Fiction – A product of the imagination. The category of literature with imaginary characters and events, including novels, short stories, etc. (American Heritage Dictionary)
I believe that what we call coincidences are tiny miracles that intertwine in this life. Every writer, at one point, questions his/her path and the issue of why keep on writing, or what difference does it make? I’ve have asked that question; I asked that question to God. A few weeks ago I got my answer in the most unusual way.
A few weeks ago, something happened that changed my perspective as far as my writing goes. During that time, I had received a shipment of copies of my latest book – The Five-dollar Miracle, and the next day, I gifted the first copy. It was an impromptu offering. I was talking to that person and the books where next to me. A few days later, I had a casual conversation with that person and she mentioned the many similarities she encountered reading the story. She told me the book spoke to her, and many things she had taken to heart. She was going through many of the challenges the story presented, and so was her church. The pastor had died three months ago, and the congregation faced new challenges as well. What caught her eye and made her read further on was the first paragraph. She asked me how I came up with that date. I found the question unusual, and I told her it was a random date with no significance to me – the day I sat to write the story. For her, it was the day her husband died. I did not know her during that time. She mentioned that she was starting the five-dollar miracle.
Later on, I pondered all the events that had lead to that conversation and weaved my tiny miracle. By then, I had put my question to God out of mind. Only when I pondered these things I realized that my question had been answered. I don’t know if she will find something more in this story, but as far as I know the writing of it mattered, at least for her. As soon as I understood this, I thanked God for his love. I had a new perspective on writing.
As writers, we never know for whom we are writing the stories we create, but sometimes, we are blessed to have a glimpse. As far as I am concerned, The Five-dollar Miracle fulfilled its purpose, and I was able to find a new perspective in writing. If you have asked yourself the same question I asked, I hope this post helps you in some way.
“My name is Jonathan. My official name is Zadquiel. I prefer Jonathan. The story that I am about to tell you happened in Jasper Falls, a small town in the north of Virginia, USA. It was a small miracle, a five-dollar miracle that changed a stranger, a pastor, an entire congregation, and a whole country. I will take you to that day – July 29, 2016.” (excerpt from The Five-dollar Miracle)
I am about to plunge into writing my next novel – The Girl Who Could Not Love. I’ve always compared the feeling of starting a new story to the feeling of standing at the edge of a cliff and peering out to see what is below and beyond. One approaches the edge carefully, respectful of the abyss below, and at the same time with apprehensive wonderment, excitement, and a certain kind of childish joy. The deeper and farther I look out, the more I see, and images start emerging and becoming clear. Suddenly, that edge is not as defined and scary as it was at the beginning. A couple of chapters inside the story the edge has disappeared and I am floating, observing and being a part of the story. It is always like a little adventure.
The writing of this novel is an exciting undertaking because I have nothing to start with, no plot, no outline, no initial lines or ideas, only a title and the main character’s name. I am halfway the first chapter and I have to say that I was not expecting it to develop the way it is, so I am in for the ride. Hopefully, it will be completed by next year, but I am only the writer.
The other day, I thought about how blessed we are now, at this time. Writers are able to realize their writing dreams thanks to the amazing technology available, much of it at low cost. These are blessed times for writers, whether you write via an independent publishing venue, a blog, social media, or other method. I am very grateful for this. When I was younger I wanted to publish my work independently, but it would have cost so much money, hence why many of us set the dream aside until adulthood. No other generation had the opportunity we have today. However, for me, this also presented the challenge of sorting through all the information/methods available, and keeping up with it all (an impossible task). Everyday, there is more information, technology, venues available so trying to understand it all is plain silly.
Much time went into sorting things out, especially, when the gates of publishing were opened. Reviewing my experience made me think about what advice would I offer myself back then. I thought about it and if I was to put it in once sentence it would be – Find your way. Realizing that “just because everyone is doing something one way, doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to” was not easy, especially in those early days. People tend to follow patterns/trends in new territory; it is human nature, and hence why things go viral. We are social mamals whether we realize it or not. When a new venture/technology or other, is in the early stages we tend to follow and take notes in order to learn. That is a good thing but it could also be confusing, even frustrating, more so when something that “has been proven” to work for other people does not work for you. In hindsight, my advice to myself at that time would have been to slow down and treat information as just that, not as a bible for writers or written in stone. Information serves the only purpose of presenting alternatives, being an aid in learning.
