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How I Broke Up with my Book

Erin Bedford is the Toronto-based author of Fathom Lines, which she self-published. Bedford recently sharedessential reading for those considering self-publication; here, she takes us inside her own decision.

I finished the first draft of my novel, Fathom Lines, in 2006. For one very pleasant day, I thought I was a literary genius. Then I read my draft from start to finish.

Obviously, I needed help, so I signed up to work with author Kim Moritsugu through the correspondence mentorship program at the Humber School for Writers. She helped me tighten up characters, settings, and dialogue. She taught me how to interrogate my own writing. By 2007, I had an award of distinction from the school and an introduction to the school’s dedicated literary agency.

But it was a bad time for the book industry. My many rejection letters made sure to tell me so. I wrote and rewrote, trying to make my novel so good it couldn’t be turned down, even in a bad market. I added more dialogue, I cut characters, I wrote new scenes, I swapped beginnings for endings. Draft upon draft upon draft. I hid them away for a few months, hoping to gain perspective, and when I came back to them, I always found something to change.

Five years later, and with the stacks of marked-up drafts under the bed putting me close to hoarder status, I decided there would be no more revision. Not because there was nothing left to change—there was, there always would be, because it’s a writer's job to tell the same story a few thousand different ways. That’s one of the reasons we need editors, to tell us when to “say when.” By the time I finally did, it was too late.

I hadn’t missed my window or anything, my book wasn’t dated. It was more like the end of a relationship. Carol King singing in the background, “And it's too late baby, now it's too late, though we really did try to make it.” On a purely emotional level, I couldn’t invest anything more. 

At that point, I had two choices: Recycle Bin or Self-Publish.

The Recycle Bin didn’t seem fair. My first book had been good to me. It taught me a lot about writing, editing, and perseverance. It taught me more than I thought it could about myself. We had seven mostly good years together. It deserved better than the Recycle Bin.

So, I went online. I uploaded my file. I pressed PUBLISH and, just like that, it was done. I set my book free. My ideas are out there now. Which means I have room in my head (and under the bed) for new ones.