No, You’re (Still) Not Ready to Publish

From my 2011 archives…

Don’t you hate it when the Inner Critic is right? After years of being shoved aside and trampled, he gloats over fleeting opportunities to jump up and down and yell, “I told you so!” and it’s so annoying.

It’s not easy to admit, but many of us are probably among the 99.9% of writers who mistakenly thought our brilliantly written and endlessly polished first novels were ready for launching. In hindsight we know better, but at the time we were enthusiastic about their chances in the market.

I read of one writer who said, “Don’t tell me first novels never sell. If I believed that, why would I bother to finish mine?” When we first begin writing, the naïve mindset is like a protective cloak… “we don’t know what we don’t know.”

My husband quotes one of his professors as cautioning, “For the first ten years in ministry, don’t preach on Revelation. After that you’ll know better than to preach on Revelation.”  As writers we could use a similar admonition — something along the lines of, “Write your heart out on the first book but steel yourself to the reality that it’s only a learning experience.”

Reality sucks! But it’s not as if we expect a new surgeon to immediately perform brain surgery, or a beginning athlete to compete in the Olympics, so why do we expect our first novel should be bestseller material?

Anne Allen wrote an excellent post on “12 signs your novel isn’t ready to publish.” She directed it to those who were tempted to self-publish too soon, but her ideas make good sense for all of us seeking publication. I particularly like the simplicity and sense of her comment, “All beginners make mistakes. Falling down and making a mess is part of any learning process. But you don’t have to display the mess to the world.”

Yes, we worked darned hard on that story and we’d like to reap some benefit from the effort. Well, guess what? We did. The benefit is in the education. We read and wrote and learned. Part of what we learned is how little we actually knew before we began the process. Part of what we will learn tomorrow is how little we know today.

When more experienced writers warned me about the Inner Critic’s unreliability, they didn’t suggest how to react on the odd occasions when he might be right. I’m sorry, but there’s no being graceful in the face of his taunts.

“I’m learning with experience. So shut up already!”

If someone knowledgeable told you the book you are currently writing would never sell, would you finish it anyway, or stop where you are?

~

Ostrich Photo by anankkml
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Writing Despite Distractions

Sounds of a table saw and power nailer add to the smell of freshly baked bread and contribute to my Saturday morning distractions. My hubby is outside, glad for the sunshine as he power washes the final side of the house, and I’m sorely tempted to abandon my inside chores and escape out to the garden. But I mustn’t. Not yet.

I promised myself I wouldn’t let this week slide by without finishing a chapter in my new manuscript and writing a blog post, so I’m chained to my laptop until that’s accomplished.

It can be difficult to ignore distractions, especially appealing ones, but I try hard to stick to my priorities which, right now, are to rough draft a second book in a series, then return to an older story and rewrite it to become the third. I don’t have a definite timeline, but am squinting hopefully at year end.

Aspiring writers are often heard to say they’re going to write a book sometime … perhaps when the baby finally sleeps through the night so they aren’t always exhausted, or when the children are in school, or when retirement from the day job arrives … sometime, when they have time. The problem is, time rarely makes itself available. Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion” and Isaac Asimov’s corollary to that says, “In ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day.

It’s a safe bet there will never be any leftover time, so whether or not a book gets written will depend entirely on the writer’s commitment to the task and the desire to make time. I think all of us have dreamt of endless hours sequestered in a hideaway writing our life’s work uninterrupted from beginning to end. I think we also all know it’ll never happen.

Even full-time career authors and retired writers with no children at home acknowledge the reality of everyday life and the limitations it puts on time. I’ve always had trouble settling in to write when I know I have only a half hour, or some similar time restriction due to an impending appointment or meeting. But I’ve learned to recognize that restless ‘I-don’t-have-enough-time’ voice as the negative influence it is, and to ignore it. Even short sessions can be productive.

In proper manuscript format, one page consists of about 250 words. Depending on the genre, a first novel is usually no more than 90,000 words, so if a person could steal enough time to draft one page per day, that would produce a finished novel in one year. Just one page! Some days I can write an entire chapter; other days I struggle to find those 250 words, but it averages out.

For the next month or so the main distractions around here are going to be the coming and going of workers doing the renovation in our en suite bathroom. They have their supplies and equipment in one bay of our garage, so they come in through the adjoining door to our laundry, and trek down the hall through the middle of the house. They are very considerate, but inevitably there is noise and dust and frequent questions. (And in the middle of it all is our wild-child Labrador, unhappily kept away from the hallway by a cardboard barricade and advising me regularly that there are strangers in the house.)

Still, I will write. I have this story nagging at me, revealing its scenes in small bursts. When I know I won’t likely get all the needed words on a page at one time, I make notes as a blueprint for my next session. I want to get it done, and doing it is the only way.

How about you? What’s your dream? What distractions keep you from pursuing/achieving it?

