Publishing Could Be Causing a Writing Block

Thursday, January 07, 2016
Last time I blogged, I shared that my lack of writing was due to being unorganized, caused by going through a divorce (at least that's my theory). But after some discussion with my critique group on our Facebook page, I also think publishing my work is causing some writer's block. I know this sounds silly or even crazy, especially to some of you who dream of getting your novel published.

I have three books published, and I am proud of each of them. They have all received great reviews but poor to ok sales, unless I am actively marketing and searching out venues where I can present. I'm not whining, and I'm not scared of hard work. But I do think these prior experiences are blocking me from finishing a project that I have been working on for (let's be kind and say) two years. I have a middle-grade mystery novel that really just needs the first 10 pages rewritten and maybe a read through. But that's it--10 pages really. And I haven't worked on it for months.

When those 10 pages are finished and I feel like this thing is ready to go, I will have to write a query (ugh!) and then make a list of agents (double ugh!) who represent middle-grade novels and then research each (triple ugh!) and then send this baby off into the wild blue yonder. If I find an agent and this nice agent finds a publisher, then the real work begins.

And that's the part that is so scary and blocking me. We writers are never done with a book--we have poured our every being into these manuscripts, we have spent countless hours on them, and once we find a publisher, more work is waiting for us--and it's not easy.

WOW! Margo this is a terrible new year's post--way to bring everyone down. (I know that's what you are thinking.) And I'm really not trying to. I'm trying to work through what I think are two of my biggest problems in writing (and in life, too)--I have trouble being happy in the moment, and I worry about things that are beyond my control.

First, I need to be happy and realize I reached several career goals when I had my books published and people bought them, read them, and asked me when I was going to publish more. I need to celebrate that friends and family came to my book signings and supported me! I need to feel pleased that I have another idea almost ready to go, with potential for a series of books that could bring joy to kids ages 9 through 12. Be happy with what I have accomplished and relish in these moments. I don't have to be satisfied, but I do have to give myself a little positive credit.

Next, I worry about things beyond my control way too much. The only thing I can actually do is the work. I can ask my publisher to make my book 99 cents for a week. I can advertise it. I can set up book signings and send letters to schools, asking to do school visits. I can start blogging regularly. I can make a list of agents and research them to the best of my ability. I can write a killer query letter. What I can't do is make someone sign my book, make someone come to my book signing, or make someone visit Amazon and purchase. I can work hard and set up these opportunities, and that's it--you know the old saying: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

I think in 2016 besides being organized, I need to really focus on being happy in the moment and stop worrying about things beyond my control. If I can manage this, I will be revising my middle-grade mystery and making that list of agents before long.

What do you think blocks you?

Margo L. Dill is a children's author and WOW! Women On Writing novel instructor. You can find out more on the WOW! classroom page and on her website.

photo by Guudmorning! (on


Suzanne Lilly said...

Margo, thank you for being so honest. Now I know I'm not alone. I've been battling the same feelings for about a year now. I'm writing the third book in a series, and I have the rights back to three other novels, but I'm dragging my feet about getting them published. I know it's because all the work of marketing just plain tires me out. When I'm marketing, I don't get writing done, and when I'm writing, sales of my other books tank because I'm not marketing. It's a tough cycle. However, I try not to lose hope, and I keep doing what I love. It's just very helpful to know that others have the same feelings. Hang in there!

Margo Dill said...

Thanks, Suzanne! It is nice not to be alone. :) Good luck to you.

Lori L. Robinett said...

Have you considering indie publishing? Why put yourself through all that? My traditionally published book is doing very little (and frankly, my percentage is so small, I'd have to sell a LOT of books to make any money), but my indie published book is consistently in the top 5000 paid on Kindle. That's real money in my pocket, and much less stress. Plus, there's the whole control-issue thing that I deal with.

Margo Dill said...

Do you think you market your indie publishing book more?

Sioux Roslawski said...

Margo--I'm not sure what is blocking me/slowing me down. Perhaps it's as long as it's NOT finished, I'm sure it has potential. It doesn't have major holes. It's not dull and lifeless.

As long as it's unfinished...

Margo Dill said...

Sometimes finishing and deciding what to do next is super scary.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Thanks for sharing this, Margo, and I'm sure a lot of authors can relate. Just like any business--and authoring is one of the toughest yet most potentially rewarding businesses--you can only keep going one step at a time. When I recently opened my retail business, I bought products, had the rent and utilities overhead, paid staff, and it was dead the first three months. We were in the red and it was scary. But you just have to keep doing what you know you can do and can control--marketing, advertising, social media, events, specials, networking--and you learn what works for your particular audience as you go. We finally started showing a profit after three months and it's been rewarding. But you have to do it every day with no certain guarantee of success. That's where my one word resolution (belief) comes in. I can have courage and show up and do what I have to do, but only belief will keep me going. You have accomplished so much professionally in all aspects of your career. You deserve to give yourself some credit, believe in yourself and your talent, and celebrate what you have achieved. When your book comes out, you know I'll be first in line for a copy!

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