So, I’ve established that I am an aspiring self-published author. However, what I didn’t mention anywhere on this website is that I am a very shy, terrified (you will see this word a lot in this article), aspiring self-published author. Terrified about letting people see my work, terrified about what they will say about my work, and like the vast majority of the population, terrified of failure.
I’ve had my manuscript ready to be reviewed and read by others since February, 2017. So yeah, over a year. I’ve been talking about it for that long, too. Driving my partner insane, telling him I can’t let him read it because it’s “not ready,” more so worried that if he read it before I rewrote 600 times and checked it for errors 213,322 times, he would hate it and never want to finish it. Hell, even while I traveled for 4.5 months as a backpacker, I carried that tome with me despite only have 7kg and a 25L backpack to live out of, determined to “finish it up so my partner could read it!”
Then I read Stephen King’s highly-acclaimed On Writing, and he said something along the lines of “just give whatever you have to your IR and let them read it, because if you don’t, you might end up changing things that are actually good and losing them forever.” He probably didn’t put it like that, he’s much more eloquent (obviously). But yeah, you get the idea.
With this horrifying idea in mind, I said to myself, “if I don’t give him my manuscript now, I will never do it.” So I told my partner, “You’re getting it Saturday. I’m printing it, and you’re getting it. Just know that I need to change some things and I’m aware of the mistakes that need to be fixed.” He was thrilled. He really is lovely, my partner, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
“Saturday” turned out to be a few weeks later, but he got the manuscript. The terror boiled up inside me as I handed it over, and like the dramatic girl I am, I ran and hid in my room under my blankets for about an hour after I gave it to him. Thankfully, he finds this odd and often immature behaviour endearing.
For a while, he wasn’t allowed to be in the same room as me when he read it, because I experienced bad anxiety knowing he was looking at it. But as he got further into the manuscript, my partner (Lewis) couldn’t put it down. He sat and read it for 6 hours straight once. I’ve never seen Lewis read anything for that long, except for when he was forced to on a plane for lack of anything better to do. Lewis stayed up late during the week to the point where he had to tell himself “No, put it down, I need to go to bed or I’ll be exhausted tomorrow.”
Lewis noted some mistakes, but there were ones I was aware of. But every time he came to talk to me about, I felt the wall of terror rise up inside me and I started to shut down. The only way I was able to surpass it was to tell myself, “Ava, if you can’t handle your partner talking about it, how the hell are you going to publish it and have people you barely know rip it apart?” Telling myself this was how I managed to get through the initial anxiety. Eventually, I came to enjoy discussing the manuscript with Lewis. Every morning on our drive to work, we’d talk about it. I’d get excited, and I was finally able to ask someone, “Hey, what do you think about this character? Do you like them?” or “Does this idea work?” or “Does this annoy you? Because it’s supposed to.”
My advice: Yes, it’s terrifying. Yes, you might need to hide under your blankets and you might need to tell your IR to go away while they read it for the first little bit. But it will get easier. And guess what – you get to talk about your book, your characters and the world you created, with someone you can trust, too.
But more importantly, I think the advice I gave myself is what you need to consider. If you are serious about getting your book published, one day you are going to have to face the music, which will come in the form of your critics. And having an IR you can trust do an initial read-through will be your first step towards facing said music. But it will also help you make your book better, which should be your primary focus. Haters gonna hate, no matter what you write. Haters are just waiting, hoping, DREAMING that something new will pop up so they can say, “wow lol wat shit” even if it is the furthest thing from shit. So focus on your book, your goal, and moving forward, and ignore the imaginary haters in your mind.