Deb Rachel Likes To Plan

2012 Debutante Rachel BertscheHere’s what scares me about writing: The uncertainty of it all.

It starts at the beginning. You sit down with your computer (or typewriter if you’re, like, super cool). Maybe you have an idea of where the story will go, but you can never be certain what those final pages will look like. I’m not an outliner, so even though I had some idea of what I was going to put in each chapter of MWF Seeking BFF, I often went off-course, finding myself reading a totally different final product than I’d expected.

Then, after you’ve poured your heart and soul into a proposal or a full-fledged manuscript, you introduce it to the publishing gatekeepers. You’ve dedicated hours upon hours—passing on brunches with friends, family dinners—to put your ideas on paper, without ever knowing if someone will agree to publish it. To me, that’s insane. Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever tackle fiction for the sole reason that I don’t think I could write an entire manuscript without knowing if it will ever see the light of day. I’m in awe of novelists.

And once you do sell your book? There’s the equal-parts-exciting-and-frustrating uncertainty of what will happen once it hits shelves. Will people read it? Will they—ohmygosh—like it? How will they find out about it? What if the local bookstore doesn’t even carry it?

Perhaps you can tell that, at least when it comes to my writing career, I like to be in control. Other aspects of my life? Not so much. To me, the best part of a vacation is leaving the planning to someone else. But when it comes to work, I like to know that if I do A, B and C, then D will come as a result. That’s not how it is with writing. Whether a book sells is largely about putting together a good manuscript or proposal, but it’s also about finding an agent who “gets” your work, and then an editor/publisher/marketing/sales team who similarly love your book and, more importantly (this is a business after all), thinks they can sell it.

And the aftermath of a book’s release isn’t just about the author, either. It’s about the publisher, the sales force, the publicity team. And so so so much is straight-up chance. Maybe the right person will notice it. Maybe book clubs will flock to it. Or maybe nothing will happen at all. You can’t know.

Not to sound all cheesy middle school soccer coach, but all you can do is your best and hope that others appreciate your work. That’s scary, but it’s how it is, so you can either accept it or tear your hair out.

And honestly, I just got my haircut on Monday so I don’t want to mess with it.

Do you find the uncertainty of publishing terrifying or exciting?


7 Replies to “Deb Rachel Likes To Plan”

  1. Ugh. The uncertainty is excruciating sometimes. My constant mantra? “Focus on what you CAN do.” Because, as a writer, much of the whole publishing process is beyond your control, and you will go crazy if you obsess about it.

    So, what CAN a writer focus on? Writing the best book possible. Finding a good agent (if you decide to go the traditional route). While your agent is selling your book, work on the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat. Try to ignore the speed bumps.

  2. Oh, it is SO hard to find that balance. I should know–I’m not even close to finding it!! I think what makes it even harder in today’s publishing world is that the author DOES have more involvement which can lead to a sense of more “perceived” control, but the truth is, as you point out Rachel, that at the end of the day, you can do everything right (er, whatever that is) and still face uncertainty.

    Linda, you make a great point–focus on what you can do (write that great book, stay connected with readers) and think to future projects to keep your mind too busy to worry (Yeah, I’m still working on that last part too…)

  3. The uncertainty is painful for me… unless I combine it with lots of other uncertainties. If I were just book-stressing, I’d go insane (as I did the first 2 weeks of Populazzi’s release). If I’m also pitching new TV shows and books and throwing myself into other projects, even though those projects are just as uncertain, I feel better.

    In other words, the “Look over there, something shiny!” approach seems to work for me. Most of the time.

    1. Elise! I thought I’d already responded to this. This is great advice, thank you. I’ve chosen to follow your lead and start focusing on trying to formulate book two. Rather than focus on what may or may not happen with book one, might as well distract myself with shiny objects that are within my control. Thanks!

  4. I am a control freak in pretty much every aspect of my life, so this business just about kills me daily. BUT I’m trying, trying, trying to let stuff go and focus on what I can control. Failing that, I know a good wig-maker. 😉

  5. And that is why I’m doing NaNoWriMo this year — I want to get all the first-draft uncertainty over with as quickly as possible. Once I have a first draft, at least I have a sense of what I can work with, where I can go with it, how I can shape it, etc. But before that? All those blank pages stretching into infinity? Ag. Not my idea of fun.

  6. I do not like uncertainty. So it is definitely scary for me. I feel relief after hitting the submit button. And then the mail comes with the review. It is so painful that I sometimes refrain from reading reviewer comments for weeks. Pathetic, right?

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