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Does the World Really Need My Book?

August 1, 2012

Hello Insecure Writers!

I’m back with more rants about my latest writing demons, thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh who hosts the coolest blog hop around, known as the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. If you want to participate, just click on this here linky, and hook up with some of the nicest writers on the web.

I wasn’t sure if I should even post this, lest my Internet profile become permanently tarnished by this blasphemy, forever ruining any chance I might have of a successful writing career. But I’m a writer. I ask questions that others are afraid to ask. What better time than now, while my anonymous blog is nothing more than fly spit on the face of the world-wide web, to reveal the anathema that rattles around in my insecure writer’s conscience?

What if I decide not to pursue publication?

I can hear your incredulous shouts already.

What?!

(And you in the corner, rubbing your hands together with glee as you cackle, “More readers for me,” should probably rethink your IWSG status.)

Isn’t publication the dream of every lonely scrivener, who crawls out of bed at the crack of dawn to type a few hundred words before dragging himself to a day job of drudgery hoping to scrape enough money together for another ink cartridge and a month of internet access? Isn’t that the sole reason we write stories—so that someone else can read them, and validate, that, yes, life is a tough gig, and yes, love redeems us all?

Won’t getting my book out on Amazon free me from the bondage of my day job, so that I can write all day and all night, until my fingers are raw?

No?

Then, why publish?

For the sake of argument, and to keep my Internet reputation from being permanently relegated to SEO purgatory, let’s consider this a thought experiment.

What do writers really gain from publishing?

As most writers do, I like to daydream, and sometimes wonder what it might be like to be a New York Times bestselling author. Among the numerous perks I imagine would be bequeathed upon me are a big paycheck allowing quittage of the aforementioned day job, book signings with my adoring fans, speaking engagements, late night parties teeming with luminaries from the movie industry accompanied by the requisite long-legged blonde-coiffed ladies.

I admit, aside from chance encounters with not so adoring fans, and the sweaty palms involved with meeting large crowds of well-wishers, it sounds like a pretty sweet gig, all of it ripe with interesting story material. But about that: When do these people get time to write in between all the commotion?

Granted, dispensing with the aforementioned day job will help with that, but just imagine the pressure there must be, to write something equally amazing–and marketable–as the last novel!

I’m a happily married suburban housewife who only wants to write lots of novels. The big paycheck would be great, naturally, but I could buy a lottery ticket and my odds of hitting the financial jackpot might be better.

Perhaps, I can daydream some more and imagine a different scenario? Maybe writing a moderately successful novel series would be my cup of tea. I’d write characters and stories I enjoy, at a pace that allows me a good night’s sleep once in a while. I could keep in touch with my fans. Fend off attacks from haters. Track my sales numbers. Trek to my day job, because the sales aren’t high enough to pay the mortgage. Write the same series for the rest of my life, because my fans demand it and will track me down and strap me to my laptop to keep me writing it.

Okay, maybe that’s not for me either.

How about if, after a thorough professional editing, I were to put my books up on Smashwords and Amazon? In this case, no one will look at them unless I start building my brand, so it’s off to the Big Bad Internet I go. They say I need to build my platform, and the funny thing is, I’ve discovered this blogging thing is the cat’s pajamas! The more I write, and blog hop, and guest post, the more the world takes notice. I get to meet lots of people just like me, and some not like me, but all of them interesting.

The drawback? Posting and hopping and commenting are taking over my sacred writing time. The more I write about my cat’s latest antics, and how well my Christmas cookies turned out last year, the greater the assault on my novel’s word count. Does anybody really care about the heat wave in my back yard? Does it matter enough for me to sacrifice those few hours I have left after the day job to sell books, when I’d rather be writing them?

All I really want to do is write, and learn the craft of story telling. It’s ironic that much of the work involved with pursuing publication seems to take me further from that goal.

And, worst of all, as platform-building wisdom states, I need to be promoting my book before I’m even finished with it. Which brings me to the biggest reason publishing scares the bejeezus out of me.

It is a question all insecure writers can relate to.

What if my book isn’t any good?

I feel I’m too close to my work to answer that question, so last month I shared the first chapters with a few of the best writers I know. What they said surprised me.

