They say everyone has one book or story inside them struggling to be born into the world. Many, like me have many such stories. Sometimes they tangle inside my head, shouting over each other, wanting me to hear them first.
Which are you? The single story or the unending thread? Actually, the answer to that question hardly matters. As long as you have at least one idea dying to be written and read, this blog post is for you. Or maybe you’re a reader and are simply curious how we writers get started. Perhaps you wonder how we got from where you are–a consumer of books and stories–to the creator of such.
First, a disclaimer. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and the path I’ve taken may not resemble in the slightest the paths others have trod. However, I believe many, if not most, published authors today have had to consider the things I will discuss.
If we were the main character in our own story (which, of course, we are), we’d begin in the middle of the action showing what our life is like. I’ve been writing for nearly my whole life, but the moment I decided to write a novel didn’t occur until later when my life had calmed down a bit. (In truth, I began a novel while studying Spanish and Political Science at Purdue, but never finished it.) I’m talking about when I actually made the decision to begin and finish my first novel.
The first Y in the road to publication is choosing to finish your novel. Choosing to begin is wonderful, but if you begin without a conscious decision to finish, you give yourself an easy exit from the path. Don’t do it! Resist this temptation.
My life was perhaps less complicated than many when I began. My kids were all in college or had graduated, I had a teaching job, so my summers were free except for farm work, and I was busy, but with enough free time to crank out the story. That said, I knew nothing about what I was doing save the advanced education offered by my reading habit. I took literature classes in college, but no writing save the basic freshman required course. I was proficient at grammar and spelling, though, and I had ideas, enough to get me started.
The next decision involves the old adage: you must spend money to make money. The question was how much? When income is tight, choices are limited. I found a writing organization (ACFW) through the back matter of a book I was reading and checked into joining. Membership wasn’t too costly, so I bit the bullet and sent in an application and the fee. It was the best fifty bucks I ever spent. Exactly what I needed at the time, I soaked in the training. If you’re interested, you can read more about ACFW in previous blog posts.
I started to enter contests and found a local chapter to meet face-to-face with authors/writers like me. Then I discovered writing conferences. These cost more money. Thus another Y. Besides joining ACFW, signing up for my first and second writing conferences were the most important decisions I could have made. So, the second Y in the road to publication is choosing whether to devote money and time toward learning and growing in writing craft.
By now, our character (us) has come to a doorway. We instigate the great debate–should we go through or should we stay with the life we have? Walking through the door may mean losing sleep to get those words typed, or spending money on courses, conferences, or books on writing. We may need to give up some of our previous responsibilities to dedicate more time to writing and learning. What do we choose?
The answer depends on your writing goals. So before we open that door, let’s think about this for a minute. My goal was to become a published author, and I wanted to go through a traditional publisher. Many want to self-publish or indie publish. That is a choice every author must make for themselves. What is right for one is not right for all. The great news is that we have options. The bad news is, we have so many options, and all of them require hard work and sacrifice for the sake of the story.
So, back to the door. If we choose to go through (which we must if there is to be a story), we must be prepared to dedicate time and effort toward our goal of becoming published. Please note, if you write simply for the joy of writing or to share stories with family and friends rather than to publish for a wide audience, I am not discounting your choice. I am simply telling my journey, and I want as many people to read my work as possible. This has been my goal since I made choice #1: finishing my novel.
I opened the door, took a deep breath, and stepped through. My life hasn’t been the same since!
If this is where you stand, with your hand hovering above the doorknob, I urge you to yank it open and walk into a place where you begin to share your story with others. Close the door firmly behind you and never look back.
Join me here in two weeks for Part 2 of A Prepublished Author’s Journey. We’ll discuss some resources and places to look for additional guidance to navigate the next Y in the road to publication.
Thanks as always for reading and supporting my dreams. If you enjoyed this content or know someone else who might enjoy it, please share. Consider subscribing to the blog or if you’d appreciate quarterly updates on my writing and book recommendations, subscribe to my newsletter here. You’ll get free short stories when you subscribe for the September edition.
Until next time, many blessings.