On finishing my second book, quite a few people have asked me if writing a book is similar to having a baby and yes, I have heard people make that comparison before. I’d agree in the sense that writing and self-publishing a book brings a host of emotions, often many of them on a daily basis.
Excitement: When I had the idea for the book and really looked forward to researching and writing it. I had an outline in mind and just had to research, write and edit it. Easy peasy. I was initially thinking of having it out in May and then decided that trying to edit it during the calving season might be a tad ridiculous so decided on late August instead. The title selection was easy and while I knew that I’d be getting a lot of flak for choosing such a title, the fact that everyone laughed when I told them the title meant that it should work well.
Yes, I was frequently juggling various plates in the air!
Enjoyment: I love researching, particularly when reading old newspapers articles and various academic secondary sources. I love the note taking stage where I’m just searching for anything of interest and relevance. It’s also really enjoyable meeting with people and asking questions. I was lucky enough to interview lots of farm women in person and via email.
This stage lasted from four to six months for me – I was busy on the farm and was spending a couple of hours a day reading and researching. Pure bliss.
Hard Graft: Then the ‘proper work’ started and the book started to take shape.
Disillusioned: This was a short phase but I was looking at the book structure and it just didn’t seem right, it wasn’t flowing. Some sections worked, some didn’t. I had a format that was similar to my previous book Would You Marry A Farmer? and I wasn’t convinced it was right for this book.
Inspired: After a few days away in early July, I had an idea re the format. I rewrote about 20,000 words (a third of the book), slept on it for a couple of days, sent it to my editor and got Brian to look at it. At midnight one night, I started replanning the rest of it by drawing spiderdiagrams on lots of sheets of paper and yes, I decided to rewrite the whole book. Would I still make the launch of 11th September? Of course I would!
Nervous: Sent my draft to my editor and three beta readers. This was essentially a first draft but I wanted to know if I was on the right lines. This format was very different to what I’d originally planned (with a focus on ‘how do things’). Some common sense set in then and I decided to cancel the launch on 11th September. Would I make it for the ploughing championships?
Tired: Burning the midnight oil at both ends was tough going. I was working till 2 or 3am and as the kids were still on school holidays, I slept till around 8am when I started at it again. My editor and Brian were reading chunks of it and giving me feedback and it really was a case of sitting at the laptop and writing and editing and redrafting and printing out and editing and editing again.
It could be compared to the stress of trying to feed a stubborn calf that just won’t take the milk especially when you are tired. And yes, the relief when it starts to drink is similar to when I knew book was taking shape.
Confident: Sending the next draft to my editor meant that I had a couple of days away from it and together with her feedback, I was confident this was going to work. Rereading it, I found that I was enjoying it and as I usually hate rereading my own work, I took this as a good sign. I had spent time on the quizzes for the book during those couple of days too and felt they would work really well. The confident stage only lasts a day by the way.
Nervous and tired: Getting it ready for the copy edit was a tough week. We had rejigged the timetable and I was determined to stick to it. I find it hard to edit on the screen at this stage so I was printing it out, making changes on the paper copy and then having to rewrite and cut and paste and rewrite on the soft copy. Everything took three times longer than I thought it would. I was happy with the front cover except the font needed work and the illustrations were coming in.
Relieved: It was great to get feedback from my editor after the copy edit. Sally is just so capable at what she does, she was also formatting it, she had the idea to have a little ‘Farm Wife Tip’ icon rather than writing ‘Farm Wife Tip’ each time, she also sourced the little icons for the bullet points. I was leaving all of the formatting to her whereas for my previous book, I could feel my hair going grey when I worked on the formatting.
Happy: Getting it ready for the proofreading stage was hard work, printing out, reading aloud, making final changes, checking references, checking through my notes in case I’d forgotten to include any crucial research but I was happy with it. I was happy too that the launch was cancelled, I knew I would have been stressed out wondering if anyone was going to be there and organising a ‘farm author’ event for November was much more pleasurable, I’m really looking forward to it (more on that nearer to the time).
Stressed: The last week was stressful, mainly getting the font and cover finalised and to the printers. The website was under control but kept me busy. The text and illustrations were all ready in a PDF (thanks to Sally) so it was just a case of collecting the print out from the printers, going to a hotel and spending a nice morning doing a final check. I was sending out press releases but had to send PDFs rather than copies of the book. Add to that, I got a horrible headcold.
Excited: Yes, it ends on a high. The paperbacks arrived and the hall is filled with the scent of new paper. The new website went live and while it still needs some content and a little bit of tidying up (to be done after the Ploughing), I love the design and navigation. I have a few interviews and print coverage promised for this week and hopefully being at the Ploughing will give the book some good profile.
So, as you can see, planning, writing and self-publishing a book means a rollercoaster of emotions. Incidentally, it also involves millions of cups of tea, chocolate biscuits and cake. Luckily (at least I think it was, luckily, my *tight* jeans wouldn’t agree), we were testing a number of cake recipes from old recipe cuttings and of course, I got to sample many of them.
All writers will do it differently but for some warped reason, I seem to like putting myself under pressure and the good ideas only flow when it gets close to the deadline. I had planned to have it ready for copyediting by the middle of July but clarity only struck around 10th of that month! I had to put in lots of hours but having a capable and incredibly efficient editor made it possible. I’m now looking forward to the buzz of reading reviews, doing a few interviews and seeing how sales are going. The fact that parts of the book still make me chuckle is making me hope that other readers will laugh out loud at some parts, will empathise with the various situations and will enjoy the comparisons between farming life past and present.
If you would prefer to read the ebook, it will be ready in a few days. A different company is formatting it for Amazon and Smashwords.
It will be available in Irish bookshops from Monday (and if they don’t have it, please do ask them to order it in for you). It’s also available from my website and of course, I’ll be at Row 24, Stand 412 with both books and my stickers from Tuesday to Thursday. I’m going to a book lovers event in Loughboy Library on Friday night and to Marjorie Quarton’s book launch of Renegade in Easons of Nenagh next Saturday evening. I’ll be spending Sunday sleeping!
The book is €12.95 (free shipping to Irish addresses from my website and €5 to addresses abroad). It will be €12 at the Ploughing with a special price of €20 for two books (if people want to buy more than one copy or indeed, a copy of my previous book too). I also have a special book bundle price for gift buyers and book clubs on the website too – six books for €50 plus shipping.
Looking forward to hearing what you think when you have had a chance to read it!