In 2014, I wrote and submitted my very first traditionally published book (and you can pre-order it here). The process of drafting, editing and submitting was nothing less than a constant fight with negative inner voices. I was a mess. But it’s done. And I’ve survived.
I’ve written and published a book before, but the first one was self-published. When I self published, I realized I had this huge ocean of grace — all the mistakes, all the decisions, all the vision, all the glaring spelling errors are mine alone. No one else was invested. The stakes were low. I joined the ranks of thousands of other writers who publish their own work too, for better or worse, and I could rest comfortably that my reviews (some of course, from my family and close friends) were there to build me up and keep me going. (Bless her heart! She has a hobby!)
This book was vastly different. There was an ACTUAL PUBLISHER involved. And Actual Publisher had to negotiate a deal with Literary Agent (that I had to SIGN WITH !!!) so that me, AUTHOR, can write a book! Now the stakes were higher. This is the story of how that deal went down. It’s pretty crazy.
With this contract, my writing was no longer a hobby, if it ever was. Now it’s real. My communications, my presence, my manuscript has to be professional.
When I sat down this last spring and wrote out my chapters, I have to admit, I was shaking. More than once I tensed up, thinking they had the wrong writer, the wrong idea, or this was all a big mistake. But I kept going. More than once, I had to remind myself that they approached me. I didn’t approach them. They saw something in me. I didn’t cajole or manipulate or bribe them. They were willing to risk their brand on me to the point that documents were signed and checks were written. Oh, and I had already spent the advance, so I couldn’t give it back.
If those voices of self doubt weren’t enough, I also thought the project itself was talking to me. It said all kinds of evil things to me, especially when it came to certain songs on my lyric free Pandora stations. If it was the Downton Abbey theme? My WIP got all pretentious, talked to me in a fake English accent, and distracted me. It told me how we were going to marry off my daughters to keep the entailment, fight a war and then forced me to make tea (which I make just to keep WIP quiet). Then I say something about how we need to get to work because it was a work in progress and it needs to be finished. With that, the fully nonverbal WIP accused me of pulling an O’Brien. It said, You are in a conspiracy to kill me off. Well, you ARE a work-in-progress, you’re going to be done someday, I say. I consider pouring my cup of tea on my keyboard to keep it quiet but saner inner voices prevailed.
To add to all this, the irony smacked me in the face on a daily basis. I wrote in the manuscript: Because to have your name attached to something of inferior quality insults your hard work and the readers who read it. Hello, self? Yes, would you like more pressure? You don’t seem to have enough, do you?
But after six months, I finished it. And then I experienced this very odd feeling: I was so glad to have this 800 pound tea sipping gorilla of a task off my back, but then realizing HEY! I always wanted to have this particular gorilla!!!! I was stressed and concerned about the whole project, but did I actually enjoy it? I don’t know yet. Let’s get to the reviews.
I am fortunate enough to have close friends with strong editing backgrounds. So I gave my little manuscript to Jane and Barb and asked them to give it a once over with their stabby red pens to find all the errors. I foolishly thought that between the two of them, I’d see them all. There would be so much overlap between the two ladies’ interpretations, that this little book would most definitely sing.
Um. No. That’s not what happened. Barb gave me five pages of notes. Five pages!! And after I made all her corrections, I looked at Jane’s notes. Jane wrote right on the ms itself and her notes were nothing like Barb’s!!! I would like to say, with complete confidence that I inhaled a deep breath and exhaled a prayer of gratitude that my thorough friends did such an excellent job of trouble shooting. But that’s not what I did at all. I caught myself thinking, this proves I’m a loser!
NO! It doesn’t. After going through all the corrections, I stopped thinking that. I realized that this was just part of the learning process. Jane and Barb also had a lot of NICE things to say and they were all true. My friends loved me and never accused me of being fictional British housemaids. They edited my book for free. I’m not a loser, I’m a wise writer who understands the power of thoughtful readers to help.
Then I was ready to submit. No matter how nervous I was, I had to push the send button. The truth of the situation is that the deal is done. My agent will not drop me because of this book. The publishers are already committed. They aren’t going to change their minds. (Note to self: Just the fact that you think that this is a possibility may be a sign there’s more sessions with your therapist in the future. And mention Downton Abbey. Think about it.)
Guess what? I wasn’t done after submission. A few weeks ago, the proofs came and I had to go over them and make a few changes. I was only slightly less neurotic with this task. It helped that both my agent and the publisher had very nice things to say about the manuscript. I also have to say that seeing my name like this is a great motivator.
So that’s the story. What have I learned? There’s a price to pay for pursuing my dreams. My price includes facing my neuroses head on and working my butt off.
And it’s worth it.