If you are just at the beginning of your writing journey, you will need to learn, and tons of information is available. It is a blessing, however, during your learning/study process you will doubt yourself when that information might not match your reality or expectations. That is all fine. Sort through it, pick up what applies to you as a writer, and keep on moving. Find and do what feels right for you. Find your way.
I have done a bit of soul searching. In retrospect, a lot has happened in the past 7 years, including my decision to publish independently. Time goes by quickly. There are so many things I’ve learned that to sum it all in one post is not easy, but what I can do is write about a few things I learned in the process, and how important these became in my decision to continue on this path.
I have narrowed it to four points that represent the most challenging elements during that time.
Timing – I had to learn to recognize my own timing and honor it. This was not easy for me. As a person who likes clarity, does not tolerate drama too well, and likes things straight and to the point, I have to say that timing translated into being patient with myself, allowing the time I needed to learn much of the craft and some of the technology attached to it, as well as weed out information while learning to recognize the pertinent information and disregard the rest. Impatience and rush/speed did not have a place in this process, as it was one of discovery and education. The bulk of it happened in the first two years, and it was frustrating at times. I needed to know many things about the writing process but also discover what was right for me, my working style, my pace, my ethics, and what I wanted from it all. And as we all know, the learning process never ends, but I could figure out where I was headed as far as publishing venues and method. Independent publishing was the right venue for me, as far as fitting my personality, work ethic, and writing goals. For me, timing was one of the most important elements during this process.
Commitment – Once I had an idea of the process, had gone through much of the raw learning steps, and mentally dealt with the immensity of the amoutnt of information that was being put out there by other indie writers (which was all over the place and in a broad spectrum), I was able to make a commitment to myself with some clarity as far as what I wanted. During this time I found it very challenging to not fall prey of the publishing frenzy that everyone seemed to have at one point – to publish volume at a fast pace, inundating Amazon and other venues with electronic books. I had to shake off the feelings of “being behind” and replace them with my own sense of what felt right for me, and at what pace. Once I understood what I wanted out of it, and made a long term commitment that had no monetary value attached to it, it became easier to deal with those feelings of “being behind.” The commitment did not come right away but as a result of going through the timing and education process.
The Others – Not minding the Others. The Others refers to what other people thought about my decision to write and publish independently. From views that were as narrow as the eye of a needle to more aceptable views and opinions, many times not solicited, I had to learn that all of it was inconsequential for me. Questionable motives, hurtful comments, and very ortodox views about the craft, had to mean absolutely nothing to me as far as entertaining them in my mind. The Others had no say as far as I was concerned. Learning to deal with the negative during this process determined the next element – Trust.
Trust – Trust is an ongoing issue when it comes to my writing. Not only do I have to trust my internal process and the pen, but also, the inner me has to let the writer out. If you tend to be demanding of yourself, and a bit hard on yourself as well, like I am many times, then trust doesn’t come easy. If by nature you are a trusting person, I think it will flow a bit easier, but if you are not, trusting may present a challenge when it comes to writing, as well as any other endeavor. Trusting the process, trusting yourself, and trusting God, comes all wrapped in a package that you unwrap many times, over and over. I view trust as the most challenging element on this journey, mostly because it determined if I was to take the plunge or not. Trust also refers to keep the commitment when results do not match expectation, and goes hand in hand with faith. Faith is defined as confident belief, trust, conviction, loyalty, allegiance, and also, as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
Trust is an ongoing element. In retrospect, in the past years these elements have been present in my life and most influential as far as my writing journey. As far as summing it all up to this point, I identify those elements as the most important ones in my experience so far. I hope that if you are starting on your journey as a writer, this post offers a bit of help or at least some clarity. Of course, each journey is unique.
Who doesn’t like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I love them. I have them for lunch many times. Something quick, easy, and filling. Some people like to cut out the bread corners. I cut out the side corners but like the top corner; it is like a door to delight. Sometimes, I eat the end corner; sometimes I do not. Why am I writing about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and cutting the corners?
