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COLUMN: Achieving (writing) a life goal

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Trista Lutgring, Feature Writer

I’m sure you’ve heard of a bucket list; many of you probably have one. These lists generally include things one wishes to accomplish in their life before they pass on. As someone who has seen writing as a hobby since a very young age, one of the goals I have always set very high on my bucket list has been to write a book.

I am happy to let you know I can mark that goal off my bucket list. At the age of 26, I think that’s a great feat to accomplish.

Now, anyone who is a writer and has completed the monumental task of finishing a novel will be quick to point out that’s not where the journey ends. The ultimate feeling of completion for an author comes when their novel is published, in some media or another.

Some authors will never get to experience this. Whether it’s due to a lack of interest from publishers or a fear of actually giving their work to the public, some writers just never get that final draft to print.

Well, I’m here to tell you, it’s possible because I’ve done it, even though I was more than a little scared to give my friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers the chance to read my book. To be completely honest, I was mortified at the thought. I still get a little jolt of fear whenever co-workers ask about it or my mom tells friends and acquaintances in public. That fear was the hardest to overcome and it is something I still battle.

Your next question is probably how I got some company to publish my book. This one has a trick answer; in a way, I don’t really have a publisher.

My novel, which is a contemporary romance novel by the way, is what the industry calls “self-published.”

In simple terms, I logged onto a Web site, uploaded my book, made my own cover – thanks to a little graphic arts knowledge I picked up in college, a pair of heels, a soccer ball and my digital camera – and put my novel up for sale in paperback and digital form.

It’s nowhere near perfect. In fact, most days I hate the thing, as silly as it sounds. But in the end, it’s my novel, my accomplishment, the accumulation of two years of work and devotion and I stand by it.

But I can’t deny that it hasn’t been a long road. A month after publishing, I took my book down for some major edits, partly because I felt the need and partly from the response I had received about the book. Many have told me personally they enjoyed my novel.

But I’ve received a few bad reviews touting my inability to characterize well, accusing me of too much dialogue and harping on the lack of certain action in the storyline.

One woman even said she was surprised English was my native language!

And while reviews like that hit me hard – who takes criticism like that well? – I have recently returned my work to selling status on Amazon.com (my author name is T.J. Lutgring, if you are interested in reading. I’m still waiting on Amazon to post the column on their site – it should be live by this week), feeling proud of my accomplishment all over again.

So, if I were to offer any advice to anyone publishing for themselves, it would be two things. First, don’t publish until you’re ready. I was right at the point where I thought I was, but I jumped the gun. Once you think you’re ready, leave your draft to sit for a few days, then come back and read it again as one last edit. If you still feel comfortable with it, publish it for the world to read and good luck! I hope you have great success.

Secondly, stay strong. There are going to be a lot of people who will like your book and will compliment you on your effort. But there will also be many who will let you know your faults and rub salt in the wounds of your insecurities. As a novelist, you have to take the good with the bad. Learn what you can from people who offer constructive advice and forget the rest.

Look at your first novel as a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Because once you publish your book, the rush of knowing you’ve completed something huge is too much to ignore.

If you have any questions about self-publishing your work, feel free to stop by the News office and talk to me, or send me an e-mail at lifestyles@perrycountynews.com.