Now this just might be me, but I thought all of those years struggling to get my foot in the door would be the hardest part. That once I got that first publication, made that first sale, things would get easier. And of course, that was a load of bull, and I’d totally deluded myself. Thing’s definitely didn’t get easier, but truthfully, things didn’t get harder either.
Some of you may be shaking your heads at this point but hear me out. Those six years I put in before someone paid me to put a story into a book sucked. I mean royally. Every time I sat down to put words on the page, that little voice in the back of my head always whispered, “What’s the point? You don’t even know if this one will make it in. You’re working for nothing here, champ. Maybe you should pack it in.”
Obviously, I flipped that voice the finger and kept on cranking the words. But here’s a hard truth. Technically that voice was correct most of the time. The vast majority of the stories I’ve written have never been published, and they languish away in my Final Drafts folder, and I never got paid for them. But I wasn’t working for nothing. I learned something from every one of those stories. They all helped me to get better. To hone my craft. And it’s finally paid off.
Except now there are all kinds of new things I have to deal with that I never expected. “Yay! I made the sale! What do you mean I’ve got to work with an editor, and do page proofs, and sign contracts?” I got my foot in the door, and didn’t realize there was a drop on the other side. I got edits for “Null and Void”, “The Razor’s Edge”, and the novella that I’m almost able to talk about all at the same time. I went from never having worked with an editor professionally before to suddenly working with four (both Joshua and Troy worked on edits for “The Razor’s Edge.)
For a while there, I felt like I was drowning in all these revisions and edits. And every one of those editors had something different that they’d noticed in my writing that I really shouldn’t be doing. In a way if kind of felt like getting told “Congratulations, we’re going to publish your work! Now here are all the reasons that your writing sucks!” And while I knew that wasn’t the case, and there’s no way any of my editors wouldn’t have said, “You need to rewrite this entire thing”, or just not bought the piece, if that was the case. But hey, for the first time in my life, I was hit with real imposter syndrome, and I kept expecting to get that email saying “Oops, we made a mistake. We aren’t really going to publish this.”
All of that really does sound like it’s worse than the pre-publication crappiness, but it really isn’t. Now, not everyone is going to have to work on edits for three pieces of varying length the very first time they publish, and honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Trust me, it sounds a lot more glamorous than it is. But you know what? I learned a hell of a lot from doing it. Not since the very first writing retreat that I went on with all of my lovely compatriots here on the site have I seen such a noticeable improvement in my writing. When I sat down to write the second novella in my mysterious series, I wrote the damn thing in six weeks! It’s taken me six weeks to write a freaking 7500 word short story before, much less a 45000 book.
Jury is still out regarding how much editing that one is going to require, but I had a toolbox of things to go through to tighten up the story and prose. I saw the benefit of my work again when I wrote my last short story. I write in Scrivener, and I keep track of my word totals day by day. Here’s what it looked like for this one.
9/30/2018 – 1168
10/1/2018 – 1978
10/2/2018 – 3990
10/3/2018 – 5048
10/5/2018 – 5226
10/7/2018 – 7827
10/9/2018 – 9195
10/10/2018 – 9766
As you can see, there were some pretty significant days in there, and others I was only able to get a few hundred. But a year ago, this list would have been at least twice as long, and those jumps would have always been just a couple hundred words. Also check out Ken’s post Will it Ever be Enough? for some tips on just how to improve your productivity so much!
So to wrap this monster up, it really doesn’t get easier after that first publication, but it doesn’t necessarily get harder either. Just remember that all the work you’re doing after the sale really and truly matters. Because you’re not working in hopes of selling, but to make the story the best it can be when it hits the page. And I want you to remember that whole damn time that the thing you’re working on WILL 100% HIT THE PAGE. BECAUSE YOU’RE A PUBLISHED FREAKING AUTHOR.
And that part never gets old!