I had a story in my head, and was obsessed by it, but was scared to commit myself to being a ‘writer‘. I’d jumped in before; put one of my daydreams on paper, and had been horrified by my own writing. I didn’t know then it was okay to write badly because there was something called editing. So I put the story points in a spreadsheet to get the details out of my head.
That was too slow. I dumped the spreadsheet and the paragraphs started flowing. Short on time, I chose prose over plotting, letting the story tell itself while I committed it to the page. That was my first novel, finished in 8 months and as of now, it’s buried somewhere.
I was then convinced I didn’t need plotting. Which is probably why my next two novels took so long, and were rewritten so many times.
With my current work in progress, I got half-way through and because I’d taken a year off work, felt I had the luxury, to try things I’d always skimmed over: namely plotting, and research. While ultimately the writing is better, it’s also been infinitely easier.
I’ll never again try to write a novel or any long work without thinking through what I’m trying to accomplish in each scene, chapter, even paragraph.
I plot loosely, and always deviate from it, but the investment in that step is invaluable. Writing fiction without a plot for me is having to create a world out of thin air while trying to write about it. Plotting breaks up the process. I create the framework and roadmap through plotting, then fill in the blanks, let story live and steer itself when I write.
As a child growing up in the 70’s I read constantly, and watched too much television, while my thirsty imagination was insatiable. To fill the drought, I crafted novels in my head. I didn’t know that’s what they were. To me they were a destination, an escape from my boring life. My secret garden–my shame, kept my mind engaged, while feeding and fueling my natural gifting.
What I used as a way to cope with my lonely and monotonous childhood was the breeding ground of my anointing.
Had I understood myself better, I would have studied creative writing in college and gotten more from the experience. Instead I studied business and couldn’t wait to escape.
Once in the real world, I tried to pack my creative toybox away, like old Barbie dolls. The tendency kept cropping up, however, everyday life providing fuel for new stories. I didn’t understand or acknowledge it, but suppressing that part of myself kept me frustrated, and displaced until…
Finally, when I was in my forties, I found the courage to take the story out of my head and commit it to the page.
So I self publish my work and put it out for the world on KDP to read, download, purchase, or ignore. To me that’s closure. Self publishing on amazon means my completed projects aren’t sitting on my computer, or being queried until I can’t find anyone new to send them to. They’re just buried under 3 million other self-published works,
and what can I do about that?
I’m at peace. I’ve done my part and tried my best. I’ve got dozens of books in me so no point getting hung up on these first two–right?
I wasn’t expecting that first review. In fact I stumbled on it by accident when I was proving to my college student son that ‘yes my book is on Amazon’https://amzn.to/3dMEtFE . Then I sold a few copies, and gave away a few e-book downloads, and it was awesome. My book is being read, and enjoyed. My first reviewer got what I was trying to say, knew all of my characters personalities and enjoyed the book!
It was unexpected. My intent was to simply complete the cycle, finish the job and make sure I wasn’t allowing fear of rejection to rule my life. I was going to finish, I was going to put myself out there. Step out of my comfort zone, and claim the right to my identity.
Writing is the easy part, exposing my guts and thoughts to the world is terrifying. If you query and the work is perpetually rejected, you’re safe, but the work goes nowhere.
What I’ve discovered is the act of presenting my work to readers, even if it happens due to my kdp free e-book download days, provided me a level of satisfaction I would’ve missed out on had it not been published. Whatever the path you choose to make it happen,
I finished my first novel 15 years ago. It took eight months (which is nothing for me) because once I discovered I could write, I threw myself into it, scared if I stopped the ability would leave me forever.
I’d searched my whole life for that thing that was a part of me, and I didn’t want to let it go. I didn’t sleep well, and everyday after work my gradeschoolers sat in front of the TV od’ing on Disney channel, and destroying the house, but I’d find four hours a day to write.
Manuscript done, I found black literary magazine article listing publishers that accepted my type of material and I submitted to five. The very first one asked for the full manuscript.
There was no doubt in my mind my book was going to be published. I started planning, how I’d use the advance to pay my bills, quit my job, and write full-time. I was on a cloud, walking in my destiny. I was called, chosen, anointed, and appointed to be a full-time novelist.
Then the rejection lettercame. I wasn’t just disappointed, but distraught and humiliated. I felt like God had played a cruel trick on me, leading me to my purpose then knocking me flat. I quit.
It’s not that I thought the novel was good. I did the best I could. I’d assumed since God had called me to write it, He had some provision in place for its meteoric success. All I had to do was finish.
I couldn’t quit for long, because writing was that missing glue that put me together. Through it, I found my identity. Not being raised around creative people, I didn’t understand what it meant to be creative and I’d always been a misfit. Discovering I was a creative meant embracing that part of me proudly. I tried so hard to fit in, and now I’m so grateful that I didn’t.
I never got over the query rejection. I completed two more novels, and tried to find an agent. Got some constructive feedback in one of my rejection letters —too much profanity for a Christian novel!
However the process was too much for me. I applaud those who can do it, and I suppose there’s a benefit to that misery. However, I went back and looked up the publishers who rejected my work early on, and most of them don’t exist anymore.
After my last attempt I decided self-publishing was my path. Why?
I needed to move on. I wasn’t going to change my writing style or my genre to try to cater to the market or to some person who would try to sell my work. I wasn’t going to run to writer’s conferences and take costly workshops and seminars to write better, or spam agents over social media.
I was going to write like me to the best of my ability.
I found the term self-publishing has different meanings, by clicking an internet link to receive a ‘self publishing kit’. The kit came in the mail with the announcement that for $6000 I could live my dream of being a ‘Self-published Author’. I might have gone for it, had they not harassed me with phone calls and emails every other day. It felt a bit slimy.
So I did my research and found each piece of the process has it’s own price range that I could choose to pay or not. There’s complete freedom from what form–e-book, paperback, audio, to what platform–Kindle…Smashwords… to cover art, to editing, to advertising. I happened to have a limited budget when I published my first so I used those resources to hire an editor and did everything else myself. I wasn’t all that impressed with the job she did so I self edited my second.
The bottom line is we all have different goals for our work. I have stories to write and I need to get them published without barriers, but I understand that the publishing industry is looking for products that will generate profit worth their time.
Our priorities are not the same and that’s fine with me.