10 good things about not being published

Take a seat (© Clare O'Dea)
Take a seat (© Clare O’Dea)

Writing is a very private and personal affair; publishing is anything but. I seem to be hearing a lot lately about published writers living not so happily-ever-after once their first book is out there. They have to deal with changes they were pressured into making, a title or cover they don’t like, poor sales or reviews, stressful book promotion and the pressure to get the next book written or accepted.

On some level I must be taking this in and yet it has about the same effect as hearing about someone else’s unhappy marriage, when you and your chosen one are still love-struck and kissing on a park bench.

So just to celebrate the journey, here are ten great things about writing while it’s all about passion:

1. Just the Two of Us: You spend a lot of time together and you’ve been through a lot. The characters have become real people whose unfolding stories keep you from ever feeling bored. After that long process of building a relationship sentence by sentence, you are protective of your manuscript. Nobody who isn’t hand-picked by you will get to comment on your work. You’re slightly unhinged about the book but who cares, it’s mine, all mine!

2. Dream a Little Dream: If you haven’t tried to get published yet, you haven’t tasted failure and this is the time when you can still dream big. On your first query letter, the agent will instantly get back to you asking for more and it will be love at first sight for him or her. This will be followed by a bidding war, a fabulous launch party, the big reaction, the prizes, translations, interviews. Who will play your lead character in the hit movie?

3. Sitting on the Dock of the Bay: There has to be a certain self-imposed pressure or you would never have got as far as finishing the book, but it is self-imposed and therefore adapted to your reality and routine, and, well, if you keep extending your deadline, no one minds but you.

4. Wild World: This may not apply if you have started submitting your novel but before that phase, you are delightfully naïve about the whole publishing business. That innocence is something you’ll probably miss someday.

5. All By Myself: You know the argument, partly because successful self-published authors are very vocal about it. Agents are the gatekeepers to a moribund publishing industry that excludes good books from reaching the audience they deserve. You can spend your life crying over your forty rejection slips or take matters into your own hands and bring out your own book. Better still, don’t even bother submitting to agents and publishers, put your energy into self-publishing and reap the rewards.
When you are still writing you can ignore this whole debate, as it’s only academic – for now.

6. It Had to Be You: Somewhere out there is someone who will like your work, believe in what you do and put their heart and soul into getting your book off the ground. You haven’t met them yet, but when you do find the one, it will all have been worthwhile. In the meantime, you can dream about getting the call.

7. You’re So Vain: If you haven’t had the good fortune of having your book chosen by an agent or a publisher then you won’t have experienced the begrudgery backlash that inevitably comes with success. Even writing buddies you laboured uphill with may not be immune from thinking sour thoughts about you.

8. Learning to Fly: Writing your first novel is special because it’s an intense learning process, and that makes it very interesting. You can do the learning in advance or learn as you go about point-of-view, antagonists, show-don’t-tell, foreshadowing, revising. Either way it’s a pleasure.

9. With a Little Help from My Friends: Since I started writing two years ago I have met many wonderful people – some in person and some through social media – who have been bitten by the same bug. Some I now count as friends, whose support and understanding light the way on this sometimes lonely journey.

10. When I Wish Upon a Star: Before you write a book, there has usually been a long period of carrying around that wish and doubting your ability ever to achieve it. That fantastic feeling of satisfaction when you get to the last page is for keeps, and it is independent of the publishing outcome.

Did I miss anything folks?

22 thoughts on “10 good things about not being published

  1. Love this post!! I’m going to be posting something on Monday about an interview I did with a literary agent. Her views are quite patronising against self published authors. I think they forget we WANT to self publish!

  2. Great post, Clare. The only thing I’d add is the unbridled joy of thinking/saying/telling anyone who’ll listen – ‘I’ve finished my book!’ without realising that it is only the beginning. It’s nice to allow yourself to walk on air for a few days/weeks/months until you start editing and revising.

  3. Great post. I’m self published so although I’m not being paid any ‘big bucks’, I can do everything in my own time. I love to write, but with a full time job and my daughter’s wedding to plan, I don’t have time to find agents, publishers etc. Maybe next year, until then, I’ll just keep doing what I enjoy.

    1. Congratulations on flying solo, I wish you every success with your book. You’re so right, the bottom line is to keep doing what we enjoy.

  4. I love the way you combined realism and a positive outlook in your list of ten good things. I’m in the middle of getting my novel published, a process that has its share of pleasure and pain. And yet, despite all the difficulties along the way, I’m enjoying the challenge and the new things I’m learning and experiencing. One of the joys of getting ready to publish is blogging. I’d never thought of starting a blog. I’m sure I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t been advised to develop a “platform.” Now, after seven months of blogging, I’m really glad I did. I’ve made some new, interesting relationships, I’ve connected with old friends, and I’ve developed an interest in writing essays. Who would have known?

    1. Hi Nicki, glad to hear things are so advanced with you. I wonder if this idea of a developing platform hasn’t become quite a burden for authors. Some people I follow on twitter seem to have an exhausting load of social media outlets on the go. I’ve enjoyed blogging over the last 14 months but I don’t know if I can keep it up indefinitely. I probably just need an energy drink!

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