The Vague World of the Unpublished Writer

Being an unpublished writer has its ups and downs. We reside in an in-between place where we can go either way: remaining unpublished or joining the published ranks.

Here’s how life is for this currently unpublished writer.

Unpublished Does Not Mean ‘Lesser Than’

I have every intention of publishing my work. I don’t see it as a problem if I never did though. If I wanted to write for a hobby it would not make my writing any lesser on its basis of being unpublished.

We should always judge a writer on their goods, not on whether we can buy it or not. I understand that it’s hard to evaluate if you cannot get your hands on it but in this age of blogs and social media, an unpublished writer’s work is still accessible.

Whilst the writing community is generally full of supportive writers, like any group, it has the know-it-all snobs. I’ve been judged or seen other writers derided as second rate because they have not published a novel. I don’t know why that is. The truth is that anyone can publish their work nowadays and that’s not always such a good thing.

I know those of you who work hard to make sure your work is the very best it can be before you publish won’t take offence. I am referring to those who self-publish without so much as a second pair of eyes looking over their writing.

I’m sure we’ve all been shocked that some writers published certain novels that are full of typos, riddled with grammatical errors, poorly formatted, or flimsy in plot and characterisation.

I’m not jumping on the bandwagon of doing down self-published writers by stating that their work is shoddy in comparison to the traditionally published, because that’s not a universal truth. I’m merely expressing that not being published does not make a writer lesser than one who has pressed ‘publish’ before the ink has dried on their first draft, or even the one who has done multiple revisions and edits.

Getting it Right

Unpublished Writer - thumbs upI would love to have a copy of my own novel in my hands right now. I’m one of the most impatient people I’ve ever met. I’ve surprised myself in how I’m taking it slow and steady to get to the publishing line.

I confess I have perfectionist qualities which are always ‘interesting’. Writing, however, has helped me to be more free and fluid (apologies for the slightly tossbaggish terms). I write what needs to be written, let it out, so to speak, and then sort the mess out later.

I’m not going to publish anything until I feel that I have something to offer. I want to have options and that means churning out the work so I can choose what goes out there into the world.

I know I run the risk of keeping my writing closely guarded and it having to be prised out of my cold, dead fingers, but I want to get this as right as I possibly can. I cannot publish one novel and then let the momentum die down by taking five years to write another one. I’m not scorning those that do that. This isn’t my plan. If it works for you, more power to you.

Girding My Loins

I love this phrase. Any phrase that basically instructs us to protect our private parts in preparation for battle is a winner in my eyes. Let’s make it metaphorical though, as otherwise this could become embarrassing.

My ‘loins’ are my written pieces. I am protecting my writing at this stage by not sharing it openly. Nobody wants to see someone’s loins on show in public, eh? Well, some of you freaks do but that’s none of my business…

I don’t share my fiction writing on my blog or in social media writers’ groups. Some of this is down to the paranoia of being plagiarised or what cheats would rather call, ‘imitation’. It’s already happened a few times with my blog posts. I’ve seen my posts appear in a slightly different guise on a few other bloggers’ sites. I am amused that they feel that they can basically cobble together something that is practically the same as my post, with slightly different wording, and I won’t notice. I do, and I’m always watching.

I’m protective of my fiction writing. I would hate for it to be stolen or my ideas used by someone else, particularly as they’ll probably get it published before me.

I told The Husband recently that I wondered if people who follow this blog and my social media ever question if I am actually writing any fiction because I don’t share it. He assured me that you do believe I’m writing fiction and not just blagging it. I could be lying though and you might never know. By the way, I’m not. Cross my heart and hope to publish.

Dragged Down and Bobbing Back Up

Unpublished writer - swimming to surfaceI don’t know if I would have published my work sooner if depression hadn’t hit and bad life stuff hadn’t happened. No crystal ball is going to help here.

I do know that I couldn’t write for months when I was depressed. I also know that my self-esteem was dragging on the ground so there was no way that I felt like anyone would want to read what I wrote.

I have no regrets. It happened and there’s no point dwelling on it. I cannot change the past. I believe that everything has its purpose in life, good or bad.

