Bound by Life, my first book, an anthology of short stories based in India, is nearly complete. I started it in March, and am publishing it through Kindle on June 20, 2015. In these three months, I have learnt a lot about the writing process in general, and my own preferences in particular. In today’s blog post, I share those lessons with you.
1) Deadlines are both bad and good: I started Bound by Life as if on a dare. I discovered Kindle Self-Publishing and thought this genie was daring me to write and publish a book as soon as I could.
At that point, I was in my final semester of engineering, and had a lot to do besides writing stories. I had never really considered this fact while starting the book, and selecting a deadline. As the days progressed, I started to panic. I had finished five of the ten stories I intend to publish in Bound by Life by 5th May. By the end of May, that number had only increased by one. I mean I had other stories in the pipeline too, but those were half-way or quarter-way through. And lesser time with the stories means lesser time with editing, which can often be a bad thing.
Then again, I had never been a disciplined writer. I have written since I was eight. But it was only recently that I found out that what I wrote were mostly poems, blog and diary entries when what I really wanted to write was some great fiction that would change people’s lives! If I didn’t use that deadline, I would perhaps still be writing what I usually wrote. Since that deadline, I have not only written stories for my book, but sent a few to magazines as well. One of my stories, I am Mala, was published in the May edition of eFiction magazine this year! Hurray!
2) Writing is important, but editing is much more important: Now, any author knows this: we can’t stress editing enough. Every time I went back to one of my stories, I found I could tweak some sentences to make them sound more interesting, or erase entire paragraphs that added nothing to the story. I wish I had more time with the editing process for Bound by Life. But I am doing the best that I can.
3) There are going to be creative ups and lows: While I was writing stories for Bound by Life, on certain days I was sure my stories were awesome and I was over the moon, smug and all that. On other days I was just panicking and thinking my books would never sell any copies.
Then, I realized all this was quite natural. To wave off these mixed feelings, I tried to be more involved in my real life. The fact that I had my final semester exams helped, because at that time I was distracted and too busy to think that my book was trash or too good. I spent more time around people, read books, and discussed those books. I wrote reviews for stories. Mostly, I wanted to come back to the stories with a fresh mind and a more positive outlook.
4) Each story is different, and has to be handled differently: if you have ever worked on an anthology, you’ll know the feeling. There were some stories I wrote in three hours while others stretched on for weeks – these were the ones which appeared interesting to me when I first thought of them, but then didn’t know how to get them down in words.
There was this one story which I had high hopes for. It had a character, an elderly lady, who I was interested in. But I wasn’t familiar with the state of mind of a woman of her background and age to pen it authentically (as a writer, I tend to draw inspiration from real life quite heavily). Finally, after sending the first draft to a couple of acquaintances (a process which made me see the flaws in the story all the more clearly, and I kept telling them that it was a first draft and they shouldn’t judge me by it), I realized I should put away this story until I felt mature enough to deal with its characters. There is a right time for everything, and for a writer (as with anyone in any other profession), it is very important to know your shortcomings, and accept them gracefully.
5) Your first self-published book is perhaps really not going to be the best-seller you were hoping it to be: Hell, perhaps it will not even sell fifty copies. The publishing industry today has changed a great deal in favour of indie writers, especially thanks to Amazon. But writing your first book and making it a publishing success are two different things. And the process is especially difficult if you are a nobody like me, with a meagre Twitter/Facebook/blog following (not that I am saying that those are the only necessary criteria to sell your book).
When I first began writing this book, I had these dreams of selling so many copies and making lots of money. But in the last two months I have read lots of articles on publishing to know better. Finally, I accepted that I wasn’t going to make any money from Bound by Life, and that made life easy. Thanks to that acceptance, I have different marketing ideas now to pitch Bound by Life, but that is going to be another blog-post.
Until later, have a nice week and keep blogging!