Feel The Fear And Publish Anyway

Don't be afraid to shout it out!

Don’t be afraid to shout it out!

I’m currently in the editing stage of my third Ambeth book, Hills and Valleys. It’s already been out to beta readers and I’ve made several adjustments based on their suggestions, all very much in keeping with the spirit of the story. And I’ve just received editorial notes from my editor, Lucy, who is fantastic in that she really ‘gets’ the story, and therefore makes really useful suggestions when it comes to narrative flow and character development. One of the great things about being an independent author is that it’s then completely up to me as to which suggestions I run with, though, as I’ve said previously, I tend to agree with most points she raises.

I’ve been writing copy for other people for years, which I find quite different to writing my own work. By the time it’s published it’s been edited back and forth, shaped and reworked to fit their vision, not mine, so I usually feel quite detached once I see it in print. But seeing my own work printed, holding my own book in my hand, knowing that the words in there are OUT now, that strangers are reading it, is quite a different thing. And so I want it, therefore, to be the best version it can be. A professional edit is, to me, worth every penny. I’m not privy to endless streams of cash, so I do have to plan ahead and budget, but it’s well worth doing. And beta readers are invaluable for picking up plot holes and inconsistencies, things we are often blind to after staring at our work for so long.

So, all this is a long way of saying: YOU MUST SHOW YOUR WORK TO OTHER PEOPLE.

This may seem completely obvious – after all, we write so that others will read our work, don’t we? And yet, especially when it’s your first book, this is something that’s easier said than done. Sometimes it might seem easier to just press ‘Publish’ and let your story wander out into the world, at the mercy of whichever reader might pick it up, rather than subjecting yourself to the ordeal of feedback from people you actually know. When you’re writing about love or anger or s-e-x, you are drawing on the deeper emotional parts of yourself – to then share these things with people you know is a curiously intimate process and can feel quite confronting.

Yet you have to. You have to do this. I attended a seminar some time ago with several literary agents and one of them made this point very clearly. You have to get used to other people seeing your work. So you have to stamp down that little voice that says it’s not ready, it’s not good enough, no-one will like it. And you will, hopefully, be surprised.

I find it much easier to do now. This blog has helped a great deal in terms of confidence, as have all the comments I’ve had, and the positive reviews. Yet there is still that moment when I see the email come back from a beta reader or editor and think ‘Oh god, did they hate it?’ Which is ridiculous, of course. But nonetheless it is there. And if they do hate it, if several readers pick up on the same thing, then I need to take it on board and make changes. After all, this sort of feedback is kinder coming from people you know before the book is published, rather than anonymously in black and white, preserved for posterity in the reviews.

So, even though it may feel as though you are stripping your soul bare, you need to step back from those words, from the story that for so long has been just the two of you in a quiet room. Share it around, show off a little. After all, writing a book is an accomplishment in itself.

30 thoughts on “Feel The Fear And Publish Anyway

  1. Such an inspirational post! I really want to publish. I have made a decision – I am going to work up my ChickLit series into a book and publish! I like writing comedy and it feels right.

    • I use about half a dozen per book, and each bring something different in terms of their viewpoint, which is helpful. They read before it goes to the editor, so I can sort out any major structural stuff or plot holes rather than wasting Lucy’s time with it.

    • I have so far, Geoff – I was lucky to have a group of people around me who were keen to read the books, plus a few friends overseas. There are a couple of writers in the group, but everyone has brought something different to their appraisal, which is really useful.

  2. I am so glad I showed my work to others before I hit the publish button. Okay, maybe I am only glad in hindsight. At the time I did it, I thought that I might have just as easily have drunk a liter of cod liver oil for the nausea it brought on, but overall I think it was worth it.

    • Yes, it’s so tough to do initially, isn’t it? And you don’t like to ask how they’re going, if they’ve read it yet, but at the same time you’re dying to know. Really worth it though – I had so much useful feedback, especially on the first book – really helped to shape the writing.

  3. I so relate to that fear of showing your writing to others and I so agree with the value of feedback. You do have to brace yourself for the negative, but as you say, the long term benefits make it worth it. Besides, it’s two (or more) heads instead of one, especially as my head is sometimes empty of ideas, and makes it that bit less lonely.

  4. Absolutely right, Helen. I remember getting my first feedback from an editor and feeling like a child who’d been told off for a couple of days, but I gradually came to realise that it wasn’t personal and the suggestions made were designed to improve things. The second time he wasn’t so gentle (but then the manuscript wasn’t as good) and I recovered from that much faster – so it’s a good habit to get into.

    As for beta readers, I had a very limited range of people around me when I wrote Ravens Gathering, and certainly none who could give serious, constructive feedback, so I was very reliant on the editor. I may have a few people now that I can ask (largely through blogging), so will definitely use them next time.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Graeme (and for sharing this post) – the first time being edited was definitely the most difficult for me too, and I think it’s quite natural to feel that way. I’m much more used to it now as well and, once I got over my initial ‘sulk’, realised that the suggestions would improve my book (again, like your experience). I think that we have to be open to suggestions, definitely – my group of beta readers are invaluable. It’s about putting ego aside, I guess πŸ™‚

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