With two vague scenes of a novel in the back of my mind, I decided to go for it and make the attempt to write 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. The only problem was that I’d forgotten about NaNoWriMo until the fifteenth of November, so I only had half the month left to write. At the time I didn’t really realize that there weren’t any actual prizes for participating and finishing on time, so I frantically put words to the page without regard for paragraphs or punctuation. Despite the shortened timeline, I managed to get 50,000 words by the end of the first week in December and was proud…and dumbfounded.
Having never suspected that it was possible for me to write a novel, when I finished up that first novel a few months later at around 75,000 words I wasn’t too sure where to go from there. The unedited monstrosity needed a ton of editing and TLC, but it was written. Not having much in the way of resources available for editing services, I enlisted my husband (a software engineer) and a few of my friends who acted both as copy-editors and content editors. Some of those friends had English degrees and one was a librarian, but none were authors.
With that stellar editing process completed, I Googled small presses accepting open submissions in paranormal romance. I submitted my novel to the first one on the list and got a positive response, but with some suggested changes. Having made those, I resubmitted and was rejected. After reading one of the publisher’s own novels, I completely understood why: not enough sex. Undeterred, I submitted to the next publisher on the list who accepted my novel for publication. What?!
Having heard all of the horror stories surrounding the book publishing process, I was completely unprepared for this near immediate success. I had a lawyer friend look over the contract, but nothing malicious stood out, so I signed and several months later had a paperback contributor’s copy in my hands. This was not the way things were supposed to happen, and as I started writing the sequel, I kept waiting to wake up from this crazy writing dream.
I’ve since published a full trilogy with the same small press, but things haven’t been all roses and cucumber sandwiches. The first novel was published with numerous embarrassing typos and at least one copy was missing pages. The second novel was better edited, but took much longer to go from edited to published and had cover issues. And the third novel…well the third novel took a lot longer to write, a lot longer to edit, and was submitted at a time when the publisher was going through a lot personally almost two years after the second novel was released.
There was a time between the second book getting published and the third book where nothing was happening in my writing career. Short stories were getting rejected and then rejected some more. I’d written another novel and submitted it to a couple of larger publishers with no success, and I wasn’t selling enough copies of my novels to be considered a professional writer. Also, I was coming to realize just how tiny a writer fish I was in the ocean of genre fiction. Go to any Science Fiction and Fantasy related convention and you realize that half the people in attendance have written a book or two.
This was a definite low point in my writing journey, and everything was slow, painful, and uninspired. Other paths started to look more appealing, like going back into the sciences. I felt like I was kidding myself that I could truly become a successful author. Then one of my short stories got an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest, I finished my 5th novel, and my publisher very quickly agreed to publish the final book in my paranormal romance trilogy.
It was also around this time that I started an online Master Class on writing taught by James Patterson. Well worth the $90 fee, there was also a contest for students to co-write a novel with Mr. Patterson. This spurred me to take another look at one of my story ideas and modify it slightly to fit within the contest’s confines of the novel being a thriller or mystery. I didn’t win, but through the contest I learned more about pitches, hooks, and ultimately query letters. All important tools for success as an author.
Becoming a writer is its own hero’s journey. It is full of highs and lows, ups and downs, overcoming adversity, and constantly transforming yourself and your writing. I still hesitate when people ask me what I do for a living, probably because I don’t yet truly make a living from writing, but I’m getting better at saying, “I’m an author.” Someday I might not even stutter at all. Someday I might be able to read the novels I’ve written after they’re published. Someday I might be able to comfortably afford that writers retreat in Iceland. Someday I might actually get one of my short stories published. Someday I might win an award for my writing.
But today I am a writer sitting on the couch with a cat on my lap, sipping cold tea, hoping someone will read my words and smile.
I Write, I Edit, I Write Again. Witness!
We're Making Better Words, All of Them, Better Words.
I Write to Burn Off the Crazy.
A Good Day Writing is a Day Writing.
It Puts the Words on the Page or it Gets the Hose Again.
Just Keep Writing, Just Keep Writing; Writing, Writing, Writing...