They enjoyed my story! They loved my characters! They wanted to know what happens next!

I couldn’t believe how wonderful it felt to know that my story had made someone smile—and that it had made someone think.

The world needs to smile. And the world really needs to think.

Maybe publishing isn’t such a bad idea after all.

How about you, Insecure Writers? Have you always wanted to publish? Or are you like me, and apprehensive about publication?

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36 Comments
  1. August 1, 2012 7:54 am

    I can relate to a lot of what you are saying here. In fact, I took about two months off blogging (well, I posted a little, but not much) recently. It didn’t really help with the word count, though. Honestly, once I felt like blogging again, I felt like writing again, too. Mostly, I think the slump was the stress of the day job getting me down. Don’t know if I will ever publish or be published, but I also play the lotto.

    • August 1, 2012 8:01 pm

      For sure, playing the lotto is good way to keep the dream alive!
      I’m hoping I can find some way balance my online presence with the actual writing. But if it comes down to it, the writing wins every time–which is why I am having these doubts.

  2. August 1, 2012 8:38 am

    I enjoyed this post. You hit the nose on the head. Before I got caught up in the (potential) glamor of it all, I used to write for the sake of

    • August 1, 2012 8:41 am

      …sorry, actually posted before I finished!

      …sake of discovery. I loved the thrill of unlocking the mysteries in mind, and analyzing both my fiction and non fiction as a means to get more in touch with myself. Sometimes this notion gets lost in the mist of these “daydreams” we have. Maybe, if once in a while we just let that all go…we could remember why we started writing in the first place

      • August 1, 2012 8:04 pm

        I’m glad you liked this post. I wrote a lot of this in one of those moments when I was tired and fed up, and when I looked at those words again, I realized I had written something quite close to my heart.
        Sometimes it seems the scariest things to admit to are the closest to the truth.

  3. Rachel Schieffelbein permalink
    August 1, 2012 8:49 am

    I also enjoyed your post. 🙂 I totally get what you’re saying. But for me, yes, I want to be published. I don’t need a best seller, but I would like to see my book out there in the world. 🙂

    • August 1, 2012 8:08 pm

      Let’s hope we all get there! It’s kind of a delicate balance for me, as I write for myself more than for the world. I think the world deserves a peek though.

  4. August 1, 2012 8:59 am

    As funny as this is, it is also very wise. I write for the sake of writing and then I think about publishing. Some of the time. When I don’t, I make myself insane.
    Karen

    • August 1, 2012 8:10 pm

      I think that’s part of it–I’m afraid that publishing will take my words away from me, and that I will be obliged to stop. Not rational, I know, but I get what you’re saying about making yourself crazy!

  5. August 1, 2012 9:08 am

    Okay, I just looked over my shoulder because it is like you are living my life. Would I do all this if I knew I would never be published (other than self-publishing)? And looking deep into my heart the answer is probably Yes — because even if I knew I would never be published the optimist in me (along with my Muse who believes everything is possible) would always be saying “You never know.”

    • August 1, 2012 8:17 pm

      It is only recently (and partly because I’ve received such encouragement from other writers!) that I’ve seriously thought publishing, might, (maybe, could possibly, if the stars align right) be in the cards for me. It might be a Muse thing. The Muse dances for me, and no one else. Letting the world watch scares him.
      I’ll have to work that out, because, yes, a part of me would be thrilled to see my book(s) in print.

  6. August 1, 2012 12:14 pm

    I wrote a book then decided I would check out this whole publishing thing, see if maybe I’d like to consider it. And I did. And then I worked really hard to get a contract. Now that my launch date looms only two months away, I’m terrified. What if it’s a flop? What if no one likes it? How will I react to bad reviews? What if I don’t even get any reviews? It’s endless, as is the worrying. So I choose to put most of it out of my mind and focus on what I enjoy about this process, which is writing and blogging and making friends with other writers. I can’t control sales figures and reviews, but I can control my presence on the Internet, and I can control how I interact with others. So I focus on those. And it gets me to the next day, then the next, then the next.

