My Book’s Coming Out Soon — And The Lessons I Learned Along The Way

The cover

It’s finally here! The snazzy book cover courtesy of Epigram Books Singapore.

So after about 18 months after sending in my manuscript, it’s finally gone to print. We’re finally done with edits, layouts, blurbs, and author profiles, and I could very well see my debut novel at the end of March.

The general consensus is that local English novels have a hard time finding traction here in Malaysia, especially those in the sci-fi and fantasy genre, so I’m proud to be among the handful of other traditionally published sci-fi writers in the country.

I’d never in a million years thought I’d ever go anywhere in fiction, so here’s to never giving up on your dreams.

Of course, it would be poor form to put out an article that doesn’t offer any value, so here are some of the things I’d learned throughout this entire journey. Enjoy!

1. It’s not all about writing

I used to think that writing a novel was the hardest part. You embark on an adventure that might never end. Maybe it won’t make it out of the slush pile. Maybe you won’t even finish writing it.

I remember questioning my choice of quitting my day job to write a novel. What a grind, I’d tell myself every day. This is such hard work!

But you know what’s worse? Editing the damn thing. Then writing a synopsis. Then going through another few rounds of editing with the publisher. Then there’s marketing.

Oh, marketing. No writer goes into the industry thinking about marketing, yet here we are, trying to build an online presence to best supplement our craft.

Then you have the reviews to look forward to—or lack thereof. You have the promotional videos you need to be a part of. You need to know how to navigate publishing contracts. Then it all starts over when you write your new book.

I know that most of you want little else other than to just write. I do too. But there’s no escaping your peripheral duties. And don’t for a second think that self-publishing frees you from that. If anything, you’ll have to cover more bases should you go down that path.

2. You gotta keep your story at arm’s length

My main character was initially thirty years old, and he lived in a generic sprawl, not much different from the worlds of Philip K Dick or William Gibson. The final product is a nineteen-year-old boy trying to navigate the electronic bureaucracy of a futuristic Kuala Lumpur.

Of course, the publisher did give me options, so it wasn’t like I was forced to change anything, but it behooves writers not to get too attached to their work.

I was fine with the changes because my previous experience as a journalist has taught me that there’s nothing to gain from hovering over your story like a helicopter parent.

This is especially useful for when the reviews start popping up on Goodreads. At some point, your story ceases to be yours, and even if you get to do things your way with the publisher, you’ll never be able to do the same for every reader ever.

3. Big goals are just many small achievements put together

No matter how many words you put out a day—five hundred, a thousand, two thousand—there’s no escaping the long grind of daily writing to end up with your finished manuscript.

Of course, it might not seem like you’re making any progress when all you have at the end of the day is just another five hundred words, but one day you’ll check your word counter and realise that you’ve reached the 80,000 mark, and that’s where you’ll get your newfound appreciation for consistent effort.

It’s just like everything else in life. It’s easy to put off eating that salad instead of that burger, because what’s one meal, right? Who cares if you have a few beers today? And why should you waste time on five hundred words when Netflix is so much more enjoyable?

But it’s these little things that add up to your grandest dreams, so the next time you’re thinking of cutting yourself some slack, you best believe that they’ll cost you much more in the long run.

4. Don’t disqualify yourself before others do

Writers tend to be a critical bunch, especially to ourselves. I’ve had so many negative thoughts before sending my manuscript in for that novel competition.

My plot sucks, I told myself. Same like my characters, and my setting, and what’s a sci-fi piece doing among the more contemporary titles of years past?

What would I have missed out on had I listened to myself? And how many lies have I believed throughout my almost-forty years of living?

Nowhere is this point more obvious than when I publish a first draft on the blog, half tipsy and without a coherent structure, and still I get more support for it than my well-planned ones.

So if you’re a creative of any sort, don’t judge yourself. Just put your work out there and then judge yourself. Do it the other way around and you too might miss out on some snazzy opportunities.

