To Publish or Not to Publish – Exercises in Killing my Darlings

Anyone who has been following my blog for any time knows that I’ve been writing in some shape or form for most of my life. What you may not know is that for fourteen years of this life, I was a “Pastoral Coordinator” or “pastor” for two Catholic churches without a resident priest pastor. (Technically, according to Canon Law, lay people may not pastor a parish, but that was essentially what I did, running the church in the absence of a priest – a topic for another time.)

As pastor you would think I would have a lot of freedom to implement ideas and programs. After all, I was the “boss” or CEO. Anyone who thinks that has had little to no experience with church ministry. Any “brilliant” ideas I had were quickly squashed by multiple committees. (Of course this could say more about me as a leader than the pastorate –leaders lead, while I looked for consensus.)

I told myself that having to maneuver the maze of church politics was a good test of the validity of an idea. It kept me grounded and with the people rather than out there in my own little world. Like the string on the kite, it kept me from flying away and losing contact with reality or going off on some hair-brained scheme.

Since I’ve started self-publishing I have realized that I am the master of my own destiny. I have no committees to answer to or multiple hoops to jump through. I have no-one to hold me back but myself. Ideas come streaming through my brain with no-one telling me I can’t do it or I have to check with this committee first. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling. But with this freedom comes responsibility. Just because I can write something doesn’t mean it is meant to be published.

I’ve recently picked up a novel I wrote long ago, while in college. Entitled Senior Year, it included actual journal entries and bits and pieces of stories and other writing from junior high and high school. The idea was to ensure the voice was authentic by including these pieces written by an actual high school student, me.

Over the years it has endured a number of revisions as I would take it out, dust it off, send it to a publisher, and then put it back away when the rejection letter came. But now I don’t have to answer to any publisher for I am my own publisher.

While fiction, this book is me at my lowest point, my senior year in high school. I hardly recognize that person today and yet I am attached to her and to the book. Chances are there are numerous “darlings”—pieces of writing that I like but which don’t move the plot forward—that need to be excised. I’m afraid that if I started killing all these darlings there would soon be nothing left of the book. And then I wonder if the book is the darling that needs to be killed.

I don’t think I could kill the book entirely, to do so would be to kill a part of me. There probably is a place for this in my personal memoirs to be passed on to future generations, but not necessarily for publication.

And then I think, maybe I owe it to other people who struggle during high school. If I could help even one person, then maybe I should publish the book.

And so, I’m stuck—to publish or not to publish? I’m clearly too attached to this book to make this decision on my own. So I have sent the manuscript to my copy-editor to be judge and jury over whether this book is publication worthy. He knows me and my writing and I trust his opinion.

What do you think? Have you had a book you weren’t sure you should publish? What do you do when you are stuck?

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2 Responses to To Publish or Not to Publish – Exercises in Killing my Darlings

  1. Hi Patricia, I am soon going to publish my first book, please share some important tips. Thank you!

    • pattynicnac says:

      are you self-publishing or do you have a publisher? Either way, you will be the one responsible for marketing. If self-publishing, having a copy-editor is essential. We are too close to our work to be objective and catch every error. Even after having book copy-edited, it’s a good idea to have other people do a read through to catch mistakes the copy-editor missed. I like to get a print copy. There’s something about having a hard copy in my hands that makes it easier to catch problems. You need to look for formatting issues, chapter numbering as well as other errors. Also having a good cover is essential. That’s the first thing people see. It’s worth the money to have one professionally designed. With ebooks, formatting can also be a problem, so check this before hitting publish.

      One website I recommend is They publish a blog twice a week with lots of helpful information. Hope all goes well.

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