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.