5. Passion doesn’t mean love

In retrospect, while I was writing my novel, I feel like I dreaded writing more often than not. Yes, I love writing, and yes, I love the craft, but when it came time to sit at the keyboard, my mind would give me a thousand reasons why I should procrastinate instead.

You shouldn’t take this as a sign of disinterest. It’s no different than exercising or practising your musical scales. Growth happens only outside your comfort zone, so it makes sense that you’ll harbour a certain disdain for anything that moves you forward.

But life’s not a bed of rose-tinted glasses, or however that saying goes, so you’re going to have to do the things other people don’t like doing, so that you can achieve what they can’t.

And if it was easy, the payoff’s probably not worth it anyway.

If I could do it…

I always like to highlight the fact that I’m a Malaysia-based writer with no formal education other than a random accounting diploma and a hairdressing certification.

Because if someone like me can do it, why can’t you?


Pre-orders for my book have started and you can order yours here. I appreciate your support!

79 thoughts on “My Book’s Coming Out Soon — And The Lessons I Learned Along The Way

  1. Congratulations on your soon-to-be-here book!

    I will admit that many days writing and revising is the last thing I want to do – but I do enjoy writing and I definitely enjoy having written!

  2. I knew it, Stuart! April’s coming around soon, and your book is coming with it!! Now, strictly speaking, I’m underage so I’m not supposed to read a book “for adults.” (At least, I think yours is.) Realistically speaking, the least I’ll do is read an expert or synopsis of it.
    Plus, Stuart, who says education’s the path to success? (Okay, fine, many people do, but you get what I mean.) Hairdressing certification, accounting diploma, whatever it is, it all goes down to the fact that you’re a great writer.
    Ooooh, the cover’s looking sharp! It looks like something I’d have a look at in a bookshop, not a self-published pile of pants (which I’m sure it isn’t.)
    Thanks for sharing, congrats, and good luck!
    P.S. I know this is waaaay too far, but let me say this: Waiting for the movie adaptation to come out! Well, we’ll give it a few decades and… Okay, fine. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    • Aww, I really appreciate your comments and support thus far, and your comments are always a joy to read.

      Haha yeah, I don’t think it’ll ever reach movie status, but that’s a nice thing to dream about, for sure!

      Anyway, I’ll say it again, thanks so much for stopping by and dropping this awesome comment!

  3. Congratulations on your new book, Stuart, this is absolutely fantastic news, and I can’t wait to see how far the book will go! The lessons you learned are honestly very reassuring to read, since I am currently writing a draft, and it’s a very hard toil to get to the 90k mark. Knowing that people are able to do it, and have similar experiences to me — such as the consistent writing, the groans with editing — is so reassuring, I cannot emphasize when I say thank you.

    • Lol, I think my problem with editing comes from me being a pantser. I hope you’re not the same too, because the editing is just cray when you draft your story without any real plan.

      I’m glad me stumbling through the writing process can be of use to others, and I really appreciate your comment so much!

      • I’m not a pantser, but definitely, being a pantser can have its perks with its motivation and openness in interactivity, but there’s an amped-up tendency to get hit with plotholes or inconsistencies. Still, I got to hand it to you since you were still able to finish a book regardless of those obstacles!

  4. Congratulations! I am new to following your blog, but maybe I’m right on time. Keep up the grind, you are an inspiration!

  5. Whoop Whoop! How very exciting. So Q: will it be printed in English? And you’re correct…if I can do it…so can you! Except you DID it so don’t sell yourself short. It’s a lot of work and dedication to get to the point of publication–esp tradpub. So happy for you.

  6. Congrats! Finally the book’s out! Can’t wait to read it man!! This is a great post with great words of wisdom born from hard-earned experience. Here’s praying one day I get to write one just like it!!

      • Not sure why I came across as “Anonymous” when I posted my earlier comment. But ya thanks to you too for the support all these months. Can’t wait to read your book, be inspired and finish my own some day! Congrats once again!

      • Lol oh so it’s you! Maybe the other anonymous comments from previous posts are you as well. Thanks so much for your support, Kelvin, and I appreciate you dropping this comment!

