20 Steps to Perfection

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By Margo Catts, Author of Among the Lesser Gods

If you’ve been to the Foreign Girl blog before, yes, things are looking a little different around there. Maybe the changes seem a little off-putting. Self-aggrandizing, even. (I’m with you.) Putting my own name across the top is weird, no lie.) My apologies. I had no choice. But don’t worry–although the decorating has changed, the same stuff is still there.

See, I wrote a book. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s the one plastered all over the site. My evil plan with this blog all along was that it served as a placeholder while I developed a big-girl online presence for when the book was ready for prime time. Which I have to do because in the modern publishing world all authors who are not J.K. Rowling or John Grisham have to hustle out here in the wilderness on our own, so…yeah. This is what ground zero on an author platform looks like. The book’s official release date is May 9. Reviews are going on right now. Booksellers are judging whether I’m serious about all this stuff, linking to their sites and acting like a grownup. Time to turn on the lights and open the door.

So how did all this happen? On the off chance you’ve been thinking it would be fun to write a novel yourself someday, I’ve broken the publishing process (well, mine, at least) into 20 easy steps:

  1. Have an idea. It’s an awesome idea. Behind your children, it’s the most exquisite, perfect, extraordinary thing that’s ever come from you. Your idea is the sun, radiating blinding perfection in every direction. In fact, the radiance is so bright that you can’t make out any details. Who cares? They don’t matter. The whole gleaming finished thing is distant and beautiful and just so, so, brilliantly perfect.
  2. Write the words. Agh. Words are NOT perfect. They’re ordinary and clumsy and don’t radiate much at all. Little flickers from time to time, but mostly not. You keep pushing them together, though, until you get to end. And it’s okay that it’s not completely perfect yet because you’re not finished. It’ll come.
  3. Get an agent. Remember that scene in Little Womenwhere Jo ties her handwritten manuscript up with a bow and sends it to a big-city publisher in New York? Yeah, that doesn’t happen anymore. Publishers don’t read manuscripts that wash in with the daily post. No, you have to scrape and hustle and pitch and plead and get an agent to like your work, agree to represent you, and then the agent is going to scrape and hustle and pitch and plead to get a publisher to read it. Because efficiency. Anyway, I got lucky, and found a terrific agent who loved pages that aren’t even in the book anymore and was willing to wait for me to finish it up.
  4. Admit defeat and hand it over. At some point, you have to stop revising. Even though you can tell it is NOT the sun, radiating perfection in every direction. Right now, it’s just…a work product. And a pretty lumpy one, at that. Maybe if you just…oh, never mind. Write the email. Hit send. Put your head down on your desk and cry. Let your husband take you out for sushi because he’s super excited and congratulatory, and then mope your way through dinner like a put-upon teenager because you feel…defeated. Like you’re admitting that the best you can do is not that good after all. So right here I’m just going give a shout-out to every artist who’s slashed a painting or broken a sculpture. I feel you.
  5. Have the agent say, “I love it!”(Bless her heart.) “Now revise.”
  6. Revise.
  7. Revise.
  8. Move to Saudi Arabia.
  9. Start a blog.
  10. Keep revising. Also start work on novel #2.
  11. Move home.
  12. Receive email from agent saying the book is SOLD. More sushi. The check for the first half of the advance almost covers the sushi. Be afraid if you do the arithmetic you’ll discover that you’ve earned about 3 cents an hour. Well, given that’s it’s only half the advance, 1.5 cents might be more accurate. For your sanity, you’re basing your assumptions on the full amount. (“Advance” refers to an advance against royalties. They won’t be paid out to you until you’ve earned enough royalties to pay back the advance amount. If things go really well, you might get an adorable li’l check a year from now.)
  13. Have the purchasing editor say, “I love it!”(Bless her heart.) “Now revise.”
  14. Revise.
  15. Approve cover art, back cover copy, interior design.
  16. Get this picture when the author review copy arrives.

17. Proofread; make minor revisions.
18. Proofread; but FOR THE LOVE, DON’T MAKE REVISIONS.
19. Make peace with imperfection. So it turns out that the only perfect things are imaginary. A future family or career you only dream of. The child who hasn’t been born. The book you haven’t written yet. Or do we just have the wrong idea of what perfection looks like? Maybe “perfect” just means “longed for, sacrificed for, and real.
20. Sell this sucker.

So take a look around the site, and tell me if you find things that don’t work–I’m still getting the bugs out, and have more pages yet to add. I also have more blogs to add. You see, living in and writing from Saudi Arabia gave me new eyes with which to see this big, weird, wonderfully perfect world, and I want to keep at it.

Thank you, thank you, to everyone who’s been with me along the way. I’ll be adding another post to orient newcomers, but this one’s for you. Because, quite frankly, having you with me has been PERFECT.

– Margo Catts, Guest Blogger and Author of Among the Lesser Gods
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Among the Lesser Gods
By Margo Catts
ISBN: 978-1-6287-2739-5

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