To Publish…Or Not

Today’s guest post is by Angela McGill.  Contacts for Angela’s first paragraph mentions: (Holly Lisle) (How to Think Sideways)


About Angela: I live in North Carolina; a wife of 29 years and a mother of two daughters, the eldest is married and living in Maryland. About three years ago Holly Lisle put up her  How To Think Sideways course and my supportive husband helped me to make the payments so I could fulfill my lifelong dream to be a writer.

I believe so strongly in my book, ‘Moonfire’, I’ve set it aside for the time being while I write short stories to get the experience I need to write it. Yes, I know short stories aren’t the same as books but I don’t have an even voice; it needs to be strong before I continue.

Writing a blog does help and I count it towards my million words goal. My short story information is on this post. By the way I do plan to write what I’ve learned about voice. There’s a lot of stuff out there, not all of it helpful. Maybe Sue will let you know when it’s up.

So that’s me. I write and study. I still learn something new everyday. I also have a secret I can’t wait to share. Anticipation is killer but fun. Catch up with me on Twitter, I’m under @Curiocat.  Angela’s blog: Curiocat is…Angela McGill

To Publish…Or Not
That is the question.

While I was trying to think of a topic to write for Sue’s blog I came across this quote from Ursula K. Le Guin:

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”

A lot of people are surprised to know I feel undecided about the whole publishing question. Maybe you’re surprised, too. Or even better maybe you wonder about publishing like I do. Cause you should.

No less a public figure than the President of the High Point Fine Art Guild questioned my sanity at Stellarcon last March when I asked if we had to write with the end goal of publishing.

What is the point of writing if you’re not going to let someone read your stories? She actually stopped me after the discussion to ask me that. Ummn. True, that’s a good point. But shouldn’t you learn to write first was my question to her.

From the time I started to study the art of writing til now every writer I talk to is focused on publishing. Every one of them has little to no discussion about studying the craft of writing unless it’s used to illustrate how to get published.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should is something I tell my daughter all the time. This applies to everyone though today we’re just going to focus on writers who try to publish for the wrong reasons, discuss when to know if the time is right and being mentally ready to publish.

Three Excuses Used To Publish:

1. One writer told me the reason why she was so focused on publishing was because she had to justify the time she used to write. Uh, what?! She had good ideas, but the quality of her writing was not up to par yet. Worse than that, she didn’t want to take the time to get it there.

Why she felt the need to justify herself was a question I never got a good answer to and one I wasn’t willing to press. However, justifying the time used to write is not a good reason to publish. It’s just sad. Time would be better spent to investigate why there is a need to justify doing something for oneself instead.

2. You’ve got a great story; you just know everyone will love it. Jay Leno is going to invite you on his show while Oprah Winfrey will do a documentary about you on her new network. Whoa.

If you haven’t gone through the process of critiques, revisions, editing and so forth then do everyone a favor and do so. You may have the best story in the world but if your readers can’t see past the bad grammar or follow your narrative then hel-lo, it’s a stinky story.

Not knowing how to revise or edit is an excuse. Learn. Study the art of writing or you’ll only get frustrated. Worse, you’ll clutter up the desk of some poor schmuck who used to love to read until they took the job of reading stink bombs like yours.

3. It’s an easy way to make money. *Choke. Cough, cough.* Take off those rosy glasses then join the real world. Everyone wants to write. The reality is it’s easier to make more money by not buying the sparkly thing that just caught your eye and putting your change in a jar.

Yeah, we all need money; it is a necessary evil. But doing something only for the sake of money? Don’t do it. It sucks the soul right out of you. Writing is all about the soul.

Ok, you say none of this applies. What’s next?

Five Reasons To Publish:

1. You’ve studied your little heart out about the art of writing; you know all there is to know about it. Not really, there’s always more to learn. However, you’re confident you have a clue from all that studying you’ve done.

If not, there are plenty of fantastic blogs about writing, lots of books, community college courses and plenty of online classes to take that are affordable. How To Think Sideways is a good example of an affordable online class by Holly Lisle.

2. A million words have been written by you, or close to it. You’ve hit your stride and your voice is strong. This is a personal goal for me. If you don’t have your writing voice in place by this time, don’t give up. Keep going. It may be you need a few more words written. Some of us take a little longer than others; it’s ok.

3. Revision is second nature to you, your grammar/spelling is stellar; the story you’ve written is as good as it’s going to get. Good. Now’s the time to get a critique on all that hard work you’ve done. You must because you are not neutral about your own writing.

4. Your critique group or writing partner is raving about your story; they want more. Or not. Don’t sulk. Take a deep breath; take it in the spirit it was meant. If you agree do what’s necessary. Get a second opinion or a third if you’re not sure.

Oh and your critiques should be from people who will tell the truth whether you like it or not. It’s for sure complete strangers will be happy to tear you a part if for no other reason than they can.

I don’t know about you but I would like to keep the narsty comments coming my way down to the I have no control over that scenario as opposed to the I can’t believe I missed that scenario.

5. Is your heart and mind in the right place? This is important because it can make or break you. If you’re not sure then stop and think about it. Ask yourself some questions.

