Publishing Too Early and Other Horror Stories

In mid-June 2022, I hit the “publish” button on the first book, Waiting for Fate, of my Fate Series.

I waited over twenty years to publish this book, but it was still too early when I finally did.

Hindsight is always 20-20.

I once heard that one of Terry Brooks’ regrets was that he published his Sword of Shannara series too early. He said he should have finished writing the entire series before publishing the first book. This way he would know how the story ended and would be able to incorporate any changes or evolutions more gracefully from the beginning onwards, instead of struggling with the naive confines prescribed by the first book.

Don’t quote me on this quote: it may not have been Terry Brooks, and it may not be an accurate interpretation something that someone may have said. However, it’s the intent that matters. And the impact for me was real.

I took this advice to heart. I decided — somehow someway — that I wasn’t going to publish the Fate Series until I’d finished the last book. This commitment followed me for nearly two decades.

Then, for nearly two decades, I wrote less and less until, finally, I wrote nothing at all. Twenty years later, I am yearning to find that writing flow again.

I have tried everything to write creatively again. And it just isn’t writing creatively. It’s consistently writing creatively.

When I wrote “Waiting for Fate” and its sequel, writing was like air for me. I breathed, ate, and slept writing and the characters of the Fate Series. I was improving my writing craft so that I could do justice to the stories and characters. I was completely immersed in the experience of writing and writing the Fate Series.

Anything other than complete immersion is like a drought to me. How’s that for relativity?

In an attempt to return to this immersion, I took courses, read How-To books, did healing work, therapy. You name it, I tried it.

Then, one day, not long ago, Andy Mort, a “Slow Coach”, wrote a lovely little article “Making Peace With Our Internal Abandoned Villages“. Andy is a musician and he was going through something similar to me. His music well had dried up. He’d tried everything to bring it back to life. Music was part of his identity, a foundational part of his life: who was he without music? But, in this article, he described how one day, he decided to make peace with the possibility that he may never make music again. He made peace with letting go. He made peace with moving on without music.

This struck a gong-like chord deep inside me.

It was (and still is) one of my great fears that I’ll never finish the Fate Series. I have two books of the prospective three written. I’ve tried numerous times to write the third to no avail.

This may sound silly to some of you because there are series authors who are also discovery authors (like Joanna Penn) and they haven’t the foggiest idea if their series will even ever end, forget about whether or not there will be a next book. So what the hell am I so afraid of?

Frankly, I don’t know. It doesn’t really matter. The fact is, however, that I am scared. Andy’s article resonated with me because of this fear and because I needed to find a way to come to terms with it. What if I never wrote the third? Does this negate the first two books? Am I doing justice to my characters by sitting on their story?

How do you come to terms with your fear? Popular (and arguably ancient) wisdom says: face your fear.

So I did. This one sentence makes my journey sound so easy, so short. It wasn’t. It was a looooooooong journey of nearly 20 years and heartache. I don’t know why this fear of not finishing was so real and so deep but it was (is); it took me a long time to see it and finally get up the courage to face it.

It took until now to edit and publish the first book in the series.

Noting the errors 😦

Note: I did say “edit”. And I honestly did perform a comprehensive edit of Waiting for Fate. But, as every author knows, if you want to find all the errors in your manuscript, publish it. And this is exactly what happened.

First, it was the cover. Okay, fixed that.

Then, it was a missing chapter. Shit. Okay. Fixed that and emailed the missing chapter to the friends who bought the print copy. Thankfully the ebook version was complete.

Then, it was finding numerous typos and copy/paste/revision errors throughout the original manuscript. Every time I opened my author print copy, I found more. Fuuuuuuuuck.

I had truly published too early. And I was (and still am) mortifyingly embarrassed. (If you bought one of the print books prior to reading this post, please contact me and I’ll send you the missing Chapter 28.)

In Andy’s article, he references a tiny abandoned Icelandic village that was given new “life” through a music film by Sigur Rós. What was dead was reborn. And this exactly what happened to Andy and his music.

Once Andy made peace with the possibility that music might no longer be a part of his life, it suddenly all flowed back into him. He wrote an entire album in under a week.

While the letting go was for the purpose of letting go, the act of letting go appears to have other consequences.

In publishing Waiting for Fate, I am letting go of the expectation and fear that I will not finish the series. If I don’t finish the series, that’s okay. The two books will be out there doing what they need to do. I didn’t let go in order to get something in return…well, other than peace. I don’t expect that in letting go the third book will pop into my head, full and complete. (However, it would be nice.)

I need the peace. I need the release from fear. I need to let go of this expectation I’d somehow inadvertently placed upon myself and which likely caged my creativity.

So, since publishing Waiting for Fate, have I notice anything? Have I found peace? Have I noticed my creative well refilling?

Stay tuned; I’ll let you know 😉

Further Reading / Listening

Joanna Penn – The Creative Penn podcast

Andy Mort – Notes from a Slow Coach (newsletter)

Yvonne Kjorlien – Waiting for Fate (print: Amazon; ebook: Kindle, Books2Read)

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