I’m no Pollyanna though. Of course I wish the depression tsunami hadn’t hit just as I was finishing the first draft of my first novel. I would love it if the horrible things that have happened in my life in the past year or so that have derailed my writing had never happened. But it all did and cannot be altered. All I can do now is write in the present with the hope for a published future.

I’m Always Learning

The good thing about not rushing to get published is that I’m learning a lot from those that have published before me. Through them I can see the potential successes and pitfalls.

Fellow writers’ experiences are helping me to decide where to go, how to do it, and what I need to get there. I’ve always researched things in detail. Publishing is no different.

I don’t know at this stage whether I’ll try and jump on the scary traditional publishing mill or engage in the slog of the self-publishing route. My collection of written pieces will help me to decide that.

Publishing is changing all the time. Even in the space of time that I’ve been writing I have seen many developments, some beneficial, others not so much. I don’t know what the publishing world will look like when I get there but I will certainly be observing it with a keen eye along the way.

I Still Have Something to Offer!

I was saddened recently to engage in a post about marketing oneself before we publish and how it provoked a lot of negativity. I know many writers hate it and find it pointless. Again, each to their own. What bothered me in this post was how some writers were stating that there’s no point in unpublished writers having social media or blogs because they have nothing to say or offer. I could not disagree more!

One person asserted that no-one wants to read the blogs of unpublished writers. Well, I may not be amassing thousands of hits every day but frankly I’m offended on your behalf, dear followers and readers of this blog. Unpublished writer - valid

Just because I, and other writers, are unpublished doesn’t mean that we cannot have blogs.

I have never claimed to be a writing guru. You will not find a post on this blog that states my authority on giving writing tips or advice. I do have a lot to offer though in writing about the stuff that is real about writing, the ubiquitous talent show ‘journey’ – how I hate that word. I also work hard on the content. That’s writing by the way.

I don’t write solely about writing either. I write about books, reading, life issues, and even the cat gets a look in. No-one tells Feegle that her blog posts aren’t proper writing and comes out of it unscathed. Kitty cat has all the claws.

As for social media, I don’t go overboard. I don’t have a book to punt to you every day on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure that you’re quite pleased about that.

Confession time: Personally I don’t like social media accounts that are either set up solely for a book or are full of ‘buy my book’ posts. My eyes glaze over and I’m even less likely to buy the book than I was when I started following you.

I like social media where I feel I’m chatting with a human being who happens to write. That’s fun and helpful. It doesn’t have to be a chore and I don’t need to be published to do it.

I used to be embarrassed about being on social media as a writer when I hadn’t published anything. Then I had a word with myself and realised that I am still a writer, chatting about writing and books with other writers. It’s still valid. I deserve to be there, in my writer role, as much as J. K. Rowling or A. N. Other who published his book last week.

Being Unpublished Has its Good Points!

  • No one reads my work at the moment so I don’t have to stress over poor reviews.
  • I don’t have to market my book until I become sick and tired of it.
  • I am spared looking at Amazon every day for book sales and reviews.
  • I don’t have to secretly hate my friends and family for not reading my book.
  • No one has copies of my book foisted upon them because I will get reviews and recognition even if it kills me.
  • I have the freedom to keep writing pieces knowing that no one is expecting me to better the last one.

All that said though, the goal is always to be published because most writers are masochists. See you eventually on the other side!

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer. When she's not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, books, the cats, and the husband. Perhaps not in that order.

4 comments on “The Vague World of the Unpublished Writer

  1. Lisa, Good for You! Best advice from one my old professors “Write what you want. Don’t worry about who’s reading it.”

    I wrote what I consider my best work “Henry’s Pride” after recovering from a total nervous breakdown and two long bouts of clinical depression. Now writing the sequel. Hang in there, lady.

    1. Well done Greg for writing after mental illness. That’s something to feel incredibly proud of. I hope the sequel goes well.

      Thanks for your encouragement and advice!

  2. I wouldn’t have many blogs to read if I refused to read anything by unpublished authors! Good on you for not feeling rushed to get your writing out there – when you’re ready, you’ll know. And I’ll still be reading your blog either way!

    1. I really appreciate having the support of people like you that understand not being published doesn’t make someone a lesser writer or blogger.

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