~  ~  ~

 

Sometimes you just have to slog on through…

I imagine most people have heard the quote, “The best way out is always through.” [Robert Frost’s A Servant to Servants] I don’t know how many people agree with it, but it’s true for me as I muddle with decisions over renovation materials.

Bit by bit we’ve been updating our twenty-seven year old home, upgrading portions of the kitchen in 2015 and the main bathroom in 2016. Now we’re embarking on the en suite bathroom, and right from the get-go this renovation has been challenging.

It shouldn’t be. The colour scheme and materials are the same as we used in the main bathroom — the same bianco carrara tile floor and walls around tub and shower, the same decorative mosaic accent, light grey cabinet with a dark grey quartz countertop, white fixtures and chrome faucets. It all pulled together quite easily last time, but now …? Ack!

In a bath supply showroom the freestanding bathtub we wanted this time was waaaaaay too expensive, but we found it online from a reputable dealer for a much better price. There was a delay in shipping. The toilet we wanted was out of stock. We chose a different one. The desired tub filler wasn’t in store but could be brought from the warehouse in a couple days. After two long delays we gave up, cancelled the order and picked up an alternate. Two weeks later the original order came in and, despite having received its refund, we continue to get phone calls (three so far) to please come and pick it up. Then we couldn’t find an affordable rainshower kit in a design we liked.

The most recent pucker in our plan is tile for the shower floor. The other bathroom has a tub/shower combo, so tile wasn’t required. This bathroom has a custom shower stall, hence the need for a base. The contractor thought a plain white tile would work well, except we have a lot of iron in our water here and I refuse to have white tile or white grout in an area where standing water can stain them orange. We decided on a medium grey.

I found the perfect one — actually, our young granddaughter found it; it’s the one in the right hand bottom corner of the above photo — but when the contractor went to collect the tile order, that particular one had gone out of stock, was no longer available, and they had nothing else like it. ::sigh::

We selected an alternate at Lowes, got it home and found, away from the store’s fluorescent lights, it was almost black, not grey at all. Now we’ve chosen another, but I’m second-guessing the choice because it has veining in it that might be too ‘busy’ alongside the carrara. I couldn’t bring a sample home so won’t know until the contractor delivers it. Then it will be too late to change.

And so it goes. Decisions, choices, backtracking, second-guessing … a stressful process for me who likes things organized and straightforward. But there is no way to bypass this part of the process. We just have to slog on through.

It’s reminiscent of my writing-and-revising process. Some days the words come easily while on others they are plucked like eyebrow hairs, one at a time, sometimes painfully, from the not-so-creative pool. I recently finished a story, edited, revised and finally rewrote it, then edited again. There were moments when I just wanted to flush the whole thing, but the only way to finish was to trust my intuition and keep going. It’s out on submission now, but I know if it’s accepted anywhere for publication it will undoubtedly have to undergo even more revision.

I want things — bathroom and books — to turn out the best they can, so will take a deep breath and keep slogging on through to completion, hoping the niggling internal voice is wrong and the end result will be worth the struggle.

How do you deal with misgivings and the taunts of your internal editor? 

~  ~  ~

 

 

 

 

 

He is Risen Indeed!

Yes, it’s April Fools’ Day
and yes
it’s Easter Sunday.

But the resurrection was no joke.

Those nails were real
as were the thorns

painfully drawing blood
that ours might be spared.

Jesus died.

He was removed from the cross
and buried in a tomb
sealed behind a boulder.

But three days later
He was not there.

The tomb was empty.

He had risen
as He said.

He overcame death
to promise us life.

Halleluia!

~  ~  ~

A New Page

I’ve kept a diary or journal off and on since I was fifteen. I remember my first had a tiny lock and key that wasn’t sturdy enough to have kept out a little brother, if I’d had a little brother. Fortunately I didn’t. (No disrespect meant to little brothers, but if I’d had a sibling I would have preferred a sister. Despite occasional hints to my parents, I didn’t get either one.)

Some of my journals contain ramblings that cover multiple years, while others fill up quickly and don’t manage to include one complete year. All my teen volumes went the way of my childhood belongings, and I didn’t resume writing until I’d been a wife and mother for several years. At that point there was a troublesome time that drew me back into writing for therapy. I’ve kept all my journals since then.

There are usually a few blank books waiting on the shelf, since buying journals is a weakness of mine (as is shopping in any stationery or book store…surprise!). And starting a new journal, or a clean page in an ongoing one, is a welcome fresh start…like New Year’s Day, or reaching retirement, or like today — the first day of Spring.

I finished the green 2013-2018 book (shown near the top of my above pile) this past weekend, so it was time to pick a new one. My choice was one I bought while attending last fall’s Surrey Conference.

Can you read the words embossed in gold across the bottom? Here, I’ll get closer…

“Always believe something wonderful is about to happen.” That kind of optimism ignites my creativity. Despite all the obstacles and discouragements that are a part of the writer’s journey, I want to believe it’s all worthwhile…that there is a goal justifying the effort, waiting just beyond the next bend in the road. (Although, truth be told, I love writing enough that the destination itself isn’t my motivation.)

