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My Journey as a Writer

Updated: Jan 19

I’d like to tell you that writing was always in my bones, in my blood, in my heart, under my skin … or whatever ...

But that might be a lie. I'm honestly not sure.

Looking back, I do see hints of my interest in it, although I don't know whether those were just normal ways to channel my childish imagination.

Like any kid, I did that thing where you fold sheets of paper together and staple them and draw little stories. My first one was about my soccer team, and even at the tender age of 7, some part of me seemed to understand the concept of making fictional villains out of your real-life rivals. (Take that, Michelle!)

But I did this once, maybe twice, and then went on to spend a handful of years more interested in sports and video games—a self-proclaimed "tomboy" even though I scoff at phrases like that now. (Enjoy what you like. "Awesome" doesn't have a gender.)

Anyway ... Around the age of 11, inspired by the movie Billboard Dad and empowered by a clunky IBM computer, I wrote a cringey story that I can now recognize as overt Mary Kate and Ashley fan fiction. I liked their seaside town and their cool clothes. I had a self-insertion FMC and of course my school crush IRL was the MLI. I wrote three chapters, saved it on a floppy disk (holy Tamagotchi, I'm a dinosaur), and forgot about it for a decade and a half—at which point I no longer had any way to open the file.

Not too long after that story, I came up with a plot about a tween who discovered she was a genie. This idea was the product of a young mind influenced by TGIF's lineup of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Teen Angel, and You Wish all in the same season. (If you know you know.) But I never wrote down a single word of it; I just mapped out the events in my head while trying to fall asleep at night.

After that, I didn’t try to come up with a story again until I was 21.

In the years between, I definitely enjoyed writing in general—just not novels. I liked school essays, as long as the topic was interesting enough, and I spent the majority of high school coming up with angsty song lyrics to go along with the seven guitar chords I knew.

The problem, however, was that I was—and still am—very easily distracted. I was also interested in musical theater, psychology, film, foreign languages, chemistry, et al. So you can imagine how much fun I had in college trying to pick a major.

I did circle back around to writing, eventually. Sophomore year of college, I started taking writing classes here and there, toying with short stories and personal essays. I also read Twilight, which—say what you will about it—opened up a new world of possibilities in my brain (and changed the landscape of YA). The idea that any silly old story could be a book? Like, a real one? Mind blowing.

Then, during junior year, I received a Christmas gift: No Plot? No Problem!: A Low-stress, High-velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I can't remember who gave it to me, and I can't remember whether I actually received this book (a NaNoWriMo kit) directly or if I was given a gift card from Barnes & Noble (maybe Borders, RIP) which I then used to purchase the kit, but either way, it somehow ended up in my possession. From then on, I was hooked.

Not hooked enough to finish anything beyond a 50,000-word skeleton draft that I had no clue how to edit, though.

I spent the next several years writing huge chunks of different stories with the intention of one day seeking publication, but I couldn't ever buckle down enough to pursue any of them seriously.

Finally, in 2018, after I had a toddler in my possession and another baby on the way, I had an epiphany. I'd been digging through old documents and found some manuscripts my mom had written a long time ago (possibly the 1970s or 1980s), all unfinished. I then went looking for a more recent manuscript of hers (one I had encouraged her to start for NaNoWriMo, probably in 2011 or 2012), also unfinished. In every decade, her writing was good; her stories were interesting; she had talent. But ... she'd never done anything with it. And if I didn't get serious and finish something, for real, I was going to wake up one day in my old age and realize I'd never done anything with mine either.

Could I have had this epiphany when I was younger and full of energy? When I was single? Before I had tiny humans to care for? (In addition to also having a graphic design job, which thankfully was remote and only part time, but still.) No. Of course not. My timing has always been special. I'm always a little late to the game. I'm emotionally stunted. What some people figure out in their teens took me until I was 30.

But it was now or never.

So I then proceeded to spend the next four years trying to get traditionally published. Starting with what is now my debut indie-published novel!

I workshopped multiple books. I had beta readers. I had critique partners. I had a writing group. I queried and entered mentorship contests and tried to hang out with other writers on Twitter (pre X). I got form rejections and partial requests and full requests and a couple of R&Rs (official and unofficial). More than once, I was basically told, "I love this, but I don't know how to market it, so I'm out." I didn't get chosen for mentorships but I was requested several times and given courtesy feedback because they liked and believed in my stories. And yet, after all that, I still felt like I had gotten exactly nowhere.

In 2023, exhausted and burnt out on rejection, I asked myself if there was any way I could just ... quit. Could I let it go? Could I stop trying? Was it possible to give up on publishing and move on with my life? Writing is so much work. It's so much of yourself on paper (or on a screen). So much discomfort sharing it with others. So much pain when nobody wants it. Sure, your skin gets thicker, but so does the fog around your brain. Still, I couldn't imagine my life without these stories, and I found myself trudging along, eking out as many words as I could throughout the year (but not many, not enough). I'd lost heart.

Until 20Books Vegas, a writing conference for indie authors. Over the summer, a new acquaintance talked me into going—and I almost backed out of it twice. Thankfully, this wonderful woman didn't let me give up that easily, despite my many excuses (everything from not feeling like I could leave my children for that many days to insisting that indie pub was not my endgame). The details of this are part of another story, in another blog post, but I will say here that it only took about two hours (on Vendor Day, before anyone had given a single speech) to convert me to the ways of indie publishing.

From there, I rediscovered excitement and passion for my books, and more importantly, I rediscovered hope.

It's been a long ride, and somehow, I feel like this is still just the beginning. I guess anything, really, can be a new beginning. But the important thing is that I'm here, and I'm doing the thing.

Follow along for more tips on how to make following your dream take as long as humanly possible! 🙃


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