July 6, 2011

why i'll never sell to a publisher and a guest post at Brooklyn Scribbler

this week, Lisa J. Yarde (a.k.a. The Brooklyn Scribbler) is celebrating "Happy Independents Week" by putting up follow-up posts to her series from last year on independent publishing. today she put up a post i did here back in December about being true to who i am. i thought it would tie in well to the follow-up post i wanted to do for "on staging a house and why i will never sell my book to a publisher"

all that said, i'm having trouble being true to who i am. this has been a difficult post to write. i know it's because i've been worrying about what people might think when they read it.

and therein lies the problem with my writing in general. i worry a lot about what people think. i'm very sensitive to criticism. i wish i could be detached and unemotional. i wish i could just "get over it." if i could grow the "thick skin" that every writer needs, i would. believe me, it would make my life so much easier.

but this is who i am. a Highly Sensitive Person. and many thanks to Olivia J. Herrell for reminding me of that in her post about HSPs. as she quotes Pearl S. Buck...

 To him (an HSP)...
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

i can't just "get over it." i can't be detached. my skin is about as thick as it's going to get.

but if i'm going to finish my sequel, i'm going to have to stop worrying about what people think. i'm going to have to ignore the writer's rule that says think about your reader.

the problem i've had all during the writing of my sequel is that i have been thinking about my readers. there are a lot of people who read Eldala and liked it (still a surprise to me). there are a lot of people waiting for the sequel. (it's been 4 years since i published Eldala. some of them have been waiting a long time.) i know there are expectations.

as i wrote the first few drafts of the sequel, my mind was plagued with questions.
"will they like the story i decided to tell?"
"will they notice that my writing has changed and will they like my new style?"
"what will they think of the story arc and the characters?"
"will they think i've changed Arathor and Tiana too much as compared to what they were in Eldala?"
"will they be angry with me at what i have to put my characters through?"

excuse my language, but damn. how can a writer, especially an HSP writer, be true to herself and her writing with questions like those pressing in on her? how could i possibly write the story i need to write when pleasing my readers is all i think about, almost to the point of being obsessive?

honestly, i wish i could be like my 9 year old daughter. she doesn't care what anyone thinks when she writes. she says she writes for the pure joy of it. i want to go back to that. writing for me and my kids was my mantra as i wrote Eldala. somewhere between the two stories, i forgot that. i thought more about pleasing readers than pleasing myself. heck, i cared more about what my crit partners thought than what i thought. (not to blame my crit partners. i dearly love you all. this is my stuff, not yours.)

when i got to the end of the last draft, i hated my story. when i tried to start the next draft a few months ago, i couldn't make myself write. granted, i was in the middle of getting my house ready to sell, so my brain was a little distracted, but i'm convinced that the ideas wouldn't come because i cared more about pleasing my readers and crit partners than i cared about pleasing myself.

what i've discovered about myself as a writer is that if i don't write the story for me, the ideas are forced. the writing is forced. i end up with a story i absolutely despise. so you can see why i never want to hand my story over to an agent or publisher.

now, i want you to know i'm not condemning my friends or any other writer who pursues publishing for whatever reason. i'm also not saying that writing for your readers is a bad thing. we have to write the best story we can and use all the writing tools at our disposal. i'll still submit my final drafts to crit partners and proofreaders so i don't put out junk. i'll just put up boundaries for myself as to what i want critiqued and what i'm willing to change or not change.

all that to finally say that just like staging my house so it would sell in a tight market felt fake and made me very uncomfortable, staging my book for a publisher so it could sell in the tight book market would be worse. i know i'm making assumptions, but having gone through this process with one of my dearest writing friends, i imagine i would have to make more concessions and compromises to keep the publisher happy than i'm willing to make. i would have to change the story to make it marketable, and although there would be parts of my story in there, it wouldn't be my story anymore. 

if anything, i try to be honest in the way i live and in the way i write. to put out a book that's not me would go against everything i believe. maybe that sounds conceited or rigid or even narcissitic. i don't know. at this point i don't care. i know there's a story inside me that has to be written. i haven't let it out because i've cared more about the opinions and ideas of others than i've cared about my own. it has to come out sometime. it will never come if i don't write the story that i love.   


Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Thank you for writing this! I thought I might have similar feelings when I signed with a small publisher, but they've been so fantastic that I haven't felt forced into anything, so that's nice. I still write for myself, and that has been the beauty of publishing small and not with a big huge beast of a publisher looming over my head. :)

I wish you the best of luck! I HSP too, and it's so, so, so hard at times. I think it shows through in my posts. Oftentimes they are very dramatic because I've got to get that stuff out there somehow.

Just keep writing. Just keep writing for YOU and everything else will work out.

KarenG said...

Just keep reading that quote at the top of your blog, over and over!

Michelle Gregory said...

Michelle - i'm glad the publishing thing is working out for you. thanks for your honesty in your posts.

Karen - yes, it's a good quote. thanks for stopping by.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If writing for others makes you miserable, why bother?
I did take my readers into consideration when writing the sequel to my book. However, at that point, I really wasn't sure what to write next! So I noted their thoughts and requests and then formed my own story around those ideas. And it was actually easier to write than the first one. Or maybe that was the pressure of NaNo...?

Nikole Hahn said...

Don't burn any bridges. Recently, a publisher picked up on a self-pubbed book that a network person wrote. You're a good writer and I think if you learn to grow as a writer you could get traditionally published and/or picked up by a big house. I loved your book, Edala.

Just write. Don't worry about what other people think. Some changes are good that they suggest and keep the story tight. Just don't not do it because you're sensitive to criticism. Some good advice someone told me once: keep what is good and throw out what is bad. She was talking about criticism.

All that's said, hurry up and move to your new place and then finish the sequal. Am looking forward to buying it when it's done. :o)

Sarah McCabe said...

I don't write for myself or for others. I write for the story. The story is alive and real and it needs me to tell it. The story has to be the only thing in my head. It needs to consume me while I'm writing it. Then I know it'll be the story I want to tell.

February Grace said...

I've never published anything but still I'm trying to get back to writing the way I did before I knew a thing about how publishing works.

I keep telling myself that it never mattered to me before, getting published, what anyone thought, back when I wrote the work I'm proudest of. I wrote for one or two people, and one of them was me.

I'm still trying to find the yellow brick road back, though. It's hard to forget. "You must unlearn what you have learned," Yoda said, and that freaking Muppet was pretty darn smart.

Unlearn, we have to unlearn.

Wishing you luck with your Kieran in the sequel- (and wishing me luck with getting back to writing my own Keiran!) and wishing you writing that speaks of your heart and that feeds your soul.

You're a gem, Michelle. As a writer but more importantly, as a person. Don't pressure yourself, just rest your mind and your soul and hopefully, the cries of the battlefield (in the story) will be so strong after awhile that you will simply have to write them down for the world to hear as well.