Roads Not Taken

We get to make a lot of choices in life.

Just as Robert Frost penned so eloquently, so long ago, roads diverge.

We get to choose which ones we take and which we leave behind. Perhaps we double-back to pick up the path, see what we missed the first time. And maybe we never do, leaving those tracks to different travelers, never knowing what future they held.

I've coasted at times, letting myself fly along, full speed down the hills and highways of youth. I didn't so much choose my road; I just let momentum and luck carry me, always trusting that I'd land on my feet should my trail stutter or slow to a stop.

As I've gotten older, I've taken more time to notice the forks and bends, turns and junctions. Each represents a choice, another path to take, a different journey. Maybe some get us to the same place. But surely some do not.

Awhile back, I took a major exit. After quitting my job and finishing my degree, I decided to write. Neither my experience nor education suited that decision but my heart chose it anyway.

I thought I was writing for a major publishing house, one practically synonymous with romance. I entered one of their contests, got my ass kicked, rewrote my book, and then something happened.

I decided not to submit it to them.

This new life, the one I'd chosen with my heart, had set me on a path that was a leafy overgrown jungle trail. I was hacking my way, not able to see where I was let alone what might be ahead. And in the midst of that rutted mess, I glimpsed another crossroad. It was just as bad, maybe worse. Potholed and pocked. Riddled with ruts.

So naturally, I took it.

I've decided to be an indie author. I will be self-publishing my work. I am a business woman now, an entrepreneur. I will make my own decisions about what I write, what goes in, what stays in, what comes back out.

I will hire my own team of editors, cover artists, formatters.

And I will fire them, if necessary.

I am in charge.

My success or failure is squarely in my own hands.  Already, I've learned some hard lessons. I just got my first round of edits back from the first book. And they were harsh.

Now I can say the last five years of my corporate life trained me very well to deal with negative feedback. Granted, it's not quite the same as someone telling you your little baby is ugly as hell itself.

But still. I can handle the truth, if Jack Nicholson should ever ask.

I knew I had some problems with my characters. I knew going in I had homework to do with their goals, motivations, conflicts. I hadn't ironed all that out in the beginning, so it was weak in the end.

Fair enough.

But then we got into stylistic choices. I 'head-hop' as they say. I like to draw my characters from different viewpoints and I change those viewpoints without changing a scene or a chapter. I like to think it's a clear transition, one that doesn't confuse the reader. I could be wrong. But some really don't like it. They see it as a rule being broken.

Thou shalt not head-hop.


Thou shalt alert the reader with asterisks (scene changes) or numbers (chapter changes) that the Point Of View has changed.


Because why?

I hate rules. I always have. There are a lot of rules in the corporate world, along with a lot of trite sayings. Things like, "Think outside the box."

I often wondered if the people who said such things ever knew what was first "inside" the box.

I've never looked back since walking away from that corporate highway. But I realize when I hired my editorial staff that I went for the traditional publishing background. By God, I wanted that experience. I thought, as an indie, that I needed the credibility and respectability that type of editor would lend to my work.

I was wrong.

Because I am an indie author. More importantly, I am an indie. I have the indie personality; it is ingrained in me. I'm a rebel, an individualist. I don't want to be bound by rules, most especially ones that seem arbitrary.

Most especially ones that are not reflected in the industry today.

It was my error. I own it. I stood over on my path, that lovely, rough tributary I'd taken off my chosen jungle trail, ankle deep in mud. And I yelled over to the unseen, the path not taken. Unknown to me, I hadn't quite let it go, that traditional road.

I guess I wanted them to like me.

I can hear my voice now, echoing. Do you like me? Won't you like me too?

Perhaps not. Certainly not in this case.

So, I've fired my first editor. Not because she judged my work harshly or critically. Not even because she stuck to old rules, trite ones that I choose to break, not because I don't understand what they are.

No, I fired her because she didn't hear me. Not in my writing, not in my story. She couldn't see through to hear my voice. It's what I paid her to do, but she wasn't able, for whatever reasons.

It's okay. You can't please everyone. Not everyone likes this blog because they can't stand me or they can't stand my writing. I'm actually okay with that. So, I'm okay with an editor, especially a traditional one, not liking my book.

There are nuggets to take away, things I can use to make my book better. But overall, she is not my reader. And now she's not my editor.

I'll continue walking this road. I see now that it is not so overgrown. It doesn't seem so rough and rutted. It's still leafy and new, a lot like Spring.  And maybe I overhear other voices, murmuring somewhere nearby on a road that I didn't take, one that others have. I could yell over if I wanted.

But I won't. Not again. I know where I am now and why.

As Robert Frost penned so eloquently, so long ago,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 
I took the one less traveled by, 
And that has made all the difference.

Popular Posts