Sometimes, people like to cut corners. They like the quick and easy route. I have found that some people would like to cut corners when it comes to writing or publishing a book. They want to cut corners to enjoy the filling right away. I understand the excitement of publishing your first book; it is like nothing else. People who want to cut corners and jump right away are just excited enough. Sometimes, people expect to know in only one conversation everything that it took me years to learn. If I say something along the lines of “educate yourself on as much as you can about the writing process and publishing business,” it might be misinterpreted as an unwillingness to pass on the information. On the contrary, the intention is of meaning well enough to care. It took me years of research and study on my own to learn as much as I could on the topic before attempting to self publish. I had to make sure that I understood the current trends, technology, as well as to what type of publishing suited my personality, work ethic, and style. I only sent out one query, and as soon as I sent it I knew that I didn’t really wanted to pursue traditional publishing. It was then, after learning some more, that I decided to publish my first novel independently.
It is to the aspiring writer best interest to learn much about the craft, to know herself/himself well enough to know how to choose the best writing path. Industry, genre, writing methods, technology, trends, websites, publishing industry methods … all plays a role in the deciding factor. Many times, writing is approached with money signs in mind – “How much money will I make, and how quickly?” Again, cutting corners. No one can guarantee that you will make money writing. Some writers do well soon enough, while others do not do as well or it takes more than 10 years of hard work to see any financial pay off.
The internet opened a new world as far as writing is concerned. It opened the flood gates and brought opportunity to those who were not able to afford the steep price of self publishing back then. It has allowed me to publish my novels, and accomplish my dream of writing. For that I am grateful. However, when I entered into this beautiful and exciting world I did it with knowledge and sure of what my next step would be, as far as publishing my work. People assume that x amount of books published equals money. That is not necessarily true. They might even change tunes (even with you) when they realize that the bulk of the peanut butter and jelly is at the center of the sandwich. Cutting corners might get one quicker to the center but something will be missing – the knowledge to get there, and keep on going.
I treat writing like any other course of study and post education. Whether you do it on your own or by pursuing a degree from college as many others have done, the important factor is that you obtain the knowledge you need to pursue your writing career clearly. Knowledge is to your advantage always. If in it for the long run, the more prepared you are the better.
How did you fall into writing? The inevitable question. I’ve been asked the question many times. Other times, followed by, “I never knew you were into that?”
How do you answer it? I fell into a pile of books while going downstairs half asleep. No seriously, have you thought of the moment when you became interested in writing? Not when you felt “a writer,” because that moment might never come. The usual answer people give is, “I’ve written since I can remember.” If I go back in time, I can see a child who read everything she got her hands on, a child who amassed a large quantity of pens and pencils, a child who thought that a typewriter was the greatest invention on the planet, and also loved the scent of new notebooks and old books (I still do). I also see a child who followed members of the family, while holding a notebook and pen, and wrote in it everything they did. I see a child who kept diaries, and then, burned them. How many stories do I have from my early years, my teenage years, and the years until I decided to become a writer? None. Not even one. Why? For some inexplicable reason, I had a habit; I burned everything I wrote or broke it into tiny pieces. I never kept one story. It puzzles me today. Although I had the desire to become a writer, I never pursued it. I went into many different careers, pretty much anything that I fancied at the time, but always kept that secret desire well-kept inside me. I had an image of writers that didn’t fit who I thought I was. I saw writers as old people with money. Where did that image came from? I don’t know.
Well, to answer the question – How did I fall into writing? When I resigned from my last job, I felt a strong urge to write, and I did. Almost as a long-lost calling, too loud to keep ignoring. At that same job, in one of our meetings my former boss asked an exercise question to start the meeting. It was, “If you were not here, what would you rather be doing; what is your ideal job?” Each one of us was urged to answer, and we did. Some of us answered honestly, including her, who’d rather be a detective. I answered, “I see myself writing at a cottage near the sea.” Of course, I got the weird looks, but not from her. She said, “I can see you doing exactly that.” Going back to that memory, I think that was the moment when I fell into writing.
If you are an independent writer, it is likely that you have been asked one or more of these annoying questions, and usually by people who have not read any of your books. These are questions that are “meant to happen” at one point or another, so might as well have some fun answering them.
Question: Why do you write?
Answer: Why do you breathe?
Question: Are you really published? I mean not self-published.
Answer: Do you own the company you work for?