My writing is always a little neater on the first pages of a new journal. I do a lot of my musing and mental meandering before the first entry, thinking it should be a significant thought. Eventually, though, I pick up my pen and begin scribbling.

Today’s entry began with, “It’s Spring! Yay!!!” Not particularly inspiring words. Not even writing-related. But they’re in a new book, on a new page. I’ve made another fresh start, and maybe among these pages I’ll find there has been something wonderful to record. Who knows?

Right now I need to get back to percolating ideas for my fictional characters. I left them perched on the edge of another chapter and I imagine they are as anxious as I am to dive in.

~  ~  ~

 

Repeating An Irish Recipe and Blessing

I was perusing my Irish Soda Bread recipe while I ought to have been thinking about a blog post, but then realized I can kill two birds with one stone by sharing the recipe. (Where does that dreadful saying come from? I couldn’t kill one bird with anything!) This is a post from 2012. I hope you won’t mind the repetition.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to one and all!

This is the day to be celebrating all things Irish, sharing shenanigans and wearing green. At least that’s how North Americans seem to celebrate, along with perhaps raising a pint of ale or Guinness. We make more of St. Patrick’s Day here than they do in Ireland.

Since I can’t ignore my Irish roots (I’m a McGuire — from the 13th century Irish MagUidhir in County Fermanagh), I always have to do something special to mark the occasion. Most often it’s just the wearing of a bit o’ green, but my family will vouch for my tendency to doctor normally un-green foods until they turn a shamrock shade – for instance, green porridge for breakfast, or perhaps cereal with green milk, maybe a lunchtime sandwich with green cream cheese filling, or green Jello for dessert.

However, now that our children have moved on and I can no longer embarrass them with such things in their school lunch boxes, I’m more restrained. I’m thinking of making my favourite Irish Soda Bread recipe today. (It’s tame, I know, but then you never can tell if I’ll give in to a leprechaun’s temptation and add a little green colouring to the buttermilk.)

I’m told there are two kinds of soda bread… a cake type that is normally kneaded and baked in an oven, and a farl type that is rolled out into a circle and cut crosswise into four equal quarters to bake on a griddle. While the farl type is apparently preferred more in the north of Ireland where my family originated, and the cake type in the south, my recipe happens to be the cake kind. It’s a little sweeter than the traditional loaf, too, but very tasty. I’ll share it as my St. Paddy’s Day gift to you.

~

IRISH SODA BREAD

4 c. flour
¼ c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ c. butter (I’ve used margarine, too)
1-1/3 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Sift dry ingredients together and cut in butter.
Blend in buttermilk, egg and soda to make a dough that can be kneaded.
Turn onto floured board and knead gently until smooth.
Shape into ball, and place in greased 2-qt. casserole.
(You can also bake it on a cookie sheet if you prefer.)
Brush top with egg yolk or cream and slash a deep “+” on it.
Bake @ 350oF oven until done (about 45-60 minutes, or until bottom crust sounds hollow when tapped).
Wrap loaf in tea towel and cool 1 hour before cutting.

~

 Go n-eírí an bóthar leat

~  ~  ~

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Winter’s Worn Out Its Welcome

We’ve arrived at the second weekend in March. Did you remember this is when our clocks jump forward an hour (not on their own, of course; you have to change them) and our bodies rebel at losing an hour’s sleep?

I dislike these biannual time changes. There was a purpose for Daylight Saving Time way back in 1916 when it was first introduced in Germany to save electricity, but I’d be happy to keep one or the other — either Saving or Standard time — and not have to change back and forth.

What I DO like about mid-March is the coming official start of Spring on March 20th. We’ve finally taken down the front door plaque that says ‘Winter Welcome’, because winter has worn out its welcome around here. I’m tired of it. I want the snow to go away and let the buried crocuses show their cheery colours. It’ll be a while before the mini-avalanches disappear. Our shake roof relieved itself of several loads, one of which landed on the back deck, and I imagine that pile is going to be there for a while.

My hubby likes to say we are an Easter people, and Sunday morning at our church one more candle on the Lenten wreath will be extinguished, bringing us another week closer to Easter. As the Lenten material says,

Lent is a season that focuses our attention on discipleship.  It pushes us to examine ourselves and the many ways we have turned away from God.  Rather than a shallow giving up of personal pleasures, Lent invites us to give up those things that have pulled us away from God and take up those things that draw us toward Him.”

I like March. It’s a forward-looking month and right now I’m all about saying goodbye to Winter and looking ahead to all that is to come.

Now, it’s an hour later than my clocks are proclaiming. Time to change them and go to bed, even if it’s a bit early for me. I’m going to need all the hours of sleep I can get tonight!

~  ~  ~