Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Y = Years of Writing Don't Mean Your Book is Done

I’ve heard premature publishers, when confronted with criticism of their books, say, “But I’ve been writing this book for years! I just couldn’t wait another minute to publish!”

Some people write fast; others write more slowly. Some writers get it right during the second draft; others go through their work piece by piece, dozens of times. Everyone goes at his own pace. If your book isn’t ready, it’s not ready. Period. And if someone tells you it shouldn’t have been published yet, then no excuses on your part will give them back the hours they spent reading it. 

Take your time to get it right, but if you’ve been working for years on the same thing and it’s still not fit for public viewing, then take a step back and evaluate why. Are you burnt out on the book? Do you want to move on to something else but don’t want to trash the sheer volume of hours you’ve put into this book? Set it aside for a little while and write something for fun. Heck, write another book that flows easier. Maybe you’ll come back to your original project refreshed, and maybe it will sit in the drawer for years before you want to revisit it. Maybe absence will help it to rearrange itself in your mind so your path is clearer when you go back to it.

When it’s done, it’s done. And if it’s not, don’t publish yet. 

45 comments:

  1. I've spent years working on novels that I ended up stowing in the closet. I knew in my gut, even after some revising, that they weren't good enough. Not easy to do, but occasionally necessary.

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    1. That would be a difficult thing, but you know your name will be on it, and that's what people will forever associate with that name. That alone would inspire me to put away the "not good enough" stuff.

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  2. Put out something that sucks and you've burned all of your chances.

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    1. It all goes back to the "one chance to make a good impression" thing.

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  3. Good advice Lynda. It can be hard to accept after all of the time put into it that it isn't publishable. I like to think that once we truly master the art of the storytelling (creating tension that draws a reader into the story along with compelling characters blah blah blah) when we go back to those old manuscripts we WILL BE ABLE TO FIX THEM. Better to shelve it and come back to it than to publish it before it is ready. Definitely.

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    1. You're right, Robin. Having to put something on a shelf for awhile can actually pay off once more skills are learned. There are a significant number of authors who "go back" and fix earlier editions of books after learning more.

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  4. Your post really resonated with me.
    I'm working on some edits of my 2012 A to Z flash fiction pieces/vignettes... and I'm still not happy with them... *sighs*... but I'll get there...
    Maybe they'll never be good enough... though I'm hoping that one day they will...

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    1. Pick them up, put them down, work on them when the mood is upon you. One of these days, you'll add that final word and suddenly they'll feel just right to you.

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  5. I think that's great advice. rejuvenate and refurbish

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  6. Excellent advice. I keep hearing from people how much they love my first book, because I took the time and waited until it was ready, and it makes me anxious to be 100% sure the sequel is in the same stage or better before it hits the world. You really only get one shot at this publishing thing.

    True Heroes from A to Z

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    1. And Crystal, your patience paid off in a wonderful way. It does give the confidence to be equally careful with the sequel when you realize that.

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  7. It's good advice not to put out something that isn't ready. Although I'd worry about taking a critic's word on whether it's ready or not. You know where you are with it as a writer. They may just be having a bad day, or not reading the book they thought they were.

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    1. I think you hit upon a good point, Stu, when you say "you know where you are with it as a writer." The people I get frustrated with are those who say, "I know it still needs work, but I've just been waiting so long, I can't wait another day." If it's ready, then by all means, hit that "publish" button. If not, you're doing yourself and your readers a disservice by publishing prematurely.

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  8. Yep! I just read on another blog that it took Tolstoy 4 years to just do the research for his tome. Guess it paid off.

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    1. Lee, there's something about the name "Tolstoy" that requires the word "tome" rather than the simpler "book."

      Research and writing is probably like painting a room: all the prep work takes longer than the painting itself.

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    2. I think door stop is probably a better term. :)

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  9. Excellent advice. It's not ready until it's ready!

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    1. If you don't hear a fat lady singing, the "publish" button should be disabled.

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  10. I wish more people would listen to this. Seem to be reading more and more books which shouldn't have been published yet.

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    1. I hear you, Jo. I know you've mentioned reading books with questionable (or no) editing, and I feel the same way when I read them. Is this the first draft? Did anyone else read it? Did you just get impatient to tell someone "I wrote a book!"?

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  11. There's always the urge to rush to publish. The only problem is that the rushing shows.

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    1. I honestly think the amateurs have no idea how transparent the "rush" aspect is.

      I once had an art class in college, and I'd forgotten to do the assignment for the week (a pencil sketch of a houseplant), so I hurried up and drew something before class. The teacher took one look and said, "Did you draw this on the way here?" I tried to act insulted, but he nailed it with one glance.

      No different with books. One glance can tell the experienced reader how little time was put into a book.

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  12. This is really good advice, Lynda.
    We're almost there. Thank you for visiting me regularly and giving me the encouragement to go on.
    Back to normal shortly, and thankfully.
    I'm staying with you.

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    1. I've been enjoying getting to know you, Fanny! Now we can sit back and visit each other like normal people. Whatever normal is, right?

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  13. Spending years writing on something is out for me now. I used to do it, but the hesitation was a lack of confidence more so than the book not being ready. The reason I am enjoying having an editor is when I feel the story is there I can get someone else to fix the stuff that doesn't interest me as much freeing me up for more writing.

