the thing. I’m rooting for ya.
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, published by Renaissance Press. Available in the fall of 2016.