The difference between writing and publishing

Writing and publishing are very different beasts.

This feels like an obvious statement, doesn’t it? Sometimes when you are thick in the middle of collecting those rejections (though as kind and personal as they may be: “we’d like to see more of your work” and “please try us with another story”), and revising, rehashing and editing until your eyes bleed it gets hard to draw a line between writing and publishing. Things get mixed up in the writer brain because the hardships of attempting to get your writing to the world, be it in print or online, is hard on a writer’s confidence. Writing confidence is integral to the writing process. Without it, or with that doubt looming, the writing process itself becomes difficult, cumbersome and even sometimes without the joy of discovery.

I love writing. Sitting down with the blank page and a fast pen, writing quick and without that internal critic getting in the way, energizes me in a way little else can. I love working on a long project, being surprised where the narrative leads me. Revising, while not as pleasurable to me, also has its benefits. There is something almost magical about reading an early draft and molding that prose into something polished and strong. I recently compared an early draft of the first chapter of my WIP to the revised version I have now; I felt a sense of pride, a sense of maybe I really know what I’m doing.

I’ve been revising my novel the last two months. I’m about two-thirds done with my first pass. In this round I am addressing major structural and plot issues, smoothing out characters, and filling in holes. What that means in real terms is cutting and adding new scenes, transitions and details for consistency. This pass takes the most time, so I’m pleased with my progress. What I’m not pleased with is my sour mood at times over the big ball of writing/publishing.

With my first book I was not indoctrinated yet into the submission process. Now, I am working on submitting short stories to literary magazines, essays to anthologies, and thinking hard about jumping on that query-go-round when this new book is ready to go. It is daunting. I had thought, in the beginning, that once you get established it would be easier. There is that idea that you struggle up front, but once you have some publishing credits that the publishing side of this process gets easier. After meeting and talking to established writers I’ve discovered that this isn’t always the case. Established writers get rejected too. Credits help, but it won’t erase the hurdles in the process. Everyone deals with those hurdles of rejection or bad reviews, of how publishing impacts the personal side of the craft.

So, it is important I think for the writer to be very clear about the difference between writing and publishing. I periodically need to remind myself why I’m doing this, this crazy thing as to create stories. I love writing. Publishing sucks. There I said it. It sucks. I’m going to keep chasing it, trying to break in, but it is important to let the writing side be free from the worries and harsh terrain of publishing. The writing is special, creative, and not bound in by limitation. Publishing is business. It really isn’t personal.

One of the things that really helps me keep things clear, that gets me back to the writing, is being a part of a community of writers. There is something very inspiring about talking to other writers, getting feedback on your work, and having people to cheer you along with every small success.

Photo: McBeth

One thought on “The difference between writing and publishing

  1. It's true, the hardships of publishing can take some of the shine off of writing. And as my boss tells me (I work for a small press; he's written two dozen novels and founded his press) getting published the first time is the EASY part. A daunting thought, and a bridge I figure I'll tackle if I'm lucky enough to get there. For now, we can concentrate on the love of writing 🙂

    Good luck with revisions!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s