It’s that time of year, where a frantic scramble to get things done is not only predicted, it’s somewhat expected. In my life, we have not only the holidays, but also both of my children’s birthdays flanking Christmas, and my visions of my own personal deadlines so I can look over my year of work and be pleased with myself.
I frequently make myself sick this time of year.
Three days before Christmas, and I still must venture out for a few small presents for dear friends, but this writing business stops for no one.
The year has been a modest one in terms of word count. I started, and then stopped around 50k, a tightly-wound story about a family in the throes of crisis, having written myself into a corner. I hope to go back and figure out how to unravel this, because I think, at the heart of it, the story is a sound one, and interesting. With Laila Blake, I completed a collection of short stories centered around our characters from After Life Lessons (you can find it here), as well as the first draft for the second, and final, book featuring those characters and their post-apocalyptic world. I completed the first in a trilogy about a dystopian world with a mysterious narrator, and rewrote 3/4 of a novel I originally completed last December, giving this year a sort of fun, cyclical sort of ending. Several pieces of erotica were also accepted this year, and a few have come out in print already, with more planned in anthologies next year.
This year, on a lot of fronts, was more dedicated to the publishing side of writing, which is a much newer experience for yours truly. Editing is one of my favorite activities, and one of my greater skills, and I found myself doing a lot more of that this year, with several rewrites and edits on After Life Lessons before it went to print in April, as well as several edits on At the Edge of the World, which came out in August. I also have picked over and helped groom Laila’s first two installments of the Lakeside Series, and the last in her Breaking in Waves trilogy.
From there, I am still a little floundering, still learning to swim, in a way. Lilt Literary is slowly gaining steam, and with it, we are working on aspects of publishing that are mostly new and foreign to us. I used to work in marketing, in advertising, but on the production end: I wrote and composed ads, I did not sell them. I am innately shy, a little terrified of talking to just about anyone– I had a friend once comment that I never looked in anyone’s eyes, something I’d never really noticed, but find myself doing kind of constantly unless I know a person well.
Marketing yourself is hard. It is even harder when you, as a person, don’t do well talking yourself up, not to mention live in a society where women are, for the most part, conditioned to shy away from self-congratulation, from believing they’re worth listening to, or caring about. Selling a book is a little like selling yourself– I’m not one to compare a book to a baby, but, certainly, it represents a large amount of time, and effort, and skills, and, so, it’s a product of you, of your abilities. Telling someone how great it is, and that they should care about it, read it, is like telling them why they should be your friend. It’s uncomfortable at best, horrifying at the worst.
Independant and self-publishing means you’re doing a majority of the work of a book on your own. You write it, you proof it, you edit and re-edit, you design and format and convert files, get it to distributors, advertise. At Lilt Literary, we’re lucky to both be trained as editors, and proof-readers, and pride ourselves on tightly-written and edited work. Laila is a wizard with graphic design, and has produced jaw-dropping covers for all of our books. We’ve become well-versed with computer formatting for different output (both physical and digital), and in many avenues of distribution.
My confidence wavers at advertising. As a small-time publishing house, we are shut out of many traditional channels: obviously we’re not going to be able to put an ad in a widely-read magazine, or get ourselves on a talk show. Our budget is smaller than a traditional publishing house, and so getting our books on the shelves of local and national bookstores isn’t within our ability at this moment.
There is a stigma attached to independent and self-publishing, too, one that is, and isn’t, accurate. With the ease of Amazon uploading, for instance, a person can take a poorly-written fanfic and have it for sale in 5 minutes flat. What is a beautiful invention– the ability to reach masses with a click of a mouse– can be burdened by lack of quality control. While this is a topic for another time (and I do love talking about it), the point is more: it’s hard to get noticed, harder to get people to read, and believe, in your ability when you are not coming out of a big-name publisher.
It’s definitely been a learning process, but one that is slowly becoming easier, clearer, and showing results. Over the last year alone I, and we, have learned so much about getting our books to readers, and making a successful profit, that I’m actually excited about doing more in the new year, where, even a few months ago, I even loathed writing an email to a potential reviewer.
It turns out writing is an ever-evolving practice. Who knew?
Here’s wishing you the happiest of holidays, and bountiful new year.
When I was eleven years old, my mother and I were at the grocery store. We were waiting at the deli for our order, when my mother saw a sign on a nearby display. CHEESE’S, it read.
Faster than you can blink, my mother had dug a pen out of her purse and was crossing out the apostrophe.
My family is really into proper grammar.
When I was in college, my degree program insisted I take a variety of writing courses that I had very little interest in taking: technical and business writing, logic. I was surprisingly good at tech writing, but I found my niche in editing.
Writers, as a group, hate editors. Now, it might be because I do enjoy self-loathing so much (it’s my sport), I am both a writer, and work freelance as an editor. I have never had quite the same visceral reaction to my work being edited as I have heard from other writers. The sight of red pen (or, in this computer age, red tracking marks) does not send me into a panic spiral. I have never been afraid to kill my babies or, really, kill the prettiest phrases that have ever jumped from my fingertips.
The last couple weeks have been taken up with editing the collabs I’ve written with Laila. The one was in its last round before being sent out for submission, and the second is in its first, messy round. I’ve been told writers can’t edit themselves, that they don’t have the distance, or the ability to be openly critical of themselves. Perhaps the majority of writers have healthier self-esteem than I, or a longer memory (have I mentioned I strongly relate to Dory, from Finding Nemo?).
I fell no compunctions when it comes to editing my work. I can slash and burn with the best of them, and have no real attachment to any words or phrases that I have wrought in the past. There is, actually, a certain satisfaction in picking apart, in cutting and honing, that I can’t even get from writing.
There is, indeed, too, a sense of purpose that comes with editing. Combing through words you wrote weeks and months before, pulling the story together tighter, as if with stitches, and seeing how the story turns into something you can feel proud of, and feel good about sending to – agents, editors, publishing houses, your mom, that is weirdly a rush I can’t quite replicate even in the telling.
I don’t know if I have a special skill, or if, as I said above, some kind of deficit: poor memory, masochism. The editing part of writing is just as natural, and needed, to me as the creating part. There is no violence in removal, I don’t think, just the beginning of something new.
Today has been reading, and rereading, and making words that sounded good together before sound fantastic. It’s like its only little reward: a tweak, a nudge, a pinch of salt – and then it’s exactly the way it should be.