Sixteen weeks ago I was curled against the wall sobbing that there was no point being a writer anymore. I had to stop working on the Last Prophecy series and I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this. I wasn’t just tired, I was well and truly beyond weary. Exhausted.
Five years ago I met with a doctor who’d taken a series of blood tests. The original tests were supposed to have been done with my regular doctor, but the doctor suddenly wasn’t at the clinic anymore. So a stranger told me that I probably wouldn’t have children without IVF aid. Even that wasn’t a sure thing.
My life stopped.
I’d never had an overwhelming desire to have children, but when the option died, a part of me did too. I was torn apart, and I spent years being vaguely misplaced, only regaining what I’d lost inch at a time.
My husband was understanding, adoption had been something we’d discussed before.
But I felt useless. As though the complications of my womb were a manifestation of my personal failing. I didn’t have a job or career I loved, I became purposeless. My life lost all its meaning.
If my mother taught me any rule that was of value, it was this: what do I DO about it?
What I’d always wanted; to be an author.
The answer was the easiest one I’d ever made. I was yet to know how much harder it would to be do.
I’d never done much about my writing, I’d written two or three novels, each of them I knew wasn’t worth publishing. Writing had only ever been something I did when I was bored and had the itch to pen story to paper.
Now it became a necessity. If I wanted to have a purpose in life that wasn’t a family, I needed to do something about it now.
One afternoon I went online, and to a random website for a story prompt idea. I was going to write something new, fresh, different.
I ended up after half an hour of random generators with a story about airships and desert chases. I started writing a tale about a navigator in a fantasy world, with corrupt government officials, conspiracies and a haunting darkness. I was 30k words into it when I started to realise it wasn’t a standalone story.
Cut to a month later and I’d outlined a 21 book/novella series. All based on a poem I wrote. I knew immediately to start research into self-publishing, I didn’t even consider traditional. No publishing company wanted this monster of a project. But I wanted to write it, because it gave me the purpose that had been taken away.
I wrote the first novella, asked around a few friends for an editor and found Scott. He was open to editing my manuscript at a rate I could afford, and so I gave it to him.
Thus began a learning curve of writing and editing I wouldn’t forget. Scott was kind, helpful, and deeply intuitive about my work and how to phrase to a novice writer where to improve. Sometimes it was hard, things didn’t work, needed to be rewritten, but we worked at it together.
After a while I published The Hidden Monastery through Pronoun. I’d written the following novella, The Last Prophecy during Nanowrimo, and Pronoun offered winners a chance to self-publish through them.
Pronoun was a platform that took care of the self-publishing process for you, making it easy, simple and a service I happily would have paid for if I’d known they were going to shut down.
I published the other novella with them, the Last Prophecy, and then my first book, The Well of Youth, in October of 2017. It was my birthday, which also happened to be International Independent Author Day. I felt like I was finally making progress.
A month later I got the email stating Pronoun were closing down.
After years of work the world tilted. I wanted to give up. I was in a very bad place emotionally and physically, and I wouldn’t have gotten through it without the support of my husband.
I decided to keep going, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do with myself.
I kept applying myself to the craft of writing, Scott kept raising the bar of what he expected from me in his genteel way. I learned from reviews where my writing was falling down, and where it excelled.
I worked hard at it, isolated from the world by circumstances outside my control, but it was also self-imposed. I didn’t feel good enough around people who were building their careers and family, their very lives, whereas I may as well have been starting from scratch.
Over these years I watched as people became vaguely mocking of my “hobby”, mostly because I was self-published. As though it were merely an exercise in vanity. But it wasn’t a hobby to me, it was far more than that. I was determined to prove I wasn’t in this for a stint, or for attention. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write full time.
In anger I started a book that originally was to be sold quickly, and all of it went on hold when the plot flowed out of my hands into something greater, that would need more time and consideration. I couldn’t even let myself write a romance just to make money. It was selfish and vain, and I hated myself for it.
And so Queen of Spades went into the time consuming process of writing the entire trilogy, and even now is going through rewrites so it can be better. Just be a good story. That was what I wanted. To write good stories.