If you’re not sure what to ask, here’s some help.

Six Ways To Be Mentally Prepared:

1. Realize rejection is going to happen. It just will. None of it will be personal; writing is a business. Because it is a business, money is involved. Those involved with making it can’t afford to be anything but efficient or soulless in its pursuit, especially these days.

2. Believe in your self, don’t give up. When the worst happens brush off disappointment, pick yourself up, dust off and submit again. If you’re so lucky to get a comment then take it seriously if it’s constructive.

3. What if the impossible happens and you have some interest from a traditional publisher? Until you see your book on a shelf somewhere nothing is solid, keep boots on the ground.

4. Write for your self; write just because. Continue to learn. There’s always something new or new ways to do it. Don’t forget as you climb the ladder to success there are thousands of writer crocs snapping at your feet, ready to take your place.

5. You should know big heads aren’t pretty. Sometimes they explode. Keep it real.

6. Read Jill Kemerer’s posts for more help on mental preparedness. Preparing for Success: The Mental Game,  Writing, and Standing Out. Also, read Chuck Wendig’s post  about putting the publishing cart before the storytelling cart with the understanding he doesn’t pull his punches or hold back the curse words.

When you know you want to publish for the right reasons and you’re mentally ready then you can ask yourself, publish or not? The answer to the question is yes, of course.

In the end only you can decide when that is. Take your time; be sure. The publishing industry, in whatever form it eventually takes, ain’t going nowhere.

Most of all smile, be excellent to everyone including you. Give a helping hand. You’ve been there, done that. It’s time to pay it forward by sharing what you know. Help those you can, grow your own soul.

Are you ready to publish? How do you know? What steps have you taken to be ready for publishing? Have you published? What are your favorite books about writing? What blogs do you read about writing?


Angela McGill



Filed under About writing

11 responses to “To Publish…Or Not

  1. These are some nice thoughts. 🙂 Thank you for sharing, Angela! For a decade I wrote novels just for fun and never thought about publishing. I let a few people read them, and people thought I was a good writer and that my work had a lot of potential. But, I very much wrote for myself and didn’t bother to do much revising (I didn’t know how, either). Then, last year, I wasn’t satisfied just with that anymore… I wanted to learn more, know more, understand and master the art of cutting up and making better the books I was writing. Enter Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel Course… wow! Even the process of revising I’m doing for myself at this point… but I have my eye on a publisher as well.

  2. Pingback: Get off, get off, get off. GET OFF! « Curiocat is… Angela McGill

  3. Pingback: Four Books | SueSantore: About Books, Writing, and More

  4. You’re welcome, Lewinna. Thanks for coming by. I think it’s a great gift you are giving yourself, education and time. Take care and good luck on your writing and publishing endeavors.

  5. Great post! I am nowhere near publishing my novel, I’m still in the rewriting and translating stage, but I will get it edited, I have an understanding with a professionnal editor who will take a good look at it when I’m done.

    On the other hand, I’ve been writing autism articles for more than two years now, and I have written two books about getting one’s child to be autonomous for eating and potty training. I didn’t use an editor for them, but had it read by other people and got only praise for the moment.

    Yet it is not enough for me, I really want to be a fiction novelist. This November, I’ll be participating NaNoWriMo again, maybe I’ll try to write the sequel to last year’s novel, or maybe I’ll do something else, but I want to follow the path of fiction – it’s been my dream for a long long time!

    I’m really lucky to have found Holly Lisle’s courses and website, and to have met Holly’s Army. You are the best!

    • Sue

      “Dream it and you can do it.” I don’t remember who said that, but stick to your dreams, Nathalie.

    • Merci, Nathalie. You and I tweeted once when I was up very late. Do you remember?

      Oooh! Nanowrimo. Cool.

      One thing you can do is look on the writing you are doing now as practice for future writing. And wow you’ve all ready got a novel written, that’s excellent.

      You’re already on the path of your dreams, keep going. You’ll get there. If you need help, Holly’s army has your back. I agree with you, I’m so grateful I found Holly and HTTS.

      Au revoir.

  6. Pingback: To Publish… Or Not | Indie Writing |

  7. These are all good, solid points.

    I have to say that one of my goals in writing fiction is, indeed, to be published. I love reading fiction and immersing myself in another time or world with interesting, larger-than-life characters and living with them through dangerous and exciting times. I want to bring that same feeling to other readers as well. But to get to that point, I still have a great deal of learning and writing to do.

    I applaud your ability to set aside your novel to focus on short fiction. It’s something I considered, but decided I couldn’t. That’s another thing I love about writing – there’s no one way to do it!

  8. Pingback: Four Books | SueSantore: About Books, Writing, and More

  9. Hey, Eileen. It’s good to see you here.

    You know, wanting to give your readers total immersion in your story is a good way of looking at storytelling and a brilliant goal.

    Me, too. I want people standing on their feet yelling because they’ll explode otherwise. Lol. We’ll get there, you and I.

    Yeah, I’ve been uncertain about setting Moonfire aside. I keep it going by reading over it and writing notes for myself. I hope it’s the right thing to do. We’ll see.

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