Writers are, by nature, people with goals. We are always working towards a new publish date, of course. But, we also have longer term goals; ambitions.
Our biggest enemies, therefore, are the three D’s: discouragement, doubt, and disillusionment. To a degree, self-publishing has more opportunities for these enemies to do their thing to us than to those going the old road. Under the mainstream publishing system, we have solid peer control at work; publishers must accept a manuscript before we go any further, editorial staff put us through the long re-write process, and the book itself goes nowhere without the approval of these and many other people.
Self-publishing removes these barriers, true. But, it also removes a level of protection from the three D’s mentioned above. At no point in the self-publishing process are we answerable to anyone but ourselves, unless we want to be.
On the flip-side, that results in our work being tried and tested by a narrow band of people (and possibly only one) who may, or may not, be qualified and experienced. This is an important point, because my own experience was less than stellar in this regard.
I had written what I considered to be a book, which was, in the real world, a manuscript. I obtained feedback from some wonderful beta readers, which caused a raft of changes. Then, I thought I had a book.
It was at this point that something both unexpected and rare happened; I was approached by Rob, an international best-selling author who wanted to read my work. I have mentioned this many times before, as is to be expected. It was, after all, an amazing thing to have happen.
However, reflecting on the subject of the three D’s, I asked myself; what if the Rob thing never happened? Well, I would have published the manuscript as it was. Minus nearly a years worth of editing and changes.
I would have pressed the publish button, and…
Discouragement, doubt, and disillusionment – without any argument at all, that would have been the outcome. The funny thing is, even though that catastrophe was averted, things will still take time, and that time will be measured in years.
So, the three D’s are still there and ready to pounce at any opportune time. How, then, do we avoid becoming yet another victim on a road that is littered with the remains of others who have fallen victim to these three monsters?
We need to be happy with where we are. Contentment is a powerful weapon against the three D’s. Being content with our progress puts up a large wall against them and hurls missiles at them every time they approach.
So, where are we? Well, everyone is different, of course. But, all it requires is an honest heart and a set of open eyes to establish our location. Perhaps we are working on our first book. Maybe we’ve only recently started, with a framework and a lot of research ahead of us.
How do we look at that mountain in front of us? First, take stock of what we have already achieved. We made that great decision; “I am going to write a book!” Past that point, we need to remind ourselves that we made that decision, and relatively few people ever do.
If we are a little further along, and we are actually laying down the content, a creative dry spell can be a problem. Yes, the old writer’s block. This requires a careful analysis. First off, are we being balanced about the time spent on writing our book? Are we getting enough sleep? Enough time with others? Enough exercise? Those things may seem unrelated at first glance, but don’t be fooled; they are vital to good long-term creativity. Alcohol, drugs, and other synthetic substitutes are not an alternative. They are a one-way trip down the wrong path that leads to serious consequences.
Another problem can be proper time management. Set a time for writing. Get a quiet and secluded place to call your work-space. Keep it tidy and organized. Keep your files on your computer well-organized. Losing files is an open door to the three D’s, they love that sort of thing. On that note, back up your work every day! Please, I beg you, do this. Losing an entire manuscript is not an open door to the three D’s, it’s the equivalent of removing the side of the building, laying on free food and drinks and sending them personal invitations.
Another counter to writer’s block is research. Whole swathes of the story in The Road Out were a direct result of research and wandering around in the back story of a character. What can come from research? Well, take the character of Sigmund ‘Ziggy” Schwarz. I had an approximate age, and the fact that he was German. He was an engineer and I had decided he did his apprenticeship with Mercedes. That was pretty much it.
I started digging around for information on Mercedes in the ’30s. From this, much of Ziggy’s back story was written. His tenure with the racing team, his reason for fleeing and arriving in Australia, his cars, and even how he teaches Arthur about life, all came from that research. The car race at the end of the book and the rival from the neighboring town both came from the same place. So, if you hit a flat spot, perhaps research is the key to a whole raft of new ideas.
Another source of the three D’s is other people. It happens often enough; someone asks you what you’re up to these days and the following ensues:
“I’m writing a book.” You respond.
“Oh, umm…okay. So do you have a publisher?”
“No, I’m going to self publish.”
“Oh, right. (insert pregnant pause here) Hasn’t it been cold these last few days?”
Trust me, if you haven’t had a similar experience, you will. To avoid the three D’s giving the other person a hearty slap on the back to thank them for their help, we must immediately remind ourselves of the many, many writers who are earning a living from self-publishing. The problem with that conversation is not that we are doing something which is the real-world equivalent of trying to make a career out of paper plane racing, but that the other person is not cognizant of the changing world around them.
Are they a self-published author? If they respond in such a fashion, that is hardly likely, is it? So always measure up a response by weighing it against the character of the respondent. Discouragement doesn’t usually come from those who matter.
Next week, we’ll consider the threat of the three D’s toward those who have already published their first book.