I attended a workshop this weekend on publishing when this question struck me like a sucker punch to the gut: Why do you want to publish your work?
I realized I had no idea!
I had never given this question any thought before, because I had assumed, as a default, that every writer desired publication and therefore, so should I.
But in fact, there are many ways to publish and share work, and I realized that without having clear goals, the path to publication is a murky one.
Working on Publication
This past month I renewed my efforts to become published: I submitted numerous poems and short stories to various and sundry magazines, using Duotrope to target the best publications for my work. I became active again on Scribophile and in my local critique group to polish my writing.
After many rejections, I was accepted by the excellent magazine From Sac, where three of my poems will appear in their next printed issue. And while the acceptance made me euphoric, it also stirred something deeper within me.
I went on to browse some literary contests, and I created some vigorous work to submit. But I found that, upon submitting my work to these publications, I became plagued by anxiety, doubt, and a host of negative feelings, even though I was proud of the work and had enjoyed crafting it and critiquing it.
I was getting clear warning signals that something was off, but I couldn’t figure it out. What was the problem?
Why I Write Versus Why I Publish
For the past ten years, writing has been more than just my creative therapy: it’s been my constant friend, the one I go to during hard times for solace. I’ve had a very stressful few months, transitioning from a difficult final semester at Graphic Design school into entering the workforce.
During the peak of my stress, when I was in school full time and struggling, I finished two novels I had been working on for years. Every morning, I would write for fifteen minutes, and every evening before bed, I would write for another fifteen. Writing every day wasn’t just a strategy to finish a novel: it was a way of staying sane.
Writing was a reason to get up in the morning and a way to become zen before bed. It brought me so much joy that I cannot even begin to describe it in words. Writing has become a juicy form of self-expression, and I am so thankful that it has come into my life.
My Platform: Internationally Renown as the Nerdiest Writer, No Kidding
Though I am shy to admit it, I am an internationally-renown Fan Fiction writer. Fan Fiction is, according to the internet, “Fiction written by a fan of, and featuring characters from, a particular TV series, movie, etc.” You see why I don’t tell too many people about this. It’s like, horribly dorky:)
After a few years of writing, this is what has happened:
- I routinely get over one thousand hits to my stories when I update.
- My work has been translated into four different languages by my fans.
- And my most popular story hogged the entire first page of Google search results not only during its lifespan but a year after I finished the story.
It was this success that made me realize: Hey. I could totally do this for real.
But publishing is another beast entirely from the art of writing. It is marketing. Business. And I realize now that engaging in the publication process without understanding what my goals are has resulted in a lot of sadness for me.
I find that in general, I seek a lot of outside approval, not just as a writer but as a human being. And when that part of me takes control, I lose a lot of the joy that I find in my craft.
I realize I need to redefine my goals as a writer. I understand why I write, but I need to more fully understand what I truly desire from becoming a published author.
It isn’t just the money, although if I were getting paid for my art, I could devote more time to it. However, if I don’t publish for the right reasons, it will destroy the joy I take in writing.
It’s like walking a razor-sharp edge of a sword. Or at least, that is how it feels at the moment.
How Many Unfinished Novels is too Many?
Currently, I have:
- Four fully finished rough drafts for novels
- Three handwritten rough drafts for novels that I need to type
- A good handful of short stories, some that only need a bit of polish, other that need complete overhauls
- A huge stack of handwritten poetry written from 2012–2016 that I need to type and edit
- A novel idea for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that is burning me up inside and that I can’t wait to write! I am also, incidentally, a Municipal Liaison for NaNoWriMo this year, which means I will be your hostess with the most-ess this November for Novel Writing Extravaganzas!
So as you can see, I am meant to be a writer because apparently, I can’t stop. And with seven novels and countless poems and stories, I don’t want them to sit in my desk drawer forever. I have a strong desire to share my work.
But first, I have to figure out what my actual goals are, what feels right to me. I know that when this piece becomes clear, I will be an unstoppable force.
Until then, I am hooked on learning the Book Architecture Method and will be editing my novels in my quiet obscurity.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know: Why do you write? And why do you publish?