Tag Archives: Self-publishing

Killing My Darlings

A few months ago, I decided to pull my self-published book from the market. I didn’t like the idea of strangers reading something that had so much of my heart in it. As a creator, it’s often hard to separate myself from my work. In the last few months, I’ve gained more confidence in myself and my work, and I’m proud to say I’ve re-published The Famulus, with a few changes.


The biggest change I made was to some of the names of the characters. Even before I introduced an element of magic to the story, it was always about a character named Aberdeen Scotland. She had two brothers, named Edinburgh Scotland and Yard Scotland (for Scotland Yard, which I felt the need to explain in each of the six books in the series). When I gave it more thought, I realized I was subtly telling readers not to take my book so seriously. “The characters have unusual names; they must be quirky and weird and not at all real, so I shouldn’t judge them too harshly.”

I’m not saying book characters can’t have unusual names, but if a name is going to draw attention to itself, it should serve a purpose. There was no reason for me to give my characters such “Scottish” names. They’re as American as I am.

Aberdeen is still Aberdeen. None of the new names I tried to give her felt right. But the family’s last name is now Oberon. I have no idea where that came from. Ed is still Ed, but it stands for Edwin now, rather than Edinburgh. Yard became Brett, after several failed attempts to rename him, only to discover the new name was too close to someone or something else.


This made a bigger difference in the paperback version than the e-book. I had divided the book into seven sections, a new one each time the POV character changed. The story is told in third person past tense, alternating between Aberdeen and John. Each gets four or five chapters (out of 30) before I switch back to the other. After each section, I would insert a page in the paperback that said “I. John” or “II. Aberdeen” before starting the next chapter on the next odd numbered page.

These section breaks did little but add an extra ten pages to the paperback version. The new paperback book is only 4 pages shorter than the old version because I increased the spacing from 1.15 to 1.25.

Trying to format the e-book with a separate page for each section proved to be a nightmare for me, so the old version would have chapter titles like “Chapter 1 ~ John” and “Chapter 5 ~ Aberdeen.” I decided that if readers couldn’t tell whose point of view the chapter was in, I hadn’t done my job as a writer. I simplified this as well by simply naming each chapter as “Chapter 1” etc.

Kill Your Darlings

As I edited this new version of the book, I titled the file on my computer “Volume 1 KYD,” with KYD standing for Kill Your Darlings. Whenever I’d first heard this famous writing advice, I’d thought it was advising writers to kill off their favorite characters. I’ve since learned it means not to leave something in your story simply because you like it. For me, this was the names.

As I reread the book for the first time since last October, I realized how much I had grown as an author. The book underwent more editing this time than I had expected to do. I cut out a few other passages or lines of description that didn’t serve a purpose. I killed more darlings.

I’m the type of writer whose first drafts are always shorter than the final project. When I first wrote this, I was so excited to pass 70,000 words that I didn’t question whether everything I’d added needed to be there.

Moving On

My work will never be perfect. However, it won’t do any good to keep it to myself. I believe there’s an audience for my books out there somewhere, and until I find it, at least I love my story and my characters.

For those wondering how making such a huge change after the book had already been published will affect the people who read the first edition: I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of people who have copies of the first edition, all people I know personally. If any of them are interested in continuing with the series, I will either give them this new version of Volume 1, or I will print personal copies of the rest of the series with the original names in them. I’m seriously considering doing this for myself at least, because that’s the kind of sentimental person I am. I might have killed my darlings, but I can bring them back as ghosts.

This is why I self-publish. 😉


Setting a Project Aside

The Famulus is a six-book series that has consumed the last five years of my life. It stands at around 327,000 words now, not counting how many words of older drafts I’ve tossed out over the years. Some books have had more than ten drafts completed, while I’ve jumped from one scene to another in others and never finished their first draft. I worked on all six books at once, with the first one self-published until I pulled it this month.

This series is my heart and soul.

I came to an important realization that probably anyone reading this will think was incredibly obvious. Just because I want to be a published author doesn’t mean I have to publish everything I write. Some books can be written only for myself. Although I’m going to continue to revise and add to this series, I have no plans to send it out into the world.

I’d always thought the overwhelming fear I felt about anyone reading my work was natural and it was just something I would have to get over. Promotion of my work frightened me. I didn’t want anyone to read it, which led me to ask myself why I had published it in the first place.

What I settled on was that I published it because I wanted to be a published author and reach people with my work, and the way to do that was to put it out into the world so people could read it. Like any creative work, it has its flaws. (The largest flaw in the first book is probably that the stakes aren’t high enough.) It’s not that I’m not proud of it that I’m keeping it to myself. I’ve learned so much from writing this series, and now it’s time to take what I’ve learned and apply it to new projects, building them from the ground up with a good foundation instead of throwing all these characters, emotions, and plot points in at once and hoping they sort themselves out.

I started writing The Famulus when I was 25. The main character, Aberdeen, is so similar in spirit to me (although hopefully not a self-insert Mary Sue, since I try to play on her flaws). Loneliness is an important theme in the series, because I was incredibly lonely when I started writing it. Those books might be fantasy, with magic and immortal characters and supernatural abilities, but the loneliness is real. The story said what I needed a story to say to me at that time in my life, but I realized I couldn’t release it and let other people’s reactions affect the way I thought about it.

Yes, of course, I know not to let other people’s opinions affect my own. But when an author publishes a book or any type of artist releases their work into the world, they lose control over it, and it belongs to other people at that point. I’m selfish about this story, and I don’t want to share it with anyone else.

The only reason I might eventually republish this, years down the road, is that I know the power stories have—how books can save lives, show us we’re not alone, and prove that someone else out there thinks the same weird things we do. I would gladly share it if it would do that for someone else, but I just don’t have enough confidence that I can find those people—my people—right now.

This series helped me discover what I think about some things. It’s my credo. Just because I won’t be sharing this series with anyone doesn’t mean I can’t present those ideas in other stories I’ll write. If those ideas and beliefs don’t show up in anything else I write, they must not have the weight and importance I think they do. Besides, if I thought this was the only good thing I would ever write, why bother with anything else?

The narcissistic side of me wants to share parts of these stories here to give an example of my writing style and voice so you can decide if you’d be interested in reading anything I might publish in the future, like the project I’m currently working on. I haven’t yet decided if I’ll post excerpts (with some context given) or if I’ll reframe them as independent short stories, but I’ll put a few up in the next couple of weeks.