I wondered how I was going to finish writing my book.
I wondered if I was any good at all.
(And still, I happily ground myself on the sandpaper of writing because it was exciting to push on the inside of my sticky mind.)
So, after the completion of several projects and many hard knocks, guess what? I still write in wonder.
It isn't hopeless, though. Without a doubt, I'm learning every single day. Doing something wrong is the best teacher in life. (Because at least you're going forward.)
After my first novel had 'THE END' typed at the bottom dreams of publication consumed me. They were similar to most creative human being's hopes. I was operating at a distinct disadvantage without realizing it. To put it succinctly, I didn't know how little I knew.
I took a step back to look at what I wanted out of writing. An internal debate waged against crushing myself repeatedly into the traditional publishing wall or self-publishing. My mother, a professor at West Texas A&M University, found a week-long summer writing class and sent me all of the information. I registered.
By this time, I was writing the second book in my imagined sci-fi series and noticing the flaws in my words. I still had no idea how to fix them. There was a sinking dread at knowing you're inept but still being unable to kill the hope that you're wrong.
The West Texas Writers' Academy became the best thing ever to happen to me. Feedback received showed me where I needed work. I corresponded with my first editor, DeWanna Pace, and learned how to take constructive criticism. (Not that I didn't cry about it. I so did. Angry tears at myself.)
DeWanna has since passed away. She was an amazing woman who lived to shine a light on writers and make them believe they could when they knew they couldn't. I still miss her. She encouraged me to make my first submission to a publisher.
Rejection is a harsh mistress, but she's a necessity. The first submission, (without an agent), to Tor no less, never received a response. Picture a rambling eleven-page synopsis, clunky first thirty-five pages, and a downright awful query letter. Whoever had the terrible task of reading that business threw it in the slush pile or fed it through a shredder with an eye roll.
I continued writing. I read articles on what 'to-do' and what 'not-to-do,' the majority of which contradicted each other. I joined Facebook pages and forums of other writers and listened to rants. There are a plethora of people out there who use should, never and always when they have no idea what they're talking about. Ego wars abounded. I realized I had no use for proving myself superior to some online stranger, (because I'm not), and ditched all harmful sites. They were distracting me from my joy of writing.
Cut to months later and I heard about an editor from Anne Rice's Facebook page named Todd Barselow. He became my second editor. I worked through three books with Mr. Barselow and had a 'now what?' moment. The queries I'd sent to agents had been rejected or gone unanswered. I had to decipher if self-publishing was a real option or a shady undertaking.
Much research ensued. The Weaver Series didn't fit in any one sub-genre all the way. My main character was a mature thirteen, and so the first book was supposed to fit in YA. The subject matter was adult in most ways, not skewed specifically to a young audience. It was becoming apparent I hadn't written to the market and my story was unconventional. The likelihood of a traditional publisher taking a chance on me was less than zero. I still loved my story, and I was unwilling to rewrite for marketability.
Somewhere in there, I saw a cover artist I adored. Her name is Nathalia Suellen. She's amazing. Nathalia's designs are used for books in the major houses. I took a shot and emailed her. It turned out that she did covers for indie publishers too. (Happy, happy, joy, joy!)
Things seemed to be falling into place. I dove into research on the business side. Sole Proprietorship or LLC? What website provider? What domain name? How to market? How to get reviews? Where did I find a formatter? How much was everything going to cost? Could I afford it? Was this stupid? Was I stupid? Oh my gosh, I'm an idiot. What do I know? I can't do this!
All the while, I continued to write and learn. I attended a conference at OWFI in Oklahoma. I entered contests. I put myself out there and pulled back a nub more than once. Failure became my best friend. Mistakes were made, and I learned from them. (Hopefully!)
Jodi Thomas, the writer in residence at WTAMU and a NYT bestselling author, introduced me to a local writer by the name of Melody Robinette. Many meetings ensued at coffee shops around Lubbock. Other writers continue to drift in and out. Personal growth continues with support. Critique is valuable. Others of your 'kind' are a necessity!
Traditional publishing wasn't a dead dream. More and more writers I knew spoke of pursuing a hybrid route. They wanted to do both. Hybrid became a new goal.
I met another editor, Esther Doucet, and she worked with me on the first book in a new series. She taught me new things about my style of writing. (Adverbs, I use them a lot!)
Time is an issue and a blessing. Through the long haul you progress but in the short term, your days are filled with a lot of heavy lifting. My time was nibbled at and then devoured by the business responsibilities of being a self-published author. Not all of it is bad. I had two television spots, newspaper interviews, a couple speaking engagements and multiple signings. They were all fun! But then add in record keeping, tracking expenses and taxes. (Bleh.) Concentrating on one thing neglected another and the magic of writing dulled for a time. It all felt like a duty instead of an adventure. Readers had expectations. (The horror!)
Now, writers also have lives. Mine is occupied by a day job, a stellar husband, two awesome children, a cool black dog, family and this thing we call living. S&%t happens. Kids get ill. Plans fall through. Time gets short. And you think to yourself, "Suck it up, Buttercup. Such is life."
Recently I found out I placed, (2nd!), in one of three categories I entered at OWFI's annual contest and conference. Oh, what the past me would have given to attend the banquet and hear her name called. It's a thrill to place at all.
But yet, I'm stuck in a rut on Book Five of the Weaver Series. I can't get my brain away from writing fantasy. It's pulling at me like a two-year-old saying they need to pee 'right now!' while you're in line to pay for groceries.
I guess the point of this ramble is to let other writers out there know it is a journey. You're 'never' going to be done. You 'should' not give up hope. And you're 'always' going to have highs and lows.
I love you! Take the time to love yourself. Live your life. Remember what you enjoy and experience new things. Give of your knowledge when you can. Be kind.