Snippets of an Author’s Life: Post 3
Against the current
As many of Alberta’s residents enjoyed their heyday over the last 10-15 years before the economic crash, I struggled through one of the most difficult periods of my life. At age 44, in late 2007, I lost everything material. My house may well have burned down, because that was the effect on my life. With nothing except kids in tow and most of Beyond the Precipice (BTP) still in my head, I began my life anew.
During this challenging time, BTP was written. The current events of my life didn’t create it, but they made it intense and evocative (readers’ words), because, I realized, adversity writes a better novel. Emotions write motives and plots.
The irony is that I’m doing better now than during the last decade, while other Albertans feel the crush of a worsened economy. But I have earned my grey hair and cortisol tire, and to this day wear them proudly.
A time of great celebration: BTP, the miracle book
The first complete draft of BTP was finished on November 13, 2011, five years and four months after its inception, and after an eight-day marathon of five 17-hour days in early October and three additional 17- to 18-hour days over Remembrance Day weekend, my birthday. Ninety-eight thousand words were processed, over half of them newly written material that connected scenes and further revised previously written sections. Essentially, I had completed NaNoWriMo, but as a novel-in-progress and much of the writing done outside of the designated November 1 to 30 dates, it wasn’t an official 50K-word “win.” (The true 50K win was finally checked off my bucket list in 2014.)
Then came production, and I was suddenly on a clock. The manuscript had previously been beta-read, professionally critiqued, and professionally proofread for publication. My computer blew, so I finished checking the typesetter’s converted files on a 10-inch HP Mini screen without the reading glasses I needed. The year 2013 averaged me four hours of sleep a night, at best. There were also promo trips out of town, shoehorned around endless work hours at several jobs (to survive the greatest rent-increase era in Edmonton history in decades, from which anyone with a mortgage was cushioned). I was a machine somehow doing the humanly impossible with undiagnosed anemia, and my fuel was strength of will.
During this time, while pushed to my physical, mental, and emotional limit, I grew personally. I became stronger, took more risks, refused to be emotionally crushed or oppressed. I learned to trust my Spidey-sense and my own knowledge. I coined the expression, “A forty-something woman is a force to be reckoned with.”
BTP made its release deadline in 2013, a mere 38 years after defining my dream to write a novel, seven years after BTP’s start in 2006, and against all odds.
So when I read articles about priorities and making time to write, I gag.
New direction for BTP
BTP received unexpectedly strong praise internationally before and after publication, and I thank the supervisors and colleagues, local and international fans, musicians, libraries, schools, bookstores, events, companies, and my former publisher who supported the book on its journey. We were off to a strong start, but soon lost ground when the publisher became ill and eventually had to close her company. I was out of commission for most of 2014, when severe anemia, trips to Emergency, and imminent surgery left me with barely enough energy to go to work each day. The book lay in limbo until I could cover costs to produce and release the second edition.
But this exciting time has now arrived! As of July 5, I’m on the clock again, with a great deal of work to complete over the next few months as BTP prepares for a late fall/pre-Christmas release. Details will appear on this page or in this blog as they become available.
What is a book worth?
So what is a book worth? Far more than it can earn, in most cases.
This article gives an overview of the costs involved. I didn’t self-publish, but I paid for extensive writing courses taken with industry professionals between 2006 and 2012, a professional critique by Tom Hyman (view credentials), and professional editing. I incurred costs well into the thousands of dollars before I even met my publisher. Afterward, I paid a portion of professional pre-pub proofreading, additional promotion, and travel. Although I didn’t pay for cover design and book construction up front, these costs would have to be exceeded for me to see any royalties from my book.
Considering BTP took six years to write under inhumane conditions along with up-front monetary costs prohibitive to a single mom and now faces a second round of production and related costs, unless the book becomes a bestseller, the cost to create it can never be recovered.
Articles that like to rub in that authors will create books even if they aren’t profitable are destructive to the profession. It’s true that many authors, myself included, have personal reasons for writing, if only because they are internally driven, need to get a story out, or simply enjoy it. But they’re not obligated to produce and sell.
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann’s quote, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people” holds a great deal of truth and profound meaning. Good writing is hard and time-consuming enough—in part because “There is no great writing, only great rewriting” (Justice Louis Brandeis)—but production (which I define as anything beyond my own Word-file editing and perfectionistic tweaking) introduces a financial component and simultaneously takes time away from the creation of writing, the therapeutic aspect, so writers who have a day job and who also want to see their family, exercise, or maintain any kind of life balance may do some serious evaluating.
“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
I almost let BTP die. I didn’t have the money to repeat the production process. Or time. Or energy. I had burned myself out. Releasing books to the world has been hardly feasible for me, and for BTP I had already sacrificed so much. It’s not that I would quit writing—my works are happy sitting at home as Word or PDF files—but I considered quitting the production and sales of books.
Ultimately, it was the manner in which BTP was set adrift that I couldn’t live with, not to mention there were people who believed in it, and others who still approach me to buy. I had to resuscitate it, reinstate it into the book world to make things right, this time as a self-pub, and then maybe quit.
Only after great consideration, research, and a personal referral suggested to me several times during the past couple of years, I chose to sign up with another publisher. The company will look after some parts of production and promo, so I’ll have time to finish my two three works-in-progress, and this whole book thing may actually become fun again.
What mountain are you climbing?
BTP was my Everest. I don’t have the strength or health to undertake such a feat again. But I’m back to climbing hills in the hope of eventually finding a scenic view and a joyful ride.
Beyond the Precipice was named and the events fleshed out before the last decade ever transpired. But I have since stood on my own metaphorical precipice. This site and blog are not named for the book, but for the concept. I climbed the mountain and survived the cliff.
What mountain are you climbing?