This post is by Cherie Dawn Haas and originally written for Writers Digest. Haas is the author of Girl on Fire and Senior Online Editor for ArtistsNetwork.com and ClothPaperScissors.com.
Three years ago I officially began writing a book. That’s when the lie began.
As my first draft grew to 50,000 words, the book changed from being a memoir based on my experiences as a fire eater to a novel. I kiddingly say that this was because no one would care about a fire eater from Kentucky, and I wanted it to be a New York Times Bestseller. Turning my performances into fiction also gave me the freedom to change my reality into a story arch that was more gripping than the normal “curious girl learns how to eat fire” story.
“Normal” is relative here. It was my normal.
I worked with a handful of brave and generous beta readers, hired a professional editor, and began building what everyone’s calling an author platform. I made edits after putting my sons to bed and sat in seclusion on Saturdays for hours at a time to work on the book. I told myself that when all was said and done, my only goal was to have a single, printed copy in my hand. That it was okay if no one bought it or read it, and it was ignored by both the general public and other fire eaters alike.
Such a lie. I wonder if anyone else believed that.
Because now it’s out there in the world, being bought, getting read, and receiving reviews. People are reading it! I thought excitedly at first, then, freaking out, Oh, God, people are actually reading it. I know now more than ever that no matter how much I tried to quiet my ego in hopes of protecting it when the worse happened, I did care. I cared enough to invest four figures in production costs and countless hours of meticulous rewriting (you do know that most of writing is actually rewriting; it’s not a new concept but if it’s new to you, then you’re welcome). I cared enough to do the homework that comes along with self-publishing because, let me tell you friends, that research must be done. I relied on Writer’s Digest quite a bit myself and, if you’re reading this, then I’m guessing you are, too. Good for you.
Friend, with this blog post I’m granting you permission to lie to yourself as much as you need to in order to get through your first draft, push your way through the editing stages, claw at the Internet for advice on querying agents (make sure you find some reassuring posts about getting rejected), and then persevere through the back-and-forth of publishing. My little lie kept me from fantasizing too much about the glories of publishing a book when it could very well fall flat quicker than you can ask, “Is that real fire?” (It is.) Obviously I still fantasized a little; I’m human. But our egos are sensitive, and I think it’s okay to protect them during the most fragile stage of writing, which is probably any moment before you hit that final “approve” button.
Another lie I told myself is that I didn’t have it in me to write another book; that this was the one story I had to tell before I died. That didn’t last long. I’m already 16,000 words into another draft, and have a book of poetry in the works as well. If you’re working on your first novel, read my fibs as proof that while it’s difficult, it’s not impossible. Keep writing, rewriting, dreaming, researching, and always moving forward. No lie.