    • August 1, 2012 8:23 pm

      Nancy,
      Thank you for your perspective. I needed this.
      I am getting overwhelmed by everything I would need to consider if and when I finish this revision and decide to shoot for publication. So many steps, so many hurdles!
      First step: Write the best book I can!
      Then: Manage my time so that I can write the next one.
      You’re so right. 🙂

      Reading about your journey through this process has been nothing short of inspiring.

  7. August 1, 2012 1:08 pm

    You make some really great points here. Before I started writing with the intent of being published I’d already written three novel length pieces (one a completed first draft, and two abandoned somewhere around the 45,000 word mark). I had no problem just putting those stories aside because they weren’t really good. They were fun, but they weren’t great. I never considered publishing them.

    Then I had a dream. It was an incredible adventure. I fought bad guys and vanquished evil gods. I saved the world. Me, I did it. It was such an incredible feeling. When I woke up, I could practically fly. I had to go on a hike (my job often requires fieldwork), and instead of eating lunch, I wrote an outline in my field book. That feeling like I could fly was intoxicating, and more than anything else I wanted to bring that feeling to someone else. I felt that if I could bring people on the journey I had been through, it would be worth every word of writing a novel. If just one person could feel that they could do anything and fly from my words, it would be enough.

    As you might imagine, it’s been a number of years, and I have yet to write The One that gets published, but I still want to share that feeling with someone. That’s why I try for publication.

    • August 1, 2012 8:28 pm

      Rena,
      This. Exactly.
      Having only found my writing wings a few years ago, I’m sometimes afraid I will wake up one morning to find them gone. To share them with someone else would be exhilarating.
      I’m going to try.

  8. August 1, 2012 6:46 pm

    I always THOUGHT I wanted to publish, until now . . . when it’s finally happening. Now it freaks me the eff out!!!

    • August 1, 2012 8:31 pm

      Oh no!
      You know what though? I think you’re up to the challenge. Your energy and enthusiasm are so contagious, they will surely bring you many happy readers.

  9. August 1, 2012 7:21 pm

    Yes, I admit it, I’ve always wanted to publish.My characters deserve a life outside my head. During the last year I’ve learned so much, and I’ve written some chapters that made me proud to offer them to my beta readers. So, when the novel is done, I will send out query letters, I will develop a tougher hide and, who knows, maybe I will get incredibly lucky.

    And, if I don’t? I won’t worry about it (not too much, anyway), because I’ll be too busy writing my next novel!

    • August 1, 2012 8:38 pm

      That’s really cool that you are able to set your sights properly from the very beginning!

      For me, thanks to some hard work and a bit of lightning, I’ve begun to see my story transform into something I believe might be publishable. Maybe that’s why I’ve been clobbered with the realization that, omigosh, this is for real!
      It scared me a bit, but with the help of all the awesome writers I’ve gotten to know on and off the web, I’ve begun to build some confidence.

      Your straightforward approach is an inspiration to me, truly.

  10. August 2, 2012 7:59 am

    I never even planned on being an author, so it’s all bonus at this point.
    Writing and blogging both take time, but if you’re good with your time management, it can be done. I’ve managed to write over a thousand words a day on my manuscript and visit close to a hundred blogs a day for the past two months. (That either inspires or scares you I’m sure.)
    I’d say just enjoy the ride and don’t worry. Then whatever happens, it will all be good.

    • August 2, 2012 8:06 pm

      🙂
      Visiting that many blogs is quite a feat, and is a scary thought! (Although I’ve heard rumors about an Alex J. Cavanaugh clone/cyborg making the rounds 😉 )
      But you’re right. I need to stop fretting and enjoy the writing.

      BTW, blogging has an unexpected benefit, since all the great people I’ve met really inspire me with my writing. Part of that is due to the IWSG, so thanks, for putting it together!

  11. August 2, 2012 11:12 am

    I’m still learning about the publishing biz, but I’m in this for fun, not to make a fortune, I just love to write and i wanted to see if I could do it – write a novel. I’m on my third one in less than two years. If i get popular or rich, it’ll be icing on the cake. 🙂

    Great post, BTW. I chuckled my way through it, nodding.

