A writer’s fears

by Doc Coleman on February 26, 2014 · 2 comments

in Writing

A number of authors have talked about their fears on their blogs, but this has never been a topic where I’ve had a lot to say on the subject. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I’m perfect and everyone else is flawed. Quite the contrary. We all have the same doubts. We all look at our writing at one time or another and say “This is crap!” For some, this becomes a paralyzing fear. They can’t move on and many consider quitting writing altogether. They figure that if the writing is crap now, it will always be crap, so why bother? I take a different view. To me, crap is a necessary stage. Everything has to start as crap. The difference is if you leave it as crap, or if you make it into something better. So, I pretty much haven’t been bothered by writing fears.

Until now.

What’s different now?

prague charles bridggeI’ve recently passed the halfway mark on the third draft of The Perils of Prague. I actually think it has gone pretty well. I still have some doubts about some of the tropes I’ve used, but most of the story is shaping up nicely. I’m pretty sure that when I publish Perils it is going to be a really great story. I’ve actually had problems with some of my Alpha readers because the story was so engaging it was difficult for them to generate feedback because they found themselves just reading the story. Even my most critical reader described the story as a lot of fun.

And that’s what is bothering me.

All along, I’ve had problems getting readers for my work. I’ve had trouble generating interest for the book. Worst are the people who have said that they’ll read it, and then I never hear back from them after I’ve sent them the first section. Now I’m being pursued by the fear that I really am going to create and publish a great book, and no one will read it. That the book will languish in obscurity and never sell enough copies to offset the cost of getting it published in the first place. This wouldn’t bother me so much if I thought the story was marginal, or that it was just good. But I think I have a really great story on my hands here. Probably a better story than I should be able to create at this point in my writing career. It bothers me to think that I’ve managed to create something really special, and put it out there for the world to enjoy, only to have the world pass it by without giving it a chance.

Why do I think this?

To begin with, I don’t have a platform. That is to say that I don’t really have a following of loyal fans who will go forth and encourage others to give my book a try. I have a handful of people who are looking forward to reading this story but other than that, I don’t know how wide I’m going to be able to spread news of my story. Now, admittedly, part of the reason I’m going ahead and publishing Perils on my own is to create a platform. I just have no idea how successful that is going to be.

A certain amount of the success of this book is going to hinge on my ability to market it. I’ve learned a few things from watching others, but I don’t really know how well I’m going to be able to reach outside of my immediate circle.

Now, let me be honest. A good part of this fear doesn’t have anything to do with my book, or my ability to market it. It has to do with my history. You see, I’ve a long history of doing something, doing it well, and being completely ignored. Yeah, I know it sounds a bit like crap, but this is my irrational fear, so it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense, it just has to bother me.

I’ve done a lot of work on this, and I haven’t had a lot of help. The help I have had has been invaluable, but it has been difficult for me to obtain. I don’t know if this is a failure on my part to inspire others to support my work, or if folks have just looked at what I’ve done and figured that I’ve got things sussed and I don’t need help. I know that it feels like people are just more interested in their own projects and don’t care much about what I’ve done. That seems most likely, but it also is somewhat depressing.

Despite the difficulties that I’ve had along the way, I’ve also had some indicators that make it likely that my book will do well. At a reading at Balticon last year, I had another author trying to buy my book on his phone during my reading and he was sorely disappointed to find out that it wasn’t available yet. If I can get a few people to read the book and talk about it, that will hopefully lead to more sales.

The bottom line is… the uncertainty is making me jumpy, and I’ve got to deal with it and soldier on. I’m still several months from publication and I’ve got a lot of work to do. Worrying isn’t going to help any, although it has helped to try to talk it out. I’ll see if I can put something more cheery into the feed in the not too distant future. Until then, thanks for putting up with my rambling.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 David in Arbutus February 26, 2014 at 5:19 pm

Most of us have difficulty finding good readers. I sent out chapters of my Civil War book last year to four people who asked to read it. Oh, yeah, they say, when I enquire. I need to read that and get back to you on it. On a fiction story I’ve been working on, one reader gave excellent comments. The other two? Not A Word from them.

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2 Doc Coleman February 26, 2014 at 8:01 pm

This past experience has taught me that one of the things you have to do get get feedback from readers is be prepared to nag them. Some people will respond in good order, but others will need the reminders. Sometimes someone who does give feedback in a timely manner will get distracted, and they’ll be grateful for the reminders.

I am very glad that I decided to portion the chapters out in small chunks. I had one reader who was giving me regular feedback that had to drop out. If I had given him the entire book I would have had nothing from him.

I am looking forward to getting the book published so that I can recognize the readers who stuck with me for all the help they gave me. Up until now, I’ve kept their names secret because I don’t want them comparing notes until later in the process.

Doc

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