The unglamorous side of writing

One year ago today, I finished writing what will be my next book. I hit the send button, closing a tab in my brain that had been open for over six years. The initial work was complete. The book, the one that I’d been trying to write since 2015, was finally finished.

44,444 words written in 4 months. Crazy.

And then the next phase(s) began. Completing the developmental editing process. Sharpening what needed to be sharpened. Killing more than a few of my darlings, in that way Stephen King insists. Title ideas. Chapter title revisions. More title discussion. Adding in a sentence, sometimes a paragraph. Copy editing. Proofreading. Cover design discussions. Release date decisions. Collecting endorsements. Marketing plans…

All with periods of quiet in between. (Which is pretty common, and necessary, for those curious.)

This is the unglamorous side of writing.

Writing, retreating, and other things most writers don’t do

Actually most of writing and publishing is incredibly unglamorous. Rare is the writer who takes retreats, or has an air conditioned shed prepared in the backyard, where we toil away for hours, the words flowing naturally, every sentence better than the last.

For most of us, it’s stolen sentences on our phones. Deleting an entire section because it’s trash. It’s sacrificing sleep to get an extra few hundred words in to get to the deadline. It’s setting up in a coffee shop on a Saturday morning while your spouse goes to the thrift store… Okay, the specifics of that one are probably unique to me. But setting up in a coffee shop? That’s universal, if for no other reason than the majority of us have full-time jobs and we want to honor those commitments.

And then when you get to the parts where most writers usually struggle most, like marketing, it’s a whole new level of intensity. It’s coming up with different ideas to help the team, knowing that maybe a tenth of what you suggest is going to happen (because people and budgets are finite). I’m a bit of an odd duck in that I work in marketing, so I at least know the language. I don’t have to learn all sorts of words and acronyms that make you wonder if everyone suddenly started speaking in tongues. I know a lot of them already. But if you don’t work in the field, you’ve got some extra work to do.

And I haven’t even gotten to the internal conversations about who to ask to read and endorse your book. That whole thing is something else entirely, guys…

The unglamorous work I’m grateful for

But you and I, whether we’re reading or writing, need the unglamorousness of it all. As much as I hated having to push my book to March 1, 2023, it needed it so the whole team involved in this book—me, my editor, designers, proofreaders, the marketing team—can do the hard work that comes in this phase. That we can have a good plan to help people hear about it and buy it. To have a great cover and a layout that makes you want to read it. And, of course, to actually have content that delivers on the promise of the book.

It’s the work that has to happen for you to read a book at all.1

There are days when I wish this work could go faster. That you could already be reading this book that has been, at least as far as the initial writing is concerned, has been done for a year. But that’s the beginning of the work. There’s still a lot more to be done. But here’s the good news: soon—like in about 8 or 9 weeks—you’ll start to hear more about this book. You might even be able to preorder it. And then it’ll feel really real, because you’ll be seeing how the unglamorous work paid off.

  1. Even the bad ones, though often not enough.[]

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books for adults and children, as well as multiple documentaries and Bible studies. His latest book, I'm a Christian—Now What?: A Guide to Your New Life with Christ is available now.