A fellow writer, Samantha Combs asked me to write a post about a new author's journey into the world of publishing. You can catch the post/prove I'm not a liar at her blog: http://www.samanthacombswrites.blogspot.com/. It should be up soon!
And if you're too impatient to wait or too lazy to click that link, here's my post.
Honestly, I’m the worst person to talk about a journey that happened at such a young age. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been conjuring up my own worlds and putting them on paper. It started in early elementary school while I was bored in class. At the time, I thought my drawing skills were prodigious, and I’d make my own little loose leaf-bound graphic novels. It didn’t take me long to realize that my talent really sparkled in the little speech bubbles next to my horrendous drawings of talking dogs and cats.
Reading definitely fueled my passion for writing lengthier pieces. I wasn’t born a book worm; I actually started reading because I was in competition with a close friend (she wasn’t about to finish Harry Potter before me!) It was a struggle at first, but it wasn’t long before I started reading books as quickly as my mother could get to the book store. Immersing myself into other fantasy worlds opened my imagination to the potential of creating my own stories. I started making my own characters to plug into stories, filling numerous notebooks with embarrassing fan fictions, and eventually creating my own first short story. It was for a 6th grade creative writing assignment, and I went 20 pages over the requirement.
Completing my first manuscript came years later. I was on the verge of graduating college with no clue what I wanted to do afterwards. Taking a gap year during the rough economy wasn’t unheard of, and I decided to do some serious soul searching in that year. How did I cope? I wrote. I came up with my idea for my forthcoming debut novel, Lucid in college, and I really wanted to do my characters justice by finishing the story. Eighty-five thousand words later, I had this manuscript. I remember sighing with relief, pouring myself a glass of wine, and saying , “I did it. I started a multi-million dollar career. I’m going to be on the New York Times Bestseller list by the end of this year.”
I was a very naïve 22 year-old.
Getting my first rejection letters was a real blow to my ego. I was used to getting everything for which I applied. Scholarships, poetry contests, school play roles, honors societies, you name it. Having someone tell me that she’s not interested in my work, my world I’d created over the span of 5 years, was a pretty tough pill to swallow. I took a break from writing, applied to grad schools (for writing, because I obviously needed help,) and only faced more disappointment. (How was I supposed to know MFAs were competitive, and my BS in psychology didn’t help my case?!) My virgin writing eyes were opened that year, and it took a lot of self-loathing and reflection to realize something important.
I didn’t need an agent or a publisher to tell me that my work was good in order to keep writing. Did I write my dog stories and fan fiction because I wanted to be rich? Of course not! They made me happy, and I enjoyed writing things even if no one else would ever read them. While having this revelation, I was a middle school substitute teacher, and I realized that my middle school students were always looking for cool things to read. I started talking about my own stories, and soon enough, I had a little audience eager to hear about Devon and his adventures into a dangerous dream world. I realized that writing was the reward, whether the story was heard or not. The fact that my story brought joy to my students was a huge plus that fueled my continuing to query agents and publishers.
I still am naïve to the writing world, but I’m learning as I go on. Forty query letters and a year and a half later, I’ve secured a publishing contract for Lucid. Again, I thought that was going to be the end of it. All I had to do was sign the contract, and the rest would fall into place. I laugh at myself (only months ago,) but I find it’s not a bad lesson. The path to success is not easy, and it shouldn’t be. Even CEOs have to start in a cubicle, and famous actors got their starts in mediocre plays off-Broadway or in sketchy LA comedy clubs.
Determination to find one’s path to happiness is everything. If attending the gym weekly has taught me anything, it’s that hard work pays off in both mind and body. In order to be the best version of yourself, you can never quit. You may not walk the premeditative path you had planned out for yourself, but it’s all right. If you work hard, never give up, and believe you will find happiness, you’ll end up right where you need to be. I just started my journey, and it’s not without its stress and setbacks, but I know there’s no use in complaining. If I keep trucking along, and remember that writing is the work and the reward, everything will be fine. You will, too.
My book, Lucid isn't due to be released until this summer, but if you're looking for a cool read, check out Combs's YA works, Spellbound, Everspell, and Ghostly. She's also the author of Watchdancer, The Deadlines, and Wingspan. They're available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. Good stuff for middle schoolers on up!
Writers, keep on writing. Readers, keep on reading.
Humans, you do your thing, too!
~L. E. Fred