  7. Congratulation! it’s great to hear all the hard work has paid off. Also, thank you for the article as well. I’ve been in a bit of a procrastination cycle this month and you’ve inspired me to get back to it!

    • Ahh, procrastination, then bane of our existence. I’m honoured that I’ve managed to spur you into action. Here’s to getting back into the groove of things. Thanks for this comment!

  8. I have heard so many authors say that contrary to the popular belief, writing is the simplest part of successfully publishing a book. So, the fact that you have achieved this is huge, Stuart! So happy for you. Wishing you all the best for the future; I’m sure this is the first of many. :)

    • And it’s true! I never would’ve thought that what I thought was the hardest part would end up being one of the chillest phases of the entire process, lol. Thanks so much for your support! I appreciate it :)

  9. Wow congrats! How exciting! You deserve it for all your hard work. It sounds very scary to lay it all out there for people to examine and pick apart. You need a lot of bravery for that. Me, if I ever finished something, I’d rather throw it out the window and shut it very quickly and never speak of the matter again. I like the cover–it looks like it’s a book that’s been around for a long time, like it could be a classic gem you find in a bookstore in NYC.

    • Lol, writers who say they want to throw their work away often end up posthumously being celebrated as greats, so who knows what’ll happen to your finished work? I say take the chance!

      Thanks so much for your support, Hetty. I love the cover too! Am blessed to have the help of people much more talented than I am in that regard.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Congratulations on the book! This is a great post, too. You’re entirely right, I can definitely be too hard on myself at times with my writing. Thankfully, I’ve been working on it and now appreciate the process more. I’m also trying to put myself out there more. Intimidating, but worth it. Fantastic job here!

    • Oh yeah, so many people underestimate how vulnerable it can feel to put your fiction out there. I didn’t know what ‘bare your soul’ meant last time, but now I do. Thanks for this comment. I appreciate your support!

  11. Excellent post, and congrats on your book! I’ve been wanting to finish mine for years, but keep finding excuses not to do the work. I’m gonna take your advice and start working on it today. Thanks for the kick in the pants. I think I really needed to read this. Thanks! :)

    • I totally get how you feel, because this story was swimming in my head for about eight years before I actually started work on it. Here’s to getting around to and finishing that book!

  12. Hey Stuart, great post!

    I especially appreciated the section about big goals just being small achievements put together! I myself dedicate an hour a day to a painting, which I’m finding out is a learned skill more than a “talent”, and my best works are the product of the slow and consistent grind.

    Congrats on your book, and I’d be ever so pleased to know how I can get it here in the states!

    • Aw yeah, what’s that saying again? That we often overestimate what we can do in a day, but underestimate what we can do in a year?

      As long as we hold true to our goals and take the little steps needed daily to achieve them, I think we can do no wrong. Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate it!

  13. Congratulations! I’m so excited to hearing your novel will be flying into print soon! 🥳

    Yep, it’s all the stuff around writing that really is the most work. I actually used to think I wanted to self-publish because of the creative control. Then I took a good hard look at what marketing a self-published book was like and I realized it would drive me crazy. I have heard that traditional publishers put more of the marketing on their authors now than in the past, but there’s still more support than if you just throw yourself into the pool and learn to swim by necessity.

    • Oh yeah, based on what I’ve experienced, I think the writer still needs to bear some marketing responsibilities, but it’s nowhere near as bad as having to do everything yourself in self-publishing.

      Then there’s design, layout, and printing, and that barely scratches the surface of self-publishing.

      Many people have used it to great success though, so it really is about which you prefer. I myself would probably wilt in self publishing, lol.

      Anyway, thanks for the support and for visiting! I always appreciate your thoughts here.

      • I imagine each writer tries to find rather create his/her world in such a way that they can go back as soon as they start dreaming or even day dreaming. It is lotus like blooming which intrigues anyone who can touch. To be a writer is to live first i guess, doesn’t matter even if not physical :-) haha !!

  14. Pingback: My Book’s Coming Out Soon — And The Lessons I Learned Along The Way — Stuart Danker – I Write Stuff – The Wild Coach

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