I have lived in northeast Florida for the vast majority of my life. Florida, being a peninsula, offers a temperate, diverse landscape the further north you travel, one constantly at risk from developers who want a new plot of identical homes, or a new shopping center.
In the middle of all this industrial and commercial influence, Florida remains a darkly, richly natural place, combining tropical features with vast pine tree farms and deciduous forests. There’s something eerie to me about the variation in flora, and the thickness of it.
The conflict of two powerful forces, nature and development, heavily influenced my writing interests. By halfway through high school, I was in a class that doubled as a creative writing workshop and a staff position on the school arts magazine. I had only taken two writing classes over the previous year by then, and had essentially no idea what I was doing. I wrote stupid stories that mocked the very concept of fiction. But later, the themes of power and conflicting forces came to light.
Learning to Write
It was during the new workshop class, a collection of the more promising writers of the two previous classes, that we got an assignment to write a vignette. Being stupid, I ended up writing a long, unfinished story, not a vignette at all. It was based in a dystopian future where all loud noise and music was banned.
In the story, a young lady who secretly went to a music bar found herself drawn into a more public protest of the laws, with unfortunate consequences. It ended with her best friend murdered, and her being captured and taken to the top of the highest tower in the main city, where the leader of the world supposedly ordered this to happen.
Though I was not very confident in it, and it took a long time to read in the workshop, my classmates and instructor enjoyed it. They suggested that for the next assignment, I write the next part. Pretty soon I was writing a chapter of this novel every week, making it awkwardly fit the requirements of each assignment as much as possible.
Then that class ended for winter break, and it was time to write it without those prompts. I was caught, totally unable to contribute to the already half-done work without praise and fawning by others, and I was sickened by this. Eventually I had enough, and several months later, I wrote the rest of the book, about 60,000 words, over spring break, five days. That was a huge thing to discover, that I could write that much, that I could finish a novel if the pain of not finishing it got strong enough.
Before writers learn to polish, they have to learn to finish. I had a turd of a novel, but it was mine, and my 17-year-old self was more than proud of it. I wrote a sequel over the next two years, and then, over the course of getting a college degree in English, I made it into a trilogy spanning decades of the silent world’s history and conflicts. It was a smart dystopia, one that you couldn’t just wittily fix with a brave, defiant hero. But there was always hope, and struggle, and thus, still potential for more books to come out.
Over my college years, I founded a creative writing club, to help other undergraduate writers at the university, and get my own work critiqued as well. I rewrote my first novel completely, about 10 times, each time with more dramatic changes.
Everything was happening at once, and then when I felt my first book was ready to get published, I started submitting to agents. Then, nothing happened. I went from a whirl of change and growth to a roadblock.
I have no dramatic story of collecting 500 rejections. To be honest, I only submitted to maybe 40 or 50 agents, many of them the major ones with massive slush piles of proposals from other ‘chump’ authors.
Putting My Work Out There
Early into 2015, after scraping by with freelance writing for almost a year, I started to learn more about self publishing. I waved it away for months, considering it ineffective, a way to put all the work a publisher does upon my own shoulders.
Then I read a book called Publicize Your Book, by Jacqueline Deval. Reading that book completely shifted my thinking. I never finished it, because I just could not stomach the disgusting reality of it.
Publicize Your Book is a guide for authors who are already picked up by an agent and publisher. It describes what an author has to do in order to make sure the book does well. It essentially depicts the author as the glue holding together the relationships between editors, cover designers, agents, and other key players in the process. Only, that’s not what the book really is.
The book talks about how the author has to do all of the PR events, has to weigh in on cover design, has to call frequently to keep everyone up to speed, has to encourage (encourage!) the members of a professional publishing company to do their jobs properly.
That was when I realized “This seems like even more work than self-publishing the book, with hardly any promise of financial security for giving up my rights and most of the sales.”
Then I decided to get into self-publishing. You can see my Amazon Author page in the link there.
I could not be happier with my choice. I did not go into self-publishing idly. I made massive changes. I’m rewroting my novels again for a final time, this time as an episodic serial, with more changes and enhancements to the world and characters than in any of the previous twelve (by then) rewrites I had done. I’ve even been picked up for a deal that technically makes me a hybrid author instead of purely self published. More on that soon. 😉
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, I’m ready to answer!