Thursday 11 December 2014

Pacing Yourself in the Race to Publish

Great graphic. I know nothing about this book.
Here's a place to find out more:

A few months ago, my writer-friend Dan was in the thralls of a huge re-write of his debut novel. The novel had already passed through the hands of two editors and Dan was fussing away editing the edit and reworking practically everything. As he was doing this, his follow-up novel kept interrupting with scenes and phrases that insisted on being written immediately and, of course, his "real" life kept having to be maintained at inconvenient intervals.

Over the weeks, we met frequently and it was evident to me that the frustration and frantic work pace were eroding his usual frenetic energy. He looked weary.

Eventually, he finished. His lids opened, his energy spiked and he broke open a bottle of wine and sent me several jubilant texts. But later, as he sat with his hand poised over the CreateSpace publish button, he suddenly felt that his story still wasn't quite right. 

This is classic Dan; passionate and impulsive and a gifted writer who infuses every word with emotion. It's also classic Writer; haunted by an untold story, obsessed with detail, unable to settle, unable to consume without producing, unable to enjoy anything until deadlines are met—even if they are self-imposed.

Deciding on the reboot at such a late stage in the game tossed his plans back two months. He began writing furiously to "catch up." When last we talked, face to face, he gave me the impression that he was weeks away from the next draft, but he wanted me to read what he had so far. I was looking forward to it.

The next day, he texted me: Something had come up with the kids and he wasn't making the progress he'd hoped. He apologized, saying that he wouldn't be able to deliver the draft on schedule, as he felt it was still not ready.
I texted the following reply:
"Dan - Most people waste the majority of their life watching TV or playing video games. If you just use the good, solid opportunities that present themselves and do something constructive, a body of work will emerge. There's no point in sprinting because it's a marathon. Remember to enjoy the process—it may be all we ever get out of this calling of ours. And if you ever feel you are falling behind, remember that you have a 10+ year head start on me."
To which he replied: "Wise words, Walrus!" (I've always admired his judgement, if not his auto-correct. Goo goo g' joob.)

But such wisdom is not easy to follow. As I surf social media trying to develop a marketing strategy for my soon-to-be-released novel, I see hundreds of Tweets roll by, connect with younger writers who have already published numerous works and read posts from dozens of best-selling authors and it is a struggle to fight the feeling that I am falling behind in the race to publish.

I have to pace myself. I've got two adorable children pining for my attention and I've got to remember that in the blink of an eye they will be teenagers and then I may be pining for their attention. I've got a beautiful wife who it would not be wise to neglect, a house to maintain and bills to pay. And, of course, there is a lot of TV that needs watching. Life is not conveniently on hold until I am a New York Times Best Selling Author. It's happening now.

The great American journalist A. J. Liebling once said, "I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better." It took me fifty-six years to publish my first novel so you can imagine how great it is! I might have to compromise on the sequel in order to have it out before my funeral.

The Walrus-text from Dan came about 2 days ago.

Last night at 3am, under cover of darkness, my good–but sneaky–friend hit the CreateSpace button and published his first book on Amazon.

Impulsive, glorious bastard! 

Wise words. Indeed!


  1. The hilarity and wit with which you compose prose, Walrus, puts you in very elite company. You crack me up, and thanks for the...praise? Yeah, I take everything about me as praise...

  2. Gordon, it is praise as that is what you and Biddy (the book, not the character) deserve.