WRITING CHRONICLE #35: a conflicted constitution

Via: Daily Prompt – Conjure & Lecture


Those who visited my blog in the spring of last year may remember how I came about to publish my ebook Bad Daughter; since, in the greater scheme of things, this is rather a trifling detail, I can’t hold it against you if you do not. Still, for the purpose of this post, allow me to briefly recap the event that led to this mismanaged milestone in my writing career.

Around mid-April 2017, I came to learn about a fiction writing contest being hosted by Amazon UK for international authors old and new to win large in distinction as well as cash. The contest had been open for some time and there was just over a month left to the deadline, after which, the entered stories would be reviewed by a panel of renowned authors and publishing wizards assembled under the banner of, what is basically, the most influential book distributor of our time. A challenging feat, especially given the time constraint, but since the rules were fairly simple, I decided to give it a go. All I had to do was publish a story of above 5,000 words via KDP Select that was never before circulated in any form or medium. Right? Wrong.

My genius plan was that, even if I didn’t win first prize but my story was shortlisted, I could make some very important people in the industry sit up and take notice of my writing. Talk about being jacked up on confidence. What I missed was the inferred rule, i.e. the competition wouldn’t simply be on the storytelling aspect of each entry but will also factor in how much sales and positive reviews they generated before judges even took notice (because, obviously, any competition that commits £20,000 for the first prize would probably attract a hell lot of authors). But misconstruing the fine prints wasn’t my true inadequacy; it was my lack of vision and the inability to set my priorities in the correct order.

I had been toying with a story idea for some time for which I had just enough research materials to concoct a simplified plot with a justifiable character arc to produce a sizeable novella. At the time, I was convinced it was the perfect solution for this short order. Since the premise, too, was a notable departure from what I was used to writing, I felt this was a good opportunity to embark on something new without compromising too much of my time for the novel I was already working on.

It was still women’s literature but I knew even before I began writing that, for the sake of the central theme, the tone and style would have to differ substantially from my previous fictions. While I generally write contemporary romances with elements of chick lit for adults, the story I was planning to write was literary fiction banked on own voices appealing more to YAs and NAs. Yes, I was as confused about how to categorize my novella as this sounds. Already, I was beginning to wrinkle the fabric of my potential success. But I allayed my worries with the knowledge that this story would be published under a new pen name using my first and middle initials instead of the full name [not very original, I know].

As the first draft practically wrote itself, I finally began to comprehend how important a story I had to tell – one that was truly worthy of the public’s attention. Using fear of social stigma to silence victims of child sexual abuse too often begin from home and it needs to stop regardless of the source! Though my grasp of the subject was still not as extensive as my growing interest would have it, my opinion on the matter was decided. The route to fighting back abuse is through discussion, not silence, I felt. So I began to want to use my novella to get that discussion rolling. Perhaps, some vain part of me also egged me on with the notion that the subject may indeed get me past those thousands of entries into the top ten list, but I was also becoming uncomfortably aware that I could no longer play fast and loose with such a fundamental subject as this if I were to succeed.

Perhaps I should have stopped myself from publishing the novella then. Perhaps I should have forgone the contest and strived to write a full-sized novel with a stronger structure and clearer moral before making the ebook available to the public. Alas, I was too myopic to realize that stoking my pride because I had publically committed to entering the contest now could come back to bite my fulsome behind if my story was too inconsequential to impress the readers.

I pushed through and I was actually satisfied with what I had accomplished – over 37,000 words drafted and edited and compiled for publishing in less than a month! And the contest, too, was such a platform to get this story out on. It was like a fire had been lit under me and I had become desperate to get a book published under my name [albeit with only my initials]. The result? In my haste, I wrote my choppiest story to date and put it up for sale. What a stellar beginning to my career as a professional author.

If you are sneering at me, you are welcome to. Heaven knows I have directed enough sermons at me on the detriments of using shortcuts to achieve success. No sooner did I publish the ebook, I decided to rewrite it, to be shuffled entirely back to front. I thank my stars now that I didn’t go for print simultaneously and could sell only four copies of the ebook. Two of them were purchased by friends so I can always tell them when I upload the revised content but I feel sorry for the two schmucks who thought to give an unknown author an opportunity to prove herself. Hopefully, they will get the update notice that Amazon promises whenever an ebook content is updated.

You must be wondering why I have gone off the hinge berating myself on the eve of Valentine’s Day, confessing my most shamefully shoddy undertaking. Well, I know how authors are always chasing due dates; it is entirely easy to break down under pressure or be enticed by the opportunity of a publication, but don’t do it until you are absolutely sure your story is ready to be read by your audience. Not only will you be hampering the opportunity to write that compelling story within you, you will be doing your author self a disservice.

In other words, don’t be an impatient fool like me.

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  1. #1 by jrusoloward on February 14, 2018 - 2:25 am

    Excellent advice. I know that I rush things for publication. Everything needs to get done as quicly as possible and once it’s done, I want it out there so I can get on to the next project. I need to learn patience. Perhaps put it aside, and get back to it. Ensure it gets my full attention.

    For the record, I was one of the people who bought your book (you know that). You may not be happy with it because you see the potential for what it could have been. I thought it was well written with a strong message. You should be proud of yourself. Anyone reading this comment, you should do yourself a favor and buy the book.

    So, lesson learned, you need to sit back, change some names and develop what you have (which is excellent) into the story that you want. Good luck, my friend!

    • #2 by lupa08 on February 14, 2018 - 6:13 pm

      You are kind to me, as always! Much love for that ❤️

      Yes, you are one of the two friends I mentioned. I liked how the story turned out at the time, it felt special. But I think much of it also had to do with the high of writing this 10k-shy-of-a-novel in less than a month. But I later came to realize that the story needs more dimension as proof of the MC’s character growth. And it came to me that while writing THAT (i.e. in the form you read it) in a month may be a great accomplishment but writing it to its full gestation would probably require a bit more work and time.

      It is also necessary to make it sellable because right now the target readership is confusing. It reads like a YA, which is great because I want girls to know that silence isn’t the only resort, but I really want older generations to read it as a reminder of how not to deal with such a situation. So yes, to turn it into something that more people will read it and get my message, it needs a few additional chapters and a trajectory from a different angle.

      • #3 by jrusoloward on February 18, 2018 - 12:32 am

        I can definitely you developing it into a stronger story. It is full of potential. While reading it, I didn’t think of it as just a YA story, although I can see children in Middle School (in the US, at least) reading it. There is definitely the coming of age aspect of the story, and the message / moral and experience is, unfortunately, universal.

      • #4 by lupa08 on February 18, 2018 - 6:58 am

        Thank you! Pray for me that I can keep procrastinating to a minimum while fixing this. 🙏❤️

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