Not Good Enough – Try Again

It’s been a long time since I have heard those words. I remember at school and university there was the very odd assignment that got sent back for a second attempt, but it was a rarity. I’ve always been pretty good at putting things into words, or even fudging when I had to. So to hear them a couple of months ago was a bit of a kick in the guts.

As you may be know I have been writing a book on bivocational mission and ministry, sharing some of my learning over the last 30 years or so. I haven’t been able to find a publisher easily. It’s a niche subject and there really isn’t any commercial worth in a book of this kind. That’s ok – I understand.

Then I was introduced to a ‘Hybrid’ publisher, someone you contract to do all the hack work right up to actually producing the book. Of course you pay for it. And it isn’t cheap. But as I spoke with Danelle we decided together that the money spent would be an investment in learning and the first step in what I hope will be the writing of another 4 or 5 books. I want to pursue writing and make it a focus in life over the next 20 years. It’s more than a simple ‘hobby’ or new goal. Rather I feel it’s something God is birthing in me.

So we agreed together to this plan and I sent the book off for approval by their oversight team. I knew it was going to need some editing, and I was aware that it was a first draft, but when the reply came that ‘you really need to do a fair bit of work before we can even consider approving’ I must admit I was a bit sunk. There was some encouraging critique as well, but I heard the ‘not up to scratch’ message loud and clear. And to be honest I was bewildered. I thought it was pretty good.

I’ve now started writing 4 different books and the reason the first 3 floundered was mainly because I got some negative feedback and I allowed self doubt to push me out of the game. As the email came in this time I felt the same inner response. Disappointment and self doubt. Perhaps I’m kidding myself. Perhaps I am a poor writer and I need to forget about any future in writing.

Those first visceral responses are so powerful, but this time I have consciously pushed back on them and said ‘no’. I think I can do this, but I am on a learning curve. I have never written a book before so it’s kind of like being good with tools and trying to build a house. There is a lot I don’t know. It’s humbling to have to resumer a learner posture in a skill I feel quite accomplished at. But I’m guessing that writing a blog, or a few articles is very different to something more substantial.

The publisher offered the option of a paid critique, showing me where I needed to change things. Again it seemed like money well spent, so I gave someone permission to teach me what I don’t know and sent off the $$. It was definitely money well spent as she did a really diligent job of helping me see how I could improve things. I needed to reduce the word count significantly. Of the 80K words around 20K needed to be cut. She went thru and highlighted various sections with the word ‘cut’ – some were whole chapters, now deleted. Where arguments needed tightening she noted ‘weak argument’. Where I was repeating the same idea, again the word ‘cut’. The first few felt brutal and then I started to breathe again.

I was ready for it this time. I hadn’t paid someone money to rub my tummy and tell me nice things. I wanted someone to speak straight and show me where I was missing the mark, as well as where I was on target. (There was a bit of that thankfully!)

So I have spent the last few months editing as I have been able while we travel and now it feels like a trimmed down and more readable version than the first attempt. I am going to send it off again and see if this time I am closer to what is required.

I think it is… but I really do feel like a ‘beginner’ again in a field I have little knowledge of, so time will tell. I may yet have to drag myself down the road of self publishing.

7 thoughts on “Not Good Enough – Try Again

  1. I’m quite picky with what I choose to read, and I love your writing style and life stories. Does it really matter how precise the writing is?
    Reading your blog and your perspective and reflexion on daily life events and how you choose to deal with situations make people inspired to be better humans.
    I find it so enjoyable. Please keep writing!

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