I’ll tell you a secret: I am in awe of anyone who writes a novel. Anyone. Even if the book is terrible. Even if it’s barely readable. I’m still in awe. Because they sat down and they wrote a damn book.
I’ve been trying to do that for years, but the longest thing I’ve managed to write so far was about 15,000 words long. In my head it was originally going to be a novel, but apparently writing that many words is not yet something I can do. But I was proud of my little story, and I wanted to do something with it. I don’t really have the patience for the long process of querying, especially for something that’s such an awkward length, so I decided: why not become one of those indie authors I work with every day?
So I did. I am now an actual author! This is very exciting. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was little, and now I can finally say I am one. And here’s what I learned along the way.
Books won’t write themselves
I know, right? What a revelation. But I think part of me was somehow hoping this wasn’t really true. This story had been floating around my head for ages, but the actual getting-it-down part was the thing I kept never getting around to. But no one else is going to do that for you, as I discovered. And then once it’s down, there are the editing, feedback and more editing stages, which are crucial. So now it’s done, I wish I’d started sooner, and kept going with it. You’ll never achieve something if you don’t actually do the thing. (Deep, I know.)
Even editors need editors
I knew this, and so I asked another editor I know to copyedit for me. And I knew I was sending her tight, clean copy that wouldn’t need too much doing to it. But there were still errors, and still stupid sentences like “He shook his head to clear such a ridiculous thought from his head”. There comes a point where you can’t see your own work, so a fresh pair of eyes on it is an absolute must.
I am “that” client.
Turns out, I’m a pain in the arse. I’m that client, the one who insists her words are too precious to mess with. My editor did a great job, and I took lots of her advice. But I also ignored some of it, just because I didn’t like it. And you know what? It was my right as the author to do this. This is one of the first lessons an editor needs to learn. As editors, all we can do is suggest. If the author wants to put something out there that’s less than perfect, or even downright wrong, there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not our name on the cover. But it’s my name on this cover, and I needed to feel completely comfortable with every change that was made to my work. In the best author–editor relationships, both parties totally understand that, and I hope I have those with my clients, because I know I did with my editor.
It might surprise you who will buy your book
I’ve had some lovely and surprising messages from people I haven’t seen in years, people I only know from social media, and friends of my husband’s who I’ve never met, saying they bought my book and enjoyed it. Nothing makes you feel like a Proper Author more than knowing someone other than your mum is reading your work (to be honest, I’m not totally sure my mother has read it).
I have the best cheerleaders
I’m not sure I ever would have got this story out into the world without lots of encouragement and love from my friends and family. Many of them gave up their time to read my story and tell me their thoughts, and without their kindness my story would still be languishing on my computer. I’m sure there are people who would say it should probably stay there (I was once told not to even think of publishing anything until I’d written a million words), but that was never what I wanted for this story. I wanted to share it, and now I have, thanks to the people who believed in me.
I’m really glad I published my story. It was so interesting to be on the other end of editing, and to see the rest of the self-publishing process that I’m not normally involved in. I hope it’s going to make me a better editor, and I hope the buzz of doing it will motivate me to get on with some of my other writing projects. And hopefully it won’t be another five years until the next one’s finished. Honestly, I’m worse than George RR Martin. And I don’t even have flying dragons or incest to worry about.