Tag Archives: indie author

I QUIT!

This is a blog post I wrote for the SC Writer’s Association, Cola II chapter. It was originally published on the chapter’s website March 4, 2018.

 

Several years ago, I participated in a writing workshop with the late Jerry Cleaver, author of Immediate Fiction. At that time, I had started and stopped writing a couple of different mystery novels. I was frustrated, and his feedback, though fair and accurate, frustrated me even more. I can still hear him saying, “More conflict. You need more conflict in your story.” When I confessed to him that I wasn’t sure I would ever be able to write a decent manuscript, he gave me some of the most valuable advice I’ve ever gotten: “Quit writing.”

I was stunned. There I was paying him good money to encourage me, coach me, help me write that elusive book. Yet, he told me to quit. I wasn’t sure whether to be mad or ecstatic. Mostly I was confused. When I finally got the courage to challenge his advice, he said, “Writers quit all the time, including me. But if you’re a real writer, you’ll have to start again. You cannot not write.”

After letting his last comments sink in, I then became afraid. What if I quit and never wanted to write again? That would, according to Cleaver, mean I had never been a realwriter anyway. Nonetheless, I did quit. I mean, I totally quit with the intention of never writing fiction again. I avoided anything related to writing and went about my life. At first, I was giddy with the lightness of not being a writer. No more worries about plots and characters—or conflict. I could enjoy reading a book without analyzing it. The freedom of not being a writer was intoxicating.

After a couple months of not writing, the impact of Cleaver’s message finally hit me: I needed to reevaluate why I was writing. As simple as that sounds, I had been focused on outlining, story structure, and all the other nuts-and-bolts of the craft. Was my goal to write the perfectly structured novel, worthy of an MFA thesis? While I wanted to write a quality novel, what I really craved was to write a novel that readers could connect with.

When I eventually returned to writing, I wrote the story I really wanted to tell. While I didn’t ignore all the workshop advice and education I had acquired over the years, this time, however, I began writing from my heart, not my head. I wrote for my readers, not for other writers.

About three years later, I published my first novel, Murder in Madden, which recently received Honorable Mention in the Writers’ Digest Self-Published Book Awards. And my second novel in the series, The Last Sale, will soon be out.

During the past year, I have enjoyed the book signings, festivals, book clubs, and other interactions with readers. I’ve never had so much fun. And each time a reader tells me about her favorite character, or someone says, “I couldn’t put it down,” I thank the writing gods that I found the courage to quit.

This Indie Journey

Finally! After three long years, Murder in Madden, is being released in October. Once the links on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other outlets are available, I’ll post them.

People talk about being on a “journey” so much that it’s become a cliche. Forgive me, but I have to tell you this experience has indeed been a journey. When I finished the first draft of my manuscript, I thought I was near the end. Wrong. Several revisions later, I thought I was almost finished. Wrong. When I finally produced the final draft, I thought surely this was the end. Wrong again—the journey continued.

As it turns out, writing the book was the fun, easy part, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Lately I have longed for those wonderful days when I was holed up in my office, cranking out pages of my story, and reveling in the joy of writing. I can’t wait to start book number two in the Enid Blackwell series so that I can relive that experience.

Publishing a book after it is written is way harder than writing. All along, I assumed I would follow the traditional path and submit my books to an agent and/or small presses, suffer through the inevitable rejections, and eventually find a publisher willing to take on a debut novel. However, I as I began to study the publishing landscape, my outlook changed. If you have any interest in the book world at all, you’re likely aware that the publishing world has been turned upside town. Jane Friedman said in her blog post, “Of all the ages of publishing that I’ve lived through, this is the one I’m happiest to be part of. The one that feels most exciting, most aglow with promise.” What she is referring to is he world of self-publishing. Inspired by Friedman and others who have voluntarily walked away from traditional publishers, I decided to become an “indie” author. I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (Alli) and learned all I could from them. I knew it would be difficult, and that my learning curve was steep, but I made an informed decision to start my own publishing company, Pondhawk Press LLC.

Being an indie author doesn’t mean you take short-cuts. On the contrary, you still have to prove yourself as a serious author by producing the best quality of work possible. To that end, I hired a writing coach, a developmental editor, a proofreader, and a book designer. It’s been a LOT of work—and not cheap. One of my friends recently asked if I would do it again. Without hesitation, I replied, “Absolutely!”

I’m sure some of my author acquaintances will turn up their noses at self-publishing, but one of the things I’ve learned on this indie journey is that your true friends and supporters will shine through. Everyone else is just noise.