Columns > Published on March 1st, 2012

The Path To Publication Part 3: When Is Done, Done?

Recap: This is a monthly column about trying to publish my crime/noir/literary novel, formerly known as 'Apophenia'. Part 1 talked about the book and its history, as well as my decision to seek an agent. Part 2 talked about beta-readers and the various methods for finding an agent.


The hardest part of the creative process (at least, right now, because it's where I'm at) is knowing when to let go.

Last month I told you I handed my book off to some beta-readers. Three of them came through big time, with amazing comments, suggestions and support. I used their input to forge a new draft--and it took a little bit longer than anticipated. Since I edit by hand (see above), it took me more than a week to key in all the changes.

Once it was done, I had it printed one last time and gave it to my wife. She's searching for lingering typos and faults in logic. When she's done, I'll give it one more quick pass. This is the final countdown to my finished novel. Next week it'll be done. 

Except not really, because done is a subjective word. 

THE JUNKIE INSIDE ME

A good friend of mine, Prophetnoise, has been making dubstep since before dubstep was a meme. We talk often about the creative process. Him being a musician and me being a writer, our methods are different, but we're both striving toward the same goal: To create a piece of art that elicits an emotional response.

We both share a high personal standard of quality. Neither of us wants to stand behind an inferior product when we know we can do better. But it's easy to get trapped by those feelings. One of the issues we've discussed, more than once, is: When can you look at something and say it's done?

It's a tough call. I could spend the rest of my life tinkering with my prose. Prophetnoise could spend the rest of his life trying to make his bass whomp harder. And ultimately, we could both end up with nothing to show for it.

I've been feeling a great deal of pressure to get my book done, wrapped up, and sent out. In part because it's been three years now and I'm ready for something new. Also because I'm writing this column, which is predicated on me having a book to sell. 

But at the same time, there's going to be temptation to read it one more time after this last pass. I can feel it. I'm still jotting down notes while walking home or in the middle of the night. I feel like a junkie: "C'mon man! Just one more content edit! One more to get me straight! After that I know I can kick this!" 

The reality is that after this book is published, 10 or 15 years down the road, I'm going to look at it and see nothing but missed opportunities. That's how I am. I have to accept that. It's not easy, but I have to. Or else this column is going to be a monthly explanation of about how I'm almost done

After this latest edit, my manuscript is 6,500 words lighter. It moves faster and the logic works better. I took out a few scenes that were repetitive nonsense, and added in a golden shower scene because I thought it would be funny. I know that, upon acceptance by an agent and then an editor, it's going to require more revision. That's fine. This is the best that I can do. And I know that now. 

Being a writer or a musician or anything means being able to make peace with your own work, and know when it's time to move on. And right now, it's time to move on. It just took me a extra little time to get there.  

So that's why this column isn't talking about query letters. Sorry about that! Next month, promise. 

Anyway, it's not like there's nothing to talk about, because I did reach an exciting milestone with the book...

CH-CH-CHANGES

Since the beginning, the title of my book has been Apophenia. It started as a placeholder but after a while I felt stuck with it. Apophenia is the condition of seeing patterns in chaotic data.

Pro-tip: Your title sucks if you have to constantly explain what it means.  

One of my beta-readers suggested I change it (thanks Emlyn). I e-mailed my wife, who had just finished reading the book, and asked her what she thought. She came back with a couple of suggestions and one of them just nailed it. 

The new title of the book is New Yorked

And I swear, it fits so well. The day after I settled on the change I went out for drinks with a very cool author, of whom I am a huge fan. We talked a bit about the book, and when we got to the title, the conversation went a little something like this:

Author: So what's the title?

Me: I just changed it. It used to be Apophenia, which is the psychological condition of seeing patterns in random data. 

Author: That's terrible! What did you change it to? 

Me: New Yorked

Author: You're done. That's perfect.  

THE IMPORTANCE OF NETWORKING

The path to publication is not a straight or predictable line. It is fraught with twists and turns. This lady got her book published because she was discussing it with a friend on the subway.

Querying isn't the only way to get published. Networking is important too. And over the past month, besides editing and stressing about this column, I've been doing a lot of networking. Like going out for drinks with other writers. And getting a short story picked up by a very groovy noir journal. And getting another story short-listed for an anthology. And tending to my public profile (for what it is) by blogging here.

If you want to get published, it helps to keep multiple channels open. I'm not saying you need to do a million extra-curricular activities to get a book deal. I'm just saying: These are the things I'm doing, and it can't hurt (except for when I write blog posts that make people angry). 

It can get a little overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like my head is going to explode. But if you keep at it and work hard and you're not a jerk, it'll pay off. For example, you might be able to convince someone with a fair amount of acclaim in the publishing industry to read your book.

Which is something else I did this month. And that is exciting.

NEXT MONTH

Query letters! The dreaded synopsis! Why I hate trying to label my own work! (Is it noir? Is it literary? Who knows!)

Got questions? Ask away. 

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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