    Brandon Ax: Writer's Storm

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    1. At least you recognize where the hesitation stemmed from, Brandon. I knew you'd be hooked on having Janie do your dirty work for you. :)

      I'm in favor of anything that helps you to write more!

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  14. What Brandon said...'years writing...is out'...for me too, but probably for different reasons, as I'm sure he has many more years to write than I do. I'm writing a family history that I hope to publish when it's finished, so I will heed your advice and put it aside (top shelf-hall closet) with a note attached for my descendants....Finish it, make it right, and reap the benefits. I'd like to think I will finish it, but you know how family history can go on and on, and I do suffer from GVD and must know EVERYTHING there is to know about every ancestor.

    For now, I am happy to be able to click on the Publish button on my Blog and the one under this comment box. And, because for me, EASY READER has been the Best Blog on this years AtoZ Challenge list I'd be pleased to be Published on your sidebar.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

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    1. I'll bet your family history will be great, Sue, whether someone finds it in the closet "someday" or whether that someone is you, hitting the "publish" button.

      As far as my sidebar goes, consider it done. I'd just been thinking about updating it, now that I've found so many great blogs through the A to Z. :)

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    2. On my resume....Pubished by EASY READER. Thanks, Lynda.

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  15. Yep - you hit it. That's why a critique group comes in handy. Fellow writers will tell you (kindly) if it's a thumbs up or down. I've been fortunate. They've liked my work. Next step was marketing the book - the general public has not been as kind.
    Just found your blog. Great A to Z

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    1. Yessirreebob. Critique groups are great for honesty, and can either stop you from publishing too soon or bump you into getting that great (finished) book out there.

      Ohh . . . marketing. I could do a month's worth of blog posts on what authors feel about marketing their books.

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  16. Wise words, Lynda. I actually write at my own pace, whenever I want. No schedule and no undue pressure. Each story, broken down into manageable, realistic, workable amounts. If it doesn't feel right, then I just know. Of course, I have a famous dog to help me. Every bit of encouragement helps.

    Gary

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    1. Either you're very laid back and realistic, or Penny is a superb office manager. Each scenario works! And encouragement is a wonderful, necessary thing.

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  17. Finally you mention premature publication. By Right of Arms sat on a shelf unfinished for several years. It sat, maybe, almost a decade. Then one day I pulled it out and finished the first draft. Then I spent the last 8 years rewriting and polishing. Then sent to the editors, bandaged it when I got it back because it was hemorrhaging. Rewrote some more, back to the editors who gave it the green light with minor changes and viola published piece of art. On the other hand, Blood and Steel was written in 6 months including rewrites and editors. Again a Masterpiece. Well in my unbiased opinion anyway.

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    1. The wait must have been worth it, though, if it was a masterpiece when all was said and done. Glad you stopped the hemorrhaging!

      And a second masterpiece, to boot. Hats off to you, JT! ;)

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  18. This is great advice, but I can recognize that it's also super hard. After all, if writing takes a lot of patience, then selfpubbing seems to take ten times the amount! Patience is not my strong suit under even the best of circumstances, so while I have sympathy for a writer who just wants to publish right away, as a reviewer I also cringe to see these books. How am I supposed to tell them that the book needs work? Very carefully, I suppose.

    I'm both worried and interested to see tomorrow's post. Sadly, April is gone, but at least we have one more post left. :)

    --H.C. Dallis
    Latest post - Challenge of the Week: Character Quirks that Matter

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    1. Since the self-pub crowd has to be chief, cook, and bottle washer for each book, I would imagine the patience runs out long before the production is complete. The trick is to work through it without losing your mind. This is my theory, anyway.

      I also have sympathy for those who want to "get it out there" but cringe right along with you when I read the books that just aren't ready.

      No need to worry about tomorrow's post. It's sheer fun. :)

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  19. I couldn't have said this better myself. Really, I couldn't. I would probably insult better . . . but oh well, that's neither here nor there. Premature publishers scare off readers, and they scare me, and I pray I don't become one. So don't #$@#$ let me become one. Thanks much! :P

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    1. I thought *I* was the insulter of the pair.

      I promise, on a stack of coffee beans, that I shall never, ever, ever allow you to become a premature publisher. I will tackle you to the ground, in fact, to stop you from hitting the "publish" button if needed.

      Tough love, baby, tough love.

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  20. Excellent advice that can be hard to remember in the moment. Thanks for the refresher!

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    1. You're welcome, Nicole! People write at different speeds, but it's not done until it's done, and no amount of excited rushing will change that.

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  21. I feel the urge to write. I feel the urge to edit. I rarely feel the urge to publish. That's why it took me twenty-five years before I published Reprobate. But I wrote the second half of Peccadillo and published that book two-and-a-half months later. Many reviewers commented that Peccadillo is better than Reprobate.

    There's this anecdote about Picasso where a woman asks him to sketch her portrait and he takes out a pen and sketches her portrait on a napkin in half a minute. Then he asks a few thousand for the sketch and the woman protests and says, "You can't ask thousands for a sketch that took you thirty seconds."
    And Picasso replies, "No, ma'am, that sketch took me thirty years."

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    1. Maybe after twenty-five years, you finally got up to full speed. Warm-ups are important so you don't pull a muscle, you know.

      Now I'll have to pay close attention when I read both books to see which one is better, and if I can genuinely tell the difference in the writing times.

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    2. When you read both books? I'm sorely disappointed you haven't read them already. I thought you were already on the third book.

      Or were you just pacing yourself?

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