(Kate Flora here, in for Al today, with apologies for posting twice in one week) Now that’s a crazy assertion, isn’t it? In a world full of people striving to be published, stacking up rejection letters, desperately searching for an agent, and falling into the slough of despond whenever they get that terse “no thanks” or “not right for our list” how could there possibly be anything good about being unpublished?
But there is. While you’re in the unpublished writer’s corner, the relationship is just between you and your work. It has a kind of uninterrupted intensity and a kind of purity that will never exist again. You control the story, you shape your characters, the work is entirely the product of your imagination. And why is this special? Because once your work is in the hands of agents, editors, and readers, that intimate, private, sometimes obsessive relationship with your story and characters is changed.
Agents may want changes. Editors almost certainly will. And while it’s true that a good editorial agent or a good editor can make us better writers, it is here that you begin to share ownership of your story. Someone else’s vision intrudes. Someone else’s opinions matter. Someone else is suggesting changes. Very often for the better. But now it is no longer you and your imagination and that empty screen you are filling with story. Now someone else is imagining your characters and tweaking your plot. Now it is a shared storytelling.
And then the thing you’ve always dreamed of happens: the story is published. And now you become part of a writing triangle. There is your relationship with your characters and story. There is a new world of readers who develop relationships with your characters and story. And your readers begin to develop a relationship with you and work. Much in the way that having a child changes the family dynamic, publishing your work and sending it out into the world changes the writerly dynamic. In our world, especially when we’re writing a mystery series, the way that readers development relationships with our characters is something we will ever after have to consider as we write.
Not convinced that there could be anything good about being unpublished? How about the way your time will fragment. What about publicity, promotion, speaking, blogging, working social media, and learning to do the “buy my book” dance. It all takes time. Lots and lots of time. Years ago, the writer might be able to write for nine months and promote for three. These days, the promotion side never goes away. Publish your first book and now you have a whole new, time-consuming job: marketing.
Last, but far from least, is the dreaded deadline. That first book was leisurely. There may have been intensity in the writing, but basically, you had all the time in the world to imagine it, shape it, and edit it. But now, if the world of publication has been kind, publishing a book will mean you have to produce a second book, and this time, you’ll only have a year. Not two or three or five or ten or the lifetime that led up to that first one. And that year will be complicated by the aforementioned marketing.
So, disbelievers, sit back for a moment, take a deep breath, and consider. Maybe there is something about life in the unpublished writer’s corner that isn’t so miserable after all.