A publisher took my book away. For years, I thought that was what I wanted. I wrote book after book thinking, someday, my writing might be good enough for some publisher to take. Then I would be published and join my long list of author heroes. So I joined a critique group. I attended writing conferences. I submitted to agents and contests. Some interest, but no real results.
So I submitted to smaller publishers expecting nothing—not even sure my emails were doing anything but hitting an empty void.
Then all of a sudden, I had bites. More than that, I had offers—plural. They told me they loved it. They told me I was talented. It was very flattering and I was tired of waiting. So I signed.
Then the whirlwind. They went through edits at lightning speed. I was used to making changes slowly. Initially, all I wanted to do was kick against them and defend the book they had said they loved. Then I got worried they were right. I made changes in a sudden flurry. Looked at it again and made even more changes—trying to find the right balance between my “perfect” author vision and their feedback.
Plus the fact that between the time I had written this book and now, I had become a different writer. Hopefully a BETTER writer, but either way, I was rewriting whole sections my editors barely touched. I spent a few 12hr days on it until it seemed I couldn’t see what I was writing anymore.
Then the deadline hit. My publishers told me it was fine, but I couldn’t believe them. Things had moved too fast for me to know if I even liked the final result.
Really, my publishers were only doing their job—pointing out places where they thought my book could be strengthened and trying to keep me on a schedule. I love my publishers for their collective efforts, but more than anything they did, the finality of the due date and the thought of laying my work open before the world was what had me terrified.
It still has me terrified. My book is completely in the hands of my publisher now. I can’t tweak it anymore. I can’t stop it from coming out. People I never met before are going to see it. They are going to judge it. They could say, as one poorly matched critique partner had, that the book should have been thrown away. They could be more tactful and say that it had potential, but severely lacking in some area. Call me an unpolished beginner.
Or it could be completely ignored, with only a few token pats on the back by my friends. That might be worse.
I don’t know if I can fathom a scenario where other people will be able to convince me they like it well enough to silence my own inner critic. That critic didn’t just want it to be good, it wanted it to be perfect—somehow justify all the time I’d spent on it and writing in general. I worked so hard, but I could never reach that point.
The biggest lesson I’m learning through this whole process is to let go. I wanted my book to be published, so I had to let go of my complete control over the story. The publisher gets their say. The readers will interpret it as they wish. I do believe I did the best I could with the best of intentions, so all there is left for me to do now is hope.
Hope that somebody forgets about me behind the author curtain and laughs at a joke my character makes. Hope they are invested in the characters' struggle and don't roll their eyes too much at the romance. Hope they give me a benefit of a doubt to see the overall theme I was going for, instead of getting stuck on some detail and inferring something I never intended--something that could be offensive. Hope they take a moment to think about the journey after the last page. Hope that they REACH the last page (and not just because they are like my dad and read the last page first).
Hope that some young stranger takes it upon herself to write me everything she loved or hated about the book and we become new best friends. Hope that my current friends and family still like me and my dog doesn’t kick me out. Hope I make someone who already loves me proud.
Hope I take criticism with some grace and dignity. Hope that I learn something. Hope that I have the courage to focus on a new project and take the ride again in due time. Or at least get out of bed and when the release date comes.