I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I liked words, homework, writing, and all the nerd girl stuff even though I got my first C on a report card in the third grade and thought my life was over. Eventually I learned to accept that Cs were going to be part of my life especially in science and math. Acceptance is key, after all.
Today I am an author. I spent three years writing my first book and dreaming of being published. Is that every writer’s dream? No. Maybe. To some degree. Would it be amazing to be the female version of John Grisham and write amazing stories that everyone loves to read? Sure. Would it be just as amazing to not have a day job that while enjoyable takes time away from writing? Definitely. But being published isn’t the reason I became an indie author.
I chose to publish my book on December 26, 2015 against the advice of a professor, despite the lack of an author platform, and despite the fact that my book could have used another twelve months of simmering and revisions not because I’m rebellious and don’t know how to listen to sage advice. I became an indie author that day because it was my gift to my daughter.
Rachel James (the MC of Soaring Alone) has been roaming around in my head since I was eight years old. She didn’t have a name then, but her story was already forming and became solidly implanted in my heart and soul about four years ago. Around that time she coughed up her name and we started to get chummy. Sound strange? It was and still is when new characters introduce themselves to me.
For the next three years I worked on Rachel’s story. The majority of it was written during NaNoWriMo 2013. That November I logged 86,139 words for the story whose working title at the time was “Identity Crisis”. That year I also experienced my first 10k writing day. It was bliss. The few days following when I had to wear braces on both wrists because of the pain were joyous as well. The pain was totally worth it.
I continued to work on my book off and on for the next three years. The word count rose to 180k and then was pared down to just under 100,000 words as I tried to work out plot issues. In February 2014 I spent a long weekend in San Francisco with my husband and children where I learned more about the art of writing and even pitched my story to an agent.
It was something like an additional fifty dollars on top of the cost of the conference that gave you two minutes to pitch to some incredible people. Yes, you read that right: two minutes. I formulated my pitch on the fly having absolutely no idea what I was doing or what the outcome would be.
One agent requested the first seventy-five pages of my novel. Nothing came of it yet I still wanted to tell this story. So I kept writing and revising.
I hit pay dirt when I came across #10MinNovelists on Facebook. An international group of time crunched writers getting together to form a community, share resources, encourage one another, and eat invisible snacks…they were just what I needed. I also found my editor there: the great Anna Snow Berck.
She read my novel and bled red ink all over it. I was in writer heaven. I learned about beta readers and got more feedback. I revised Rachel’s story some more. Then I hit a wall.
I lost interest. I didn’t want to revise it anymore. I procrastinated with other projects. I went back to school. I changed day jobs. I found reasons to put off the publication of Soaring Alone.
When I did experience moments of interest, I did odd things. Like change the title and the name of a major character. I cut out an entire section and revamped the ending until it bore no recognition to the original telling of the story. I participated in NaNo twice more.
During the six months prior to publishing my first novel I noticed something else that was happening. My daughter, my cheerleader, my task master…stopped asking me how the book was going. She stopped talking about a publication date. She stopped checking my calendar to see if I was writing and asking about my word count.
The silence was painful to endure.
I didn’t ask her why she stopped talking about the book because I didn’t want to hear her answer. I was afraid she would tell me that she stopped believing it would happen. Or worse yet, that she would tell me that she had stopped believing in me.
So when I was ruminating over the Christmas list and trying to decide what to purchase for our brood of children, I broached the subject with my husband and suggested publishing Soaring Alone in time for our daughter to open it on Christmas morning. He immediately got on board.
It took me approximately two months, asking for help from two people, and some anxiety that it wouldn’t happen on time for the project to be finished. Her response that morning was worth every minute of it. By December 25, 2015 my daughter held the final author proof copy in her hand with tears streaming down her face. The next day I hit the publish button on CreateSpace.
Rachel James’ story is complete. It might need some additional polishing and will likely undergo a second edition in time, but it’s out there. The world has access to the story of an ordinary woman who learns she was kidnapped at birth and must now decide what family means to her.
Meanwhile, my journey is not complete. I have much to learn as a writer and as an author. I still have two years and a couple of months left of an MFA program. I have yet to learn the art of author branding and book marketing. I have other stories waiting in the wings to be told.
Thankfully though one thing I no longer have is a daughter who is still waiting for an example. Maybe I did things backward and should have kept whittling away at Rachel’s story until every last item on the indie author agenda was met, but I couldn’t let another day go by without my daughter seeing that it could be done. This book was for her.
While my story might make some (authors) cringe as they read this, in shock that my author platform is mediocre at best, I hope the true message that lies within will resonate with other parents whose children are looking up to them. One book –maybe even everyone’s first book—is about being an example to your child, or the neighbor kid you mentor, or to your niece or nephew. It’s about proving to yourself even that you can shrug off the chains of self-doubt and fear of rejection to stand firm in your belief that the story you’re telling needs to be told.
Soaring Alone was my best as a novice author. It was my beginning; my show of courage. My hope is that those who read it will know they aren’t alone in whatever situation they are in the midst of. That they’ll find the courage and the support to chart their own course in life and find a way to be unique.
The first step is always the hardest, the scariest, and the one we’re going to use as a stepladder to get further along in this world. May your first step be your gift to someone…maybe even to you.