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The Emotional Pressures of Writing & Self-publishing a Book

headshot of Jan Petrie

Jan Petrie likens writing a book to having a baby – with a similar amount of emotional upheaval

We often talk about the technicalities of the writing process, but less often about the emotional strain of writing a book. Today debut novelist Jan Petrie, who has just published her first two books in quick succession, likens the emotions involved to childbirth: like parenting, launching a book is just the beginning!

 

I can’t be the only writer to be overwhelmed at times by the emotional peaks and troughs on the long road to publishing a novel for the first time.

It’s all very well writing about your character’s emotional journey as they follow their developmental arc and emerge in some way altered by their experiences; it’s quite another to go through this process yourself.

Why the Childbirth Cliché is Justified..

It’s a groaningly overused cliché to liken the publishing of a novel to the act of giving birth. However, having gone through both processes, the parallels are undeniable: all those worrying low points that precede and proceed the proud and dizzying high of finally showing your beloved creation to the world.

I have to acknowledge right away that my particular path from unpublished to published author was considerably smoothed by a number of ALLi members who very generously shared their technical knowledge and moral support. Thanks, in particular, to the online, step-by-step, free tutorials from indie Horror author Iain Rob Wright (should I liken him to my midwife?) I finally managed to successfully upload and even advertise the first volume of my Eldísvík trilogy.

With the congratulations of friends and fellow writers still ringing in my ears, I wasn’t fully prepared for the emotional aftermath.

image of covers of Jan Petrie's books

Jan Petrie is pleased to announce the safe arrival of twins! The first two novels in her Eldísvík trilogy published in quick succession

…And Some Points of Difference

In some ways this is where the birthing analogy begins to break down a little. Peering at someone’s none-too-beautiful baby, most of us will have looked the proud parents in the eye and declared them ‘lovely’ or at a push ‘striking’ or ‘sweet’.

By contrast, once your novel is finally out there in the big bad world, it’s fair game for anyone – stranger or friend – to pronounce upon its merits regardless of your delicate feelings.

Up until that moment, you may have known this as a remote possibility but, keeping faith, you made the decision that the risk was better than letting the damn thing stagnate in the drawer – or the electronic equivalent. Wouldn’t you always regret not having the courage to take the next step?

Even so, nothing can prevent the feeling of excited trepidation as you embarked on a process that, once you’ve pushed that final ‘publish’ button is destined to take its course for better or for worse.

This is when you pray all that polishing and refining – the  re-structuring, editing and re-editing, all the beta readers’ feedback and then the final proofread that still picks up a surprising number of typos – will have been enough.

Moving On

When my just-published novel was uploaded onto NetGalley and thirty plus people downloaded it, I felt physically sick at the prospect of all those potentially less-than-flattering reviews. I have to say that – deep breath – so far my worse fears have not come true. At the time of writing, though my reviews are scant in number, they’ve consistently been very positive. That said, at this stage it could all still change at the drop of a hat – or the few cold strokes of a keyboard.

What a knife-edge! Why do we do it?

Right now, the author rankings on Amazon seem like a mountain that’s impossible to begin to climb. When I look at the smiling profile pictures of successful writers, I tell myself that, though it may not show, they too have been through this same process.  It’s easy to look at their exalted rankings as set in stone and not the result of the same just as hazardous journey.

The reality is that, just like birth, it has to be gone through. You can only trust it will prove worth it in the end.

OVER TO YOU Which coping mechanisms work best for you to deal with the emotional ups and downs of writing and self-publishing books? We’d love to hear about them!

#Writing a book brings as many emotional ups & downs as childbirth - @TurkPetrie, new mother to twin novels, explains why it's worth all the angst! Click To Tweet

OTHER HELPFUL ADVICE ABOUT THE WRITING PROCESS
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

Opinion: What’s the Biggest Turning Point for Indie Authors?

What Kind of Editing is Priority for Indie Authors?

 

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5 Responses to The Emotional Pressures of Writing & Self-publishing a Book

  1. Hansa Pankhania December 6, 2018 at 5:55 pm #

    I am glad to hear I was not the only one who went through hair- pulling moments before and after the ‘birth’ of my books.

  2. Pauline Wiles December 2, 2018 at 12:10 am #

    It’s wonderful to be inspired by, and learn from, other authors, but I try to guard against doing too much comparison with others. It’s just too easy to feel downhearted about our own efforts, when we put them side by side with authors who are more prolific, more successful, or appear to have found fans more easily. Instead, I’d suggest working out realistic, meaningful goals, and working towards them at a steady, sustainable pace.

  3. K.S. Trenten November 28, 2018 at 7:15 am #

    Thank you for sharing your story and insights! One antidote to bad reviews is go look for a book I truly love and read some of the, ahem, less than flattering reviews they’ve gotten…although I’m more likely to lose my temper and charge into the arena on the behalf of a beloved author whose work rocked my world than my own. (wry grin) The best antidote is, oddly enough, more work. A review hits a little too close to home? I keep an eye out for that problem in future projects, continuing to hone my skills, so I make that mistake less and less. This has been the most effective, since the more I write, the more I improve. I may still scowl at the mistakes I make, but my quality has improved since I began.

    • Pauline Wiles December 2, 2018 at 12:12 am #

      Yes: it’s staggering to read the critical reviews for a book I’ve loved!

  4. Surendra November 25, 2018 at 2:26 am #

    I think this is one of the most significant information for me. And i’m glad reading your article. Thank for sharing!

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