This is What Every Writer Should Do Before They Publish
As human beings, we’re impatient. As a society, we’ve been trained to be even more so, given our digital, gotta have it, can’t wait for the web page to load mindset. And as writers, after spending hours, weeks, days, months, even years on our work, we’re understandably eager to share it with the world.
And we can — with a few clicks of a mouse.
That critical time — right after you’ve written, edited, and reread for the umpteenth time and you’re sick to death of it and just want to be done — is, as they say in photography, the golden hour. Your opportunity to make your piece shine. As a fellow writer I urge you to seize that opportunity.
After writing for some twenty odd years — fifteen as a freelancer and five as an author — it’s my firm belief you can only benefit by imposing a kind of cooling off period. And the longer the piece, the longer I wait.
No matter what you’ve written, be it a blog post, a magazine article, a novel, letting it sit for a while gives you the gift of distance. Often, we can’t be an impartial judge of our own work because we’re too close to it. As well, you give the material an opportunity to simmer. For its flavors to develop in your mind.
If you already follow the practice of waiting to publish, you know what I’m talking about. The next day, the next week, even the next hour, you’ve invariably gained insight. Know the perfect phrase, word, transition or arrangement. The answer to a thorny plot problem. An idea has become clear that wasn’t previously. Or, you realize something you thought made sense doesn’t.
Though we may not be actively working on the piece, we’re still chewing on it via our subconscious minds.
Numerous times, I’ve pulled the trigger and published before it was ready, courtesy of my impatience. The end result is the same. I find I’ve both undermined and disappointed myself. Missed an opportunity to polish, clarify, revise, and thus, connect with my audience.
And sadly, hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
Writing and editing and publishing is a lot of hurry up and wait. It seems it’s just the nature of the beast. Specific examples, in my experience, relate to contracts, editing, and marketing.
I’m traditionally, versus self-published. So, which came first, the book or the contract? I’ve done it both ways.
For my first book, I wrote it, then sold it; a.k.a. obtained a contract. For the series that followed, I’d written the first book, but not the next two. However, I’d landed contracts for all three coming out of the gate.
Yes, I was flying high to have sold a series. But bottom line, I’ll never again write a novel on ‘spec’, as it were. Against a deadline, while working a full-time job. It’s downright stressful, and kind of scary. And that’s no fun. Frankly, many times, it felt like having that dream where you’re back in school and not ready for a test.
For me, waiting to complete the book, then pitch it, is the way to go. However, I know other writers who thrive under that pressure. Need it to complete their project.
Whatever your position, we all make the publishing world go ‘round.
When I complete a manuscript, I self-edit as much as I can. That means that, among other things, I check for spelling errors, formatting, continuity, clear out repeat phrasing (and believe me there’s plenty — grip, grimace and that are some of my favorites) as well as avail myself of beta readers’ all-seeing eyes.
Then I send it to my editor, where I land in her queue, and patiently wait my turn. This can sometimes take months. And that’s okay, because I know once we get rolling, I’m going to be busy. In fact, the process can sometimes take months, depending on the extent of the edits.
Realizing upfront that edits take time ensures I don’t rush. It’s tedious, time consuming, sometimes frustrating, even brutal, but I know in the end, my editor is helping me make my story the best it can be.
And I’ve always got time for that. It’s worth it to me to do the heavy lifting up front, even if that means taking longer to publish my work.
I know ultimately, it’ll be the best it can be.
Though I’ve been coming up with ideas throughout the writing process, while I’m waiting in the editing queue, I’ll concentrate my efforts on developing a marketing plan.
In general, the marketing mindset is vastly different than the one you’re in when writing. By recognizing this, and that your plan shouldn’t be rushed, you’re already ahead of the game.
A huge component of any marketing strategy is building your audience — something that takes time, and grows little by little, often over a period of years.
For me, the most time-consuming part of setting up a marketing strategy is choosing from the many options that exist to publicize my work and deciding where and how I’ll spend my time and money.
Budgeting is first and foremost. Hiring a publicist, scheduling guest blogs, creating graphics, planning a cover reveal, contests, giveaways, obtaining reviews, choosing advertising options — all take time to coordinate, and a comprehensive plan is something that will unfold over a period of months.
Any way you look at it, you’re doing yourself a huge favor by simply slowing down. It’s hard to wait. I fight it, all the time. Here’s how I take my own advice.
Work on something else. Brainstorm a new story. Strategize your upcoming promotion. Draft a newsletter. Were you just writing fiction? Switch to non, and vice versa. If you’ve been working on a longer piece, try a shorter one. Whatever you choose, force yourself to have that oh so important self-imposed cooling off period.
That’s not to say we should hold onto our work forever. There comes a time when you have to let it go. But those early hours or days right after you think you’re finished is not the time. Trust me, you’re not finished.
Distance gives you perspective, a.k.a. a golden opportunity.
Your work will be there tomorrow. The readers will be there tomorrow. By sharing your best writing with the world, you’re building a solid foundation now, for your next project, and for years to come.