I sit here at my desk, an edited manuscript taking up most of its free space. I look at my Kindle bookshelf and marvel at it. All of the details are there, the “back of the book” blurb is there, I’ve chosen categories and keywords. The cover art is magnificent, the maps are inspired and beautiful. I’ve uploaded the Kindle-friendly file that will eventually make its way to all kinds of devices and browsers. All that remains for me to do is hit the button, to enter the launch codes and push the big red button.
But I can’t bring myself to do it. The Fifth Vertex, my first fantasy novel to be published, has been floating around in my head in various stages of development for several years. Some pieces of the plot came from ideas I had 10 years ago, other pieces of the plot didn’t occur to me until I was sitting at the keyboard, typing out bits of unrelated dialogue. As any author will tell you, the story is a part of the writer. When we write, we imbue the story with a part of us. That’s what makes the writing process so vulnerable, and so frightening. It is also what makes for a compelling story – A story whose author doesn’t care about it will have readers who care even less about it.
We aren’t just letting people read some story in which we have no stake, we are exposing ourselves to the world. We are letting people see parts of us, through fiction, that even our loved ones may never see. When I hit that button to publish it, I am removing the safety of isolation and working in a vacuum. All the air from the outside will rush into my tightly controlled, airtight chamber. I will lose control of my creation, and I will be unable to do anything about who reads the book and who doesn’t. People will like my story, and people will hate it and there will be nothing I can do about that except sit back and watch while I work on the second book.
The big red publish button is an irrevocable action. Once I launch that missile, it cannot be unlaunched. The consequences, good or bad, will be out of my control at that point. When I finally do push that button (likely this weekend after I’ve double-checked a few details), I feel that it will have taken more courage to click on that one button than it did to write the entire book.