Publishing a Novel? Slow Down and Take Your Time

The title basically says it all. I want to take my massive amount of experience (note that I mean this incredibly sarcastically, I’ve published a single forty-three page short story) and advise you to slow down and take your time. One of the things most first time authors do when nearing the completion of their book, giddy with excitement that would rival a schoolgirl at a One Direction concert, is let that excitement get the best of them. Now don’t take this to mean your excitement is a bad thing. You’ve accomplished something awesome. You’ve written something you consider to be worth reading (I hope.) You’ve got a book cover, you’ve got a blurb written up,  But I want you to take a step back and think about some of the facts here, and hopefully learn from my (limited) experience. Wait a minute before you click that publish key, you might not yet be ready.

The first thing I want to bring up is the excitement. If you’re publishing for your first time this is especially important. You’re excited, you’ve read your book six or seven times (if you haven’t, shame on you, go back and read it again), you’ve had it edited, you’ve acquired the rights to a cover you’re happy with (either through the efforts of your fantastic significant other, or other means), you’ve formatted the book, you’ve put the book away for over a month and come back and read it again. Oh…wait…you haven’t put the book away for a while before reading it again? Let me tell you why you should.

I know you’re excited to get the book out. I was too. But honestly? I regret it a little. I read my short story probably 10 or 12 times. I had my girlfriend (who works as a professional social content editor) look at it multiple times. I had multiple beta readers (one or two of which has an actual degree in creative writing) look at what I wrote. I worked feedback into the finished product. I changed this, I tweaked that. But going back and reading the story again a month or two later, I still feel like it wasn’t enough. And I’ll tell you why. I was saturated with my story, it had burned itself into my brain. My clever little synapses automatically fire and correct mistakes as I read them. I was still attached to the writing so I glossed over mistakes and missed opportunities to strengthen my prose and storytelling. I was still attached to a great deal of the work and I could not read it objectively.

After two or so months went by and I had finally finished the planning for the next book in the series, Transmuted. At this point I was divorced from the work; these weren’t my precious little words anymore. I went back and read Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt again, just to recap everything that had happened in book and re-acquaint myself with the characters. It felt like I was reading someone elses work. I wasn’t horrified, but I was a little disappointed in myself. I found quite a few places in the book where I could have tightened up a line or two, or where I would have chosen to change a few words. Again it was nothing earth shattering, but I feel I could have made the book better.

There are obvious reasons why this is important, but the one I think a great deal of people overlook, myself included, is that a once you publish a book it’s out there forever. You can easily update ebook versions but why not take a little extra time and make sure you nail it on the first release? After all the book is going to on the digital shelf forever.



7 thoughts on “Publishing a Novel? Slow Down and Take Your Time

  1. This is SO TRUE. There is an excitement to get going already, to share your masterpiece with the world, but getting everything truly the way you want it for all time is critical. I self-published my first novel, just for friends and family, really, but now I regret not polishing it completely. I’m going back with new edits, cover, everything, and wishing I’d held out the first time.

    • When I get near the end of writing the book I’m currently writing I plan to go back and do the same with Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt. I want to go through and revise and edit the whole thing again. I may get a new cover done, but I’m pretty happy with the cover the book currently has (regardless of the fact I constantly fret over it not being good enough.) I feel like it sums up the book fairly well. Most importantly though, I plan to completely leave the book I’m currently writing alone for about a month or two before I do my final revision of it. I really feel like separating yourself from the work for a good bit of time is a really critical step of polishing process that just simply cannot be rushed.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. True, true, true. Let what you wrote sit for a while, then revisit it. In the meantime, continue to read articles and blogs on craft and technique. Continue to read great novels. Continue to hone your craft. Don’t rush. Put forth only your best work.

    • It was a tough lesson for me to learn. I hammered on Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt for weeks on end without any significant break, then I published it. After I published it I started working on my next project, giving myself time enough to disconnect. Then after a few months I went back and re-read Mercury, Sulfur, & Salt and found quite a few places that I shook my head at, wondering just exactly what I was thinking.

      I learned from it though!

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