Sunday, February 2, 2020

Am I an Author?

I effectively finished the manuscript for my book in the spring of 2019. That is nearly a year ago now. So what is going on? When is the book coming out?

A question I have asked myself many times, and yes, it is frustrating. I am now at a stage in the process that was a complete mystery to me when I completed the manuscript. In many ways, the publishing process is still a mystery to me.

For someone who never had the aspiration of being a writer, I have had to do a lot of remedial learning. I have operated in the business world all of my career. Complex business cases and contracts are nothing new to me, but the publishing world is like nothing I have ever been involved with before. To say it’s been a steep learning curve would be an understatement.

For the past few months, I have been exploring many ways of getting published — traditional publishing vs self-publishing. Literary agents - predatory publishers are all things I hadn’t the slightest understanding. I realize it is a business and parts of it I gravitate to quite easily. However, the process of taking a manuscript and creating a book are all new to me. Then there is the dark side of the industry. Working with a reputable publisher is huge. I have learned that publishing is a bit of a contact sport - not for the faint of heart.

What has been a big surprise to me and a bit of an epiphany is how much I have enjoyed the editing process. Your cover, book title, and your marketing strategy changes some of the content of the book. A last-minute change of the cover can spark an avalanche of editing, which I find strangely enjoyable. I guess I see the light at the end of the tunnel now and when you see it all coming together, it is quite gratifying.  Now that I am in editing mode, I enjoy the fine-tuning - the crafting — seeing the manuscript from 30,000 feet.

I have been fortunate to have made some very knowledgable contacts in this process. They have been a great influence and source of encouragement. With some positive influence and doing a lot more reading myself, I have learned a lot about the art of writing and crafting a compelling story. I have reached out to several people to read my manuscript and have received some very helpful feedback. Trust me; it helps to approach this process from a position of humility and checking your ego at the door. Listening to feedback and trying to understand criticism will only make your writing so much better.

I would say that my writing at this point is a bit like a blunt instrument. It’s a little raw and unpolished, but the only way to make your writing better is to keep writing. I have re-written whole chapters and done extensive editing. The strange thing is that I have enjoyed the whole process. Learning how a single word used effectively can completely change the feel of a paragraph or paint a very distinct picture. To have a reader see what you are writing and not just the words on a page. To look at the words on the page as a reader would. What questions would they have? Should I answer them or leave something to their imagination?

That has been another interesting revelation in this process. I could start my manuscript today and tell the story completely differently. There are so many ways to tell a story.

At some point, the endless tweaking and second-guessing will have to stop. In the next few weeks, I am going to pull the trigger on this project, and we will go to print. The one thing that I have kept in the back of my mind is that this is “my” project - my book. It is my name that will be on the cover. With that in mind, I have always said to myself that, at any point, I can stop the process. I can choose not to publish. I could print out a hard copy - place it in a binder - and never look at it again. Whatever I publish, I have to be satisfied with what I have written - that it sounds like me and accomplishes what I want.

 All this proves to me is that you can start to get a little squirrelly if you stare at it too long.

That’s the funny part of this process. I have spent my entire life in what I would call the “real world.” I’ve worked in construction, business, and have been completely comfortable in the board room - a very serious no-nonsense crowd. Now that I have written my manuscript and tried to tap into the creative side of my brain - I fear I have become one of those artsy - flakey types that I would have rolled my eyes a few years ago. I guess I have to accept that as well. However, if you see me wearing a beret, sipping lattes at Starbucks, and reading anything written by one of the Bronte sisters, I think an intervention may be required.

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