Half-Assed




Over the thirty-four years of our marriage, the wife and I have learned a hard truth. For DIY projects around the house, unless it involves stereo or entertainment equipment, I need to politely abstain. Why? Because I suck at them. #DIYFAIL It took a while before I learned my lesson, but when every household project I worked on turned out looking…well…half-assed, the continual disappointment afterwards was enough to seal my fate. You would never see a visitor admiring something I put together with my own hands, or inquiring as to “who did your work”? I could blame the outcome on second-rate tools and/or materials (because we don’t want to spend the money on the right tools or first rate materials, thus the DIY), but the reality was my lack of skills and general disinterest. I’m not like my neighbors, my co-workers, or it seems most of the home-owning world -- I simply don’t feel compelled to study the craft (whatever it involves…wood working, masonry, landscaping, etc.) enough to produce the result I’m after. So, I had two options, 1) spend a few more pennies to see our vision come to life the way I want it to, or 2) learn to live with half-assed. My answer - I’m okay with bowing to the expertise of others and accepting the added cost.

However, when it comes to the ultimate DIY project - my writing – nothing can be further from the truth. Back in my early days, blissful inexperience led me to produce material that had no business being seen in public, much less commerce. But that was due to ignorance, not laziness or lack of effort. Since then I have studied and worked hard to produce a superior product. I’ve taken this “hobby” seriously, devoting myself to strengthening both my voice and the technical aspects of writing, soaking up everything I could learn about the business-side of publishing, all for the dream of seeing one (or more) of my books on the shelf one day (via traditional publishing).

But there comes a time for hard truths…and this is one of them.

I’ve accepted the fact that circumstances in my life that have continually hindered me along the way, will not change. I suspect this is true for many aspiring writers, especially those who are trying to balance being a bread-winner with the pursuit of an art form whose financial reward usually leads to scrounging for bread crumbs. Between my 50-60 hour per week “day-job” and my family, there are precious few hours left to devote to my hidden passion. And when you steal hours from Peter to pay Paul, unfortunately it’s family time that takes the hit. No matter how supportive your family might be that time drain takes a toll and there is a price to pay.

I’ve always held the belief that if I could write full-time, I would not only become published in no time – but be successful at it. But writing full-time is an unrealistic fantasy…and therefore I’ve realized…so is my goal. Sure, there are plenty of writers who hold down full-time jobs and still get published. I guess they must simply be more talented than I am. My hard truth is this - I possess a writing voice that requires nurturing to reach the quality deserving of the attention of mainstream publishing, and there isn’t enough time in the day to do that.

Where does that leave me? With some questions and some answers.

Question number one – are any of my manuscripts publishable? My answer – yes! I (and others) believe that to be true and there is an audience for my stories.

Question number two – what is my next step? In my last post, I discussed self-publishing or seeking small presses, and those are still viable options I will explore.

Question number three – am I giving up on landing an agent? Yes. I won’t continue to chase the bouncing agent ball, instead I’ll probably seek out the services of a serious editor while simultaneously planning how to go about releasing my book into the wild.

What I won’t do is allow my frustration and impatience to release something I deem “half-assed” into the world.

Stick around and get comfortable because I’m not going anywhere. Things are about to get interesting.

16 comments

  1. I'm still unsure whether I'll try to get an agent again. Whatever you do, small press, Indie, whatever, I know you'll be happier there and find great success with that. Your writing has an audience. Can't wait to see where you'll go next!

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    1. I can't wait to let you read my latest. I think you'll really enjoy it. :)

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  2. I never had an agent, but I did publish through a small (at the time) press. I learned so much from that experience that when it came to self-publishing, it wasn't as scary. Good luck on whatever you decide.

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    1. Agent-chasing was one wall I was tired of ramming my head against. I'm just happy to be moving forward again. :)

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  3. Never had an agent either. Didn't want one.
    You work more hours than most so cut yourself some slack. In the meantime, explore all of your options. Lots of good publishers out there and lots of people who could help with self-publishing.
    I forced myself to learn some house craft stuff. Of course I'm also a perfectionist so I won't let myself half-ass anything.

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    1. Never did take you for a half-assed kind of guy, Alex. :)

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  4. My hubby is great at the DIY projects. Seems to have talent at just about any construction project. Not so much at landscaping. Our problem is he has "no time" to do these projects, and refuses to allow money to be spent in hiring someone who has the time. Uck. But I agree that half-assed is worse than not done at all.

    Glad you are still chasing the writing/publishing dream. There are so many viable alternatives to traditional publishing. But even self-publishing should be done well. I've read lots of books from people who just gave up on traditional publishing due to rejection letters. And, readers can see why they got the rejection letters.

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    1. The quality gap between traditionally published books and self-published is shrinking rapidly.

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  5. Exciting times. I'm wishing you sanity through this stage, but good for you in planning the initiative. Honestly, it's easier to get a publisher than an agent anyway, and often you can attract a good age AFTER you have a publisher on the line. (If you want one, that is. There's a growing trend to avoid them due to bad management.)

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  6. Hi DL - well at least if someone else does the DIY - it hopefully gets done and stays done for a while. But with your writing ... only you can do that - so good to read you're not disappearing and not wasting time chasing for an agent. It'll work out for you ... keeping your options open, while continuing to write new stuff ... good luck - cheers Hilary

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  7. Sometimes reality is harsh. I'm not good enough to be a full time writer. (So instead I became a full-time publisher. Go figure.) We should talk, DL.

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    1. As soon as I'm finished editing my novel...I'll be in touch Diane. :)

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  8. From research I've been doing, the rule of thumb for self-published authors to "write full-time" was after about 30 books were out and they had marketing down. Naturally, there are TONS of exceptions. But isn't that the way of this craft? Someone has nothing published and has a two page query letter that includes doodles... and that's never going to sell... except everyone not living under a rock knows who JK Rowling is now, so obviously the "rules" aren't even "guidelines," so give yourself some room.

    Beta readers are great for pointing out how ready your book is. There are some at the World Literary Cafe. (The site is being updated today, so maybe give that a little time. But it's been around for YEARS.)

    I think self publishing is great. https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/2017/04/atozchallenge-quiz-are-youre-cut-out.html
    That should make you laugh while also giving you a few tips.

    Sam at Red Line Editing is a wonderful editor. They both are, really, but I "connected" more to Sam. It isn't a free service.
    Along those same editing lines, I can suggest Grammarly http://gram.ly/wNx_ and ProWritingAid https://prowritingaid.com?mafid=362671 (promo code FRIENDS will get you 20% off).
    I use both for different reasons.
    EditMinion is free and also useful. Online Correction is okay. HemingwayApp site is good for telling you if your sentences are too long or too short. (Which is also a feature in ProWritingAid).
    Grammarly comes with an extension for Chrome and an add on to MS Word.
    ProWritingAid has an add on for MS Word, and I hear there's also one for Scrivener now.
    I'm just sharing with you what I use in the hopes that it helps you out.

    As far as publishers, I'd suggest seeing what they've put out and see if you think you'd fit in there and if you think they're doing for their current authors what you'd want them to do for you. (Tours, multi-platforms, contract help, whatever it is that you want to pay part of your royalties for someone else to do.) There are some good ones out there. And a few not great ones, obviously, just like anything else in the world.

    I wish you the best of luck. I'm around if you want shoot ideas or something.

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH for all of the useful information! I have already started putting it to use.

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