    IWSG #179 (At least until Alex culls the list again. :P)

    • August 2, 2012 8:11 pm

      Hi Melissa,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route, and I’m glad my post made you smile!
      I’m pretty much a newbie to writing myself, so perhaps part of my apprehension about publishing is due to my inexperience. So many writers focus on the publishing end of writing books, that I’m curious if anyone writes just because it’s fun.
      It’s good to meet someone like me!

      Thanks for the IWSG number; the list is quite long and hard to sort!

  12. August 2, 2012 8:10 pm

    I am definitely apprehensive. I never really planned on writing or being a writer…so I only know the very basics of how it all works. It’s pretty intimidating talking to friends who have been studying writing and submitting things for years, but at least showing work to people and submitting it is similar to the process for Fine Art. I have some relevant experience…but I’m always hesitant to share my art, too!

    • August 4, 2012 6:38 pm

      Just like anything else, I’ve begun to understand that there is a learning curve to sharing work. I look at where I was last year, where I had submitted only one small piece for critique in six months, and had a blog that nobody read–because I was way too nervous about sharing anything I wrote! So, I’m making progress.
      Nevertheless, I think I’ll always enjoy the writing part more than the sharing part.

  13. August 2, 2012 8:12 pm

    I just wanted to add that the world definitely needs your book. I’ve read a few terrible ones lately and we need more books by people who take their writing seriously, and create nuanced characters and interesting stories. That’s you.

    • August 4, 2012 6:41 pm

      😀
      Aww… thank you so much–you’re making me blush.
      Comments like this could definitely make the sharing part enticing!

  14. August 2, 2012 9:37 pm

    Many of us writers are able to easily relate to the self-doubt here, as well as the other questions that you’ve posed. They’re normal, natural, and hit each writer in different ways. Once you ask yourself if the world is ready to fall in love with your characters; if the world is ready to hate your characters, agree, disagree, and get to know them like a best-friend, you will better be able to answer the question: ‘Does the world really need my book’, with an honest answer.

    I’ve been writing for the passed sixteen years; more seriously for the last six or so. There are numerous How-To books that I’ve read, from How To Write all the way down to How To Self-Publish, and I’ve realized that I still share many of the same thoughts you’ve included in this entry. Just keep pushing forward, write your book just to write it.

    • August 4, 2012 6:45 pm

      I think it does come down to that in the end, doesn’t it? The book will be what it is, if it truly comes from the heart of me, and the world will either love it or hate it. My job is to make it the best it can be, and then let it go where it will.

  15. August 3, 2012 7:40 pm

    I’m definitely nervous. In fact, I’ve held off on submitting shorts for publication for the last year or so, trying to focus on the craft of writing instead of the game of publication. I want to play that game, I really do – but I don’t want to send stuff out there when it’s not the best I can do, and that’s a pretty high bar.

    • August 4, 2012 6:50 pm

      Hi kelworthfiles,
      Welcome to A Scenic Route!

      Good for you, on building the foundation for future work. That’s pretty much where I’m at, as the only submitting I do is for critiques. Those were challenging enough!
      Maybe there will come a time when I feel that I am ready to submit for publication, just like there was for the blog and the critiques. Meanwhile, I think I’ve decided to just keep having fun with this, and learning as much as I can in the process!

  16. T.F.Walsh permalink
    August 4, 2012 3:33 am

    Great post… something I can identify with for sure. I always get nervous submitting something.. heck I’m anxious about it while I write it..hehe. Self doubt is always there, so I try to do things to make myself feel better – spend time with friends, read a book, watch a movie, anything to shake off the feeling, and then I jump back into the race:)

    • August 4, 2012 6:54 pm

      For me, music seems to put my self doubt to rest, so putting a playlist together before I write really helps. I remember when I used to get knots in my stomach just sitting down to write!
      Reading can go either way for me though. Sometimes I look at the writing and think, heck, I can do that. But sometimes I read and wonder, what possesses me to think I could ever write something this good…

  17. August 31, 2012 11:50 pm

    Your wit and creativity is honest and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • September 1, 2012 10:04 am

      I’m glad you liked the post!
      Now that I read it over again myself, I can see that thanks to the comments I’ve gotten, publishing has become more and more appealing.
      As long as it doesn’t stand in the way of doing more writing. 😉

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