Three years ago, I started working on my first novel. As I’m nearing the final steps of that process – though it feels like I’ve still got a long way to go – I’ve decided to start a blog about my writing, my process, and what it’s like to self-publish (or at least what my experience with it is). I don’t know that anyone will gain something from that, but I know it can’t hurt for me to get some of the stress of it off my chest.
I’m not quite sure where to start with this, so let me start with some background about myself and how I got to this point in the first place. I was born in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. My family moved to Carol Stream when I was a year old, and I spent most of my life there. But between visiting relatives who lived closer to Downtown and going to pretty much every museum on school field trips, I feel like I grew up in the shadows of Chicago skyscrapers.
I started writing in grade school, though it wasn’t anything exciting. I remember having notebooks that I would carry around with me, especially on the long bus ride to my elementary school, where I’d scribble stories for myself. I was also a voracious reader (still am), and I spent a lot of time at my local library. It became a more sacred place to me than church, something about the massive shelves of books, the somewhat somber atmosphere, and the idea that all the knowledge of the world was contained there making it hallowed ground to ten-year-old me.
In high school, I started putting my stuff online. At the time, I was still too insecure to share my original writings, so it was all fan fiction. I know that transformative works get a rough break, but it gave me a groundwork for my own writing. I didn’t have to do all of the hard work of world building, but I could get feedback on my story telling, character building, and voice. I started with X-Files, then moved onto Harry Potter, and then started writing original fiction again in college, though most of that is unpublished.
Twilight came out in 2005, and as it gained popular attention, I started getting angry. I have a lot of problems with the Twilight series, but there are plenty of other people out there who have similar complaints and are much more eloquent than I am. Long story short, I remember my college roommate raving about the books and thinking “I could do better.”
I graduated from college with a BA in Japanese Studies, and then pursued an MA in Teaching. I graduated in 2010, then got married and started looking for a teaching job. As many of you already know, the US was in the grips of the Great Recession, and work was extremely hard to find. I remember applying for one part-time social studies position at a school south of Indianapolis (where I had relocated after school) that had over 800 applicants. I didn’t get it.
I spent the next year and a half struggling to find work. I was a part-time substitute teacher at a few schools in Indianapolis, and I was doing web development and graphic design in between. It wasn’t extremely profitable, but it kept a roof over my head and food on the table. However, it was exhausting, and any creative endeavors that I’d previously enjoyed fell to the wayside while I tried to make enough money to survive.
At the end of 2011, I gave up on being a teacher and started working at a local software company as a technical support representative. It was my first “grown-up” job and my first consistent income since I’d quit waitressing after college. It was a huge weight off of my shoulders. After six months there, my husband and I bought our house and found out we were pregnant, literally on the same day. My daughter was born in 2012, a little over a year after I’d started working at my company. A few months after she was born, I wrote my first fan fiction since college, a Teen Wolf fic called The Full Moon Like Blood. That became my first serious foray into creative writing in nearly three years, and it gained popularity in the fandom relatively quickly. It was encouraging. To sound like Sally Fields, people liked me, they really liked me.
I ended up writing over 100,000 words of fan fiction for Teen Wolf and gained a small following in the fandom. I was excited, invigorated. And the whole time, I kept thinking: “I could do this.”
In 2013, I decided to finally put my money where my mouth was and participated in National Novel Writing Month. It was the first time I’d attempted to write a long form story, especially one that featured my own world, my own characters, my own mythos. That was the birth of Burner and the Affinity Series, the birth of Mediums and Kim Phillips and a world that I find myself still fascinated with.
I won NaNoWriMo (meaning I wrote 50,000 words in the month of November), and then took a break from my novel. I’d burnt myself out writing the thing while also trying to balance being a parent. My daughter was only a little over a year old when I started writing, and I decided to set down my writing to spend more time with her. I continued to work on my novel, though not as diligently as I should have.
In August of 2015, a NaNoWriMo group I’m in posted about an open submission period with a publisher in the UK. Deciding that it was too good of an opportunity to miss, I polished the first three chapters of Burner and sent it. They received over 1,500 submissions, and I quickly assumed I would get a rejection letter. But it kept not coming. I made it through to second reads, one of only 600 manuscripts to get that far. And then I kept not hearing anything. My submission was eventually rejected in the last round before the publisher requested full manuscripts, and honestly, that was probably for the best. The manuscript wasn’t finished at the time, and I was burning myself out again trying to get it finished before I heard anything. What it did tell me, though, was that my story was interesting enough to keep a mainstream publisher interested, that it caught their attention out of a large field of contenders, and that I really needed to finish the damn thing.
It’s about a year later now, and while I’m still putting the finishing touches on the novel, it’s nearly ready for publication. It’s the longest thing I’ve ever written. It’s also one of the most dear to my heart. I love the world I’ve built, love the characters and their stories. I’m hoping, one day, that other people will love them, too.
So now that I’m getting to the end of the whole thing, I’ve decided to try and keep track of what it’s like to be a new author trying to break into publishing. I’m going to be as honest here as I can be. While this blog will mainly focus on the process of self-publishing and my struggles and successes writing, I’ll also talk about my series. For more information about the series specifically, you can go to affinityseries.net, which is dedicated to the series.
In the meantime, I need to go edit.