Question: Do you make any money doing that?
Answer: How much money do you make at your job?
Question: What is your real job?
Answer: What is your life purpose?
Question: Is it true that self-publishing killed literature?
Answer: Is it dead? Oh, my sincere condolences.
It is probable that you have been asked at least one of the questions above mentioned. Instead of becoming annoyed, have fun answering them. I invite you to share some of your own.
Thanks to the way technology has developed in the last few years, and the companies that made use of it to broaden the publishing arena, independent publishing is now more effective and affordable. Writers who are serious about their work and are in it for the long run have embraced independent (indie) publishing with excitement and gratefulness. Other people have jumped in looking to make a quick buck, soon to discover that it is not possible or easy, and have left the arena. Many use indie publishing as a way to “be discovered” by the traditional industry in the hopes of obtaining a contract. Some authors who have published via traditional channels have decided to join in and publish independently, while others may consider the movement a heresy. Exciting times for writers, no doubt about it. However, choosing you path to publishing is a very important and personal issue and you must inform yourself, weigh both sides of the industry, and do what is right for you according to your standards – working style, time, work ethics, and future goals; money has little to do with it in the beginning, and a lot later on. The same reason why the traditional industry has not embraced it, and is a bit nervous. Royalties – the forbidden word.
As promising as it sounds, indie publishing is not for the faint of heart; independent authors who have published way before technology reached this capacity know this well. They are the unseen precursors, the ghosts behind the curtain. Many so-called overnight successes have worked at the craft for 15 years or more. Others have been rejected by traditional publishing a lifetime, for not writing what the publishing industry was looking for at the time. These last group found their readers by publishing independently, after many years of rejection and hard work; these too, are called overnight successes.
When is indie publishing wrong for you? It requires a very personal answer, but in general, if you are not willing to work hard, be patient, and grow with the industry as it continues to develop (this is just the beginning) indie publishing might not suit you. In addition, if you are looking for quick money, crave instant recognition, and are not willing to learn, then indie publishing might not be for you. If you feel strongly about pursuing your writing career via the traditional publishing guidelines, independent publishing is not for you. If you are not willing to work long solitary hours at your desk, educate yourself and observe the trends, while working hard to present a decent product to your readers thus honoring their time with the best book you can write, then, indie publishing is definitely not for you.
As the title suggests, this post is simple and clear, and mostly describes in a general way the steps I took to follow my intention of becoming and independent author. It is a summary of steps targeted to those thinking about the topic, and wanting to know a few simple but necessary steps to take. This is what I have done and continue to do to grow as part of my journey.
- The first thing to do is just Write. It doesn’t matter how much you learn in theory if you do not apply it in practice. You must write and write a lot. It will help you develop a style and a sense of comfort in your own skin – because you will be your worst critic.
- Learn from the masters. Read best-selling authors who have been in the craft/business for long, whether they are traditionally published or not. If they have made it so far, they must offer valuable insight. Study their style and enjoy their work. Keep it simple.
- Read in your genre. If you have a feel for the type of stories that you want to share with readers, then read other authors who have done it. If anything, it will help you become clear on your goals as a writer, as well as discover other areas of interest.
- Read books to improve your writing, grammar, spelling … Educate yourself as much as you can. I would rather spend time polishing my writing than attending critique groups or book clubs. Be wise with your learning time; you know your needs.
- If you want to publish independently you must learn about it as much as your time allows, but keep it simple. Learn the basics and keep learning. This is a movement that is gaining momentum now and developing further due to advances and changes in technology. There has always been independent authors, however, it is a new game now and the doors are open thanks to technological advances. It is also viable and less expensive for the same reason.
- Learn about technology. It dictates the future of book publishing and book reading. It is wise to be somehow knowledgeable about trends, even if you have no intention to embrace it right away. At least you will have an idea on where things are headed.
- You might not like this last one – learn about marketing and promoting your work. Most writers think about the story and not about this part; it feels alien to their nature. It is necessary, and learning as much as you can about this topic will benefit you even if you decide to go the traditional route or if you hire someone to help you with it. Knowledge gives you a sense of control, and eases your mind.
Overall, keep it simple and don’t agonize over it. Let your writing become better, and follow your own pace. It is an ongoing effort.