I recently completed the republishing process of one of my books, The Bone Pile: Seeing the Elephant. The other two books of the trilogy are published, too, and Readers’ Magnet, my publisher, awarded my efforts by sending me a free copy of the books.

            I struggled to explain to a friend the euphoria of opening that package and holding your book in your own hands for the first time. She looked at me quizzically so I said, “It’s like having a baby!” Since both of us have had actual pregnancies, comparing holding a book to birthing a child seems a little ridiculous. She laughed at me, thinking it was a joke, but really, to me at least, holding a volume of my own completed manuscript for the first time is exactly like having a baby . . . well, mostly . . . somewhat . . . maybe . . . I think.

            The conception of an idea for a story can sometimes be an overwhelming experience. The skies don’t open up and the trumpets don’t harken from the heavens, but it can be a tremendous event. Of course, it is a solitary experience and is not as orgasmic as say, making a baby, but it is joyful, nonetheless. The writer is filled with the flood of possibilities, the joy of writing the great American novel. Like thinking that your unborn child could be president someday, the writer is certain the people from Pulitzer will be calling soon.

            And then reality soaks in. The would-be great novelist stares at the blank computer screen and sighs deeply. Oh, my God, now comes all the work—the toiling and grinding and beating your head against a wall. Each sentence, each paragraph can be grueling.

            Months pass, filled with frustration and agonizing hard work. There are small victories along the way. Completing the first chapter is a little like that first ultrasound. The tiny heart is beating! It’s a beginning. Hopeful that it will grow into a completed work of literature, the writer persists, rejoicing in every completed page.

            Gradually, it grows. The story becomes bigger and meaningful. It’s beginning to take shape—make sense. Sometimes, the writer has days—even weeks—when the words flow like a babbling brook—easy, logical, beautiful. Other times your mind is a black hole, empty and desperate for ideas. The sentences are clumsy and nonsensical, and you think, I CAN’T DO THIS! But it’s too late. This thing is inside of you now. You have to write. You have to finish it. YOU MUST!

            And then comes of the real painful part—handing it over to be read by someone. They usually don’t understand the urgency so they take their time. I check my email constantly, praying for a few words. I fill the time with editing—re-reading the manuscript over and over again. The reality of self-publishing is that the writer serves as his own editor, worried that there are misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, or poorly constructed sentences. I shudder when I find a mistake, thinking how stupid I would have looked if I hadn’t caught it. The rewrites are difficult, sometimes eliminating words, sentences, even whole paragraphs that you really liked but your good sense tells you they are unimportant and hinder the flow of the story, so you sigh deeply, hit erase, and try it again. After months or years of painstaking work, it’s done. The publishers have developed a wonderful cover. The writer has agonized over the 750-character plot synopsis that is featured on the back cover of the book with a few words “About the Author” that do not sound pretentious or self-aggrandizing. It is done. You hand your novel over to the publisher and wait for it to be completed.

And there is is—your book, delivered to your doorstep by your friendly neighborhood doctor—no, I mean the UPS man. You stare at it for a few minutes, not wanting to spoil its perfection, knowing soon it will be creased, dirtied, and dog-eared. The author fingers through it, finding small things you might have done better, but for the most part, it is good. It started as a tiny seed in the deep recesses of your brain to grow and flourish into a book. At that moment, the writer feels a surge of euphoria that is hard to describe—unless you’ve been pregnant. Okay, so it might be a stretch, but the birthing of a good story is not something you undertake ill-advisably or casually.

Just like my kids. For the most part, they turned out pretty good and oh, yeah–they always tell me they love my books! I choose to ignore the fact that I taught them to respect their elders, which means sometimes lying is a good thing.

Until next time,

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