What held me back from seeking publication for my first novel?

For me, writing and ‘publishing’ my first piece of work was SO scary. There were just too many things running on my head that kept saying ‘NO, don’t do it!’ Here’s how I overcame them. This was a question from Quora that I answered. If you’d like to follow me on Quora, head over here to keep up to date with my literary journey.

Hi! My name is Christopher Sergi. I’m a novelist and a blogger going through the same journey you are: being a writer! Feel free to comment your thoughts below on the topics that come up in this tutorial, for not only do I want you to be a better writer, but I do too! We can learn and have fun together.

A lack of Belief!

Gosh, there were so many reasons I don’t know where to start! But here goes I guess. When I was about thirteen, I’d just finished the novel Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Blown back by the fact I’d just read a book with, what felt like a million pages for someone of my age, I came to realisation that “I could be possibly the next Paolini if I gave it a go!”

I thought nothing of it, jumping straight onto my computer and churning out a few dozen pages of pure magnificence, that was until I showed it to the worst person imaginable. Since I was desperate for some praise for having written more than I would ever have hoped for, I couldn’t wait for my mum to get home, so instead, I showed it to her despicable ex-partner, who without reading a single line told me I was far too young and stupid to ever consider finishing an entire novel, let alone one day publishing it.

I was a Nobody!

So I turned to the internet to search for young writers who had made a fortune from their youthful ventures. Nothing really hit me. There were very few of them out there, and not only that, I discovered my favourite author C. Paolini was in fact part of a family of publishers and agents. How was I going to compete with that? I knew nobody in the industry.

Not only that, I for one had NEVER written anything in my life, other than the odd short story for an English class project, and even those were questionable. My teachers always told me I had terrible spelling. Seriously I’ll be surprised if I manage to finish this post without a handful of typos. I beg for your forgiveness now!

For most writers seeking publication, the first port of call would have been the Writers and Artist Yearbook, which is a publication listing hundreds of publishing and literary agents across the country. Not only did I have no money to buy this book, the idea of searching through it intimidated me so much I had almost convinced myself I was not cut for such a career.

Fear held me Back!

On a more personal level, I was TERRIFIED that my personality would show through my writing too much. I didn’t want a single soul to know about my interests, my thoughts and especially my sexuality. I thought my writing would, in a sense, out me! For a teenager deep in the closet, that was not an option.

Also, I was worried too many readers would suspect my inspiration and think of me as a plagiariser. Sure I read books as a kid, but to be honest, I could have read a hell of a lot more. And because of this, my exploration of stories and plot ideas was very limited. I was worried, especially after a few more critiques from friends about my writing, that what I had written was far too familiar to what was already out there: that I had no originality or distinguishable features in my pros.

Time to take action!

What was I to do? I thought my writing sucked, I compared myself to far too many people in the profession, I had zero confidence in my voice, I immersed myself not nearly enough into reading and writing as I should have done, I couldn’t spell for poop! And to top it off, for the life of me I just couldn’t finish a damn project. I just didn’t think I was cut for something I was just so SURE I was meant to do!

So what did I do? I made peace with the fact I may not ever be that teenage sensation I had hoped to be like Christopher Paolini. I promised myself I would keep working at it. Keep pushing myself in terms of my reading and writing, to not feel ashamed if my writing sucked, and to accept criticism when it came my way without breaking down into a pile of thin-skinned mush. (eww, gross!)

Send your baby out there!

Then came the day I finally finished my first manuscript Everscape! Woo! I sent it to an editor, which admittedly nearly crippled me in terms of the price and the notes that were handed to me! Once again, I considered just how crap I was a writing. But I persevered. I took the notes on, I made the changes to my manuscript, I pretty much rewrote the novel about four times! Eek!

But eventually I reached a happy place. The novel was where I wanted it, and I sent it out to agents. And you know what, the responses were not as bad as I thought they’d be. As an average response, my writing was just a little too niche. In other words, there wasn’t much of a market for a young adult novel with the themes I included.

Patience is a virtue…sometimes!

So in the end, instead of persevering, I got impatient. I decided to create the book’s cover design, organise the book’s layout and decide to self-publish. Was it a mistake? Maybe, considering I, at the time, expected an influx of sales within a matter of weeks. How wrong I was. But like any experience, the experience taught me valuable lessons.

Writing a novel and getting it professionally published is a big task! It takes commitment, courage and stamina. And you’ll never know how worthy you are for publication until you can confidently tell yourself you’re ready, and if you don’t feel like you are, it’s as the great Albus Dumbledore once said: ‘Help will always be given to those who ask for it.’

Hope this helps with your own publishing journey. I’d love to know how you get on in the future! And make sure you have FUN! 🙂

I really hope this has helped in your journey as a writer. Never feel like you’re not good enough to be heard. It’s better to fail and learn than to never bother and never know. If you’re interested in hearing about my own journey as a writer and literary student, sign up to my newsletter! I’d love to have you along for the journey!

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