The first stranger is set to read my book…in the words of a famous meme from YouTube: Finis this real life?
I have one more before my editor reads my book. One more week until a complete stranger reads my first novel. Could this really be happening?
“Well yeah Eric, you wrote a novel, what’d you expect?”
Well, honestly, never to finish it, much less other people read it. I began the first version of this book back in my junior year of college. I’d never written a novel, never written in fantasy, and decided to do both at the same time. Three years later, I wrote myself into a corner and threw the whole thing into the (virtual) garbage (and then emptied the Recycle Bin).
I then spent the next year worldbuilding. I outlined detailed histories. I structured the magic system to ensure that it could neither break my world nor need to worry about Fantasy’s horrible crutch – magus ex machina. I also began to research publishing.
You see, even though I got my degree in English, I focused on Literary (Criticism) Theory. You know, the really important stuff like taking Freudian Criticism, applying his psycho-analysis to any work so I could make any book and its characters a sexual study filled with latent deviant tendencies. Or I could go Jacque Derrida on an author: deconstruct his work so that it “actually” means the complete opposite of what everyone, including the author, thought it meant. (In all honesty, I only did this because I figured it was more useful for teaching high school English, which I originally intended to be my profession. I figured that the best way to learn to write creatively was to read as much as possible before putting on the armor and jumping into the arena to cure my ineptitude in the school of hard knocks.) But I never forgot the real reason I was studying – to learn writing from the masters.
I deduced that since my two (at the time) main characters were 20 years old (again, at the time), and my story contained only brief scenes of graphic violence (and even less sexuality), it would be considered “Young Adult” – a genre I had never even read. I didn’t set out to make one, but it didn’t seem surprising since I actually was a young adult when I started. So, I read some YA, tried to take my story and my world and mimic the tone I saw in popular YA novels, and see what came of it.
What it became was a mess. Though the plot worked this time, I hated my own writing. Even if I managed to find a publisher willing to print it, I would be ashamed of my name being attached to it. From my second effort, I saved the outline from each chapter and then once again moved the whole thing to the recycle bin and emptied it.
But about this time was when I began more seriously examine both self-publishing and the traditional publishing scenes. I always had thought that self-publishing was purely “vanity publishing” – people who couldn’t write well, but were determined to say they had published a book and they had way too much money on their hands so they paid someone to print and distribute it. Not to mention… everyone knows they make no money.
Well, it is true that most make no money, but turns out most authors period make no money! Even John Grisham had to keep practicing law until his 7th novel. The average advance for a first time writer was only $5000. Even if I wrote one novel a year for the rest of my life, it would take me 8 years to make enough money for one year’s worth of expenses!
This was also after Random House published Fifty Shades of Grey. To any that are a fan of the series… I’m sorry, but as an education minor, I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve met middle schooler students who have written more compelling narratives and with more flair than what was contained in those pages. I always knew that publishing houses were in it for the money, but apparently that was all they were in it for.
So, I finally decided to do what I should have always done. I was going to write the novel I wanted to write. Not to become a professional writer. Not to become a famous author. Not to be praised. Simply because I wanted to make the kind of stories that I had trouble finding as a reader. Then, I’d share it with the world.
I would hire professional editors. I would hire professional illustrators. Not as an investment – but because I was determined to not let my choice to self-publish hurt the quality of what would be tied to my name. I want those who read it, whether they like it or hate it, to only have to worry about judging the story, not the quality of production.
And so, I set to it one final time. It’s been a heck of a journey. My father, who inspired my love of literature, got to hold the completed rough draft in his hands before he died, but he only finished the first seven chapters. I changed the story more times than I could count – always trying to make it better before I finally realized I was stalling because I was too embarrassed for others to actually read it. Then I shared it with a beta audience – friends who love the same books I do, and I specifically begged them to criticize it. Two did – but one apologized by saying, “I keep getting so caught up in it I forget I’m supposed to be analyzing it.” But even those who tried their best to find problems… they found a few minor issues, but no major plot holes, and all three said not only would they buy it, but they would recommend it. One said he would recommend it to anyone that likes High Fantasy. The other two said they would recommend it to anyone that liked reading period.
And now, here we are at last… my editor will begin reading Truth Unearthed in two weeks. Over half of my illustrations are complete. I have a website waiting in the wings, and a store that’s ready to go for hardcopies in addition to being available on all major e-book platforms.
And yet, I still don’t know how I got here. But I suppose that’s how all adventures happen.