There were knocks to my goals, setbacks and delays, the worst of which was earlier this year, the whole drive I’d had to make myself an author went cold. I couldn’t afford to pay Scott while we were trying to buy a house. It wasn’t fair to keep Scott waiting, and I knew that the Last Prophecy was going to be put indefinitely on hold.
In a fit of freedom and rage I started another project.
An idea popped into my head, and I just ran with it. I had no goals, no expectations, it was just the story and me.
Along came a woman, fighting to escape a past she couldn’t control. She was out there to show others what mistakes not to make. She was intriguing and compelling. She was a coward, and I couldn’t stop writing her story.
Twenty-five days later it was done. I was exhausted but pleased with what I’d created. I sent it to my mother, who said it was the first thing I’d written she actually liked. With that cheering thought, I kept at it.
Using ProWritingAid, I went over and over it, eliminating mistakes, smoothing it out, reading it aloud to an empty room to get the tone and sentences right. Every word I fell more in love with it, I felt I’d created something real, something special. But all those years of failings made me hesitate, uncertain.
I gave it to a friend to read. Renee said, you should pitch this on Pitmad. I had two days to get ready for the event, and spent hours pulling together every inch of the savvy I’d built up over the last few years to get my synopsis and query letter ready, and to put together the most important thing; the pitches.
I put the tweets up on a timer, as an Australian its always out of hours for us, and went to bed.
I woke up and two agents liked the tweet.
I submitted the synopsis to both.
One came back with a full request.
I sent it, having been over the script a few more times in preparation for beta readers. I already had Violeta working on the cover, expecting to be rejected from the publishers I’d pitched to, but hoping I could self-publish this if they didn’t like it.
They did more than like it, they offered me a publishing contract within weeks of it being written.
I signed a publishing contract with Literary Wanderlust a few days ago.
This isn’t about my ability to tell stories. This is about my ability to work hard and consistently. To apply myself to the craft of my writing. Fear of failure is not a demon you beat once and move on, you confront it again and again, each time a newer twisted version of the exact same one you handily thrashed last time.
All the while it tells you to give up, and that there is no point.
But it can’t take away those years of work.
Nothing will tarnish the fact that I made it this far.
No one will be able to take away all that I’ve managed to accomplish.
What it took was hard work, the willingness to improve, and to keep going. For as long as it takes, that’s what I’ll do, and if you take away anything from this blog post, then I hope you don’t quit too.
4 responses to “The Story & I”
Thank you for sharing this. It helps me to hear your story.
I wrote you the kindest note, and when I began to attempt to post it, I was redirected to WordPress and lost my entire conversation!
I love your story about your journey and so much of what you’ve written in your Blog.
Please follow me on Twitter @cooplori. You have so many gifts to share, and congratulations on your publishing contract!
With great appreciation,
Thank you Lori, its very kind of you to say so.
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I really enjoyed reading about your journey! It is so exciting and refreshing to actually see another writer’s success unfold before the eyes of someone in me who also yearns for that same degree of success.
A week ago, I turned 57 years old, and I thought it was a bit late to start on my own journey of writing my nonfiction true crime book, a story based on my late Dad’s tragic event as a Law Enforcement Officer who was shot in-the-line-of-duty and whose shooter eluded Law Enforcement authorities over a 44 year span of time until I began looking for him and found him all by myself. His Family members are all involved in some organized crime groups, and they purport to be related to the late cult mass-murderer Charles Manson. For them, it’s their own “Badge” of Honor.
I’ve wanted to write this story since I was 9 years old, and I have written a Manuscript with a word count of 86k, but like you when you were ready to give up, I’ve decided I just can’t. There’s too much to tell since I looked for, and actually located, my late Dad’s shooter just 3 years ago. That’s a huge part of my journey in this story, one which would have been missing if I’d written my Manuscript at a younger age.
You’re a great source of inspiration. I’m so grateful to you for sharing your personal experience and your own internal battles and conflicts, questions which I often find myself asking of my talent or even my ability to tell this story in the most powerful way it should be told. And always, I find myself in a sea of self-doubt.
My journey as it relates to this entire experience and story in its entirety has been one on which I’ve been working for 3 years now. The research has been extensive. The emotional toll one of 10 million tears. But I continue to march onward.
I can only aspire to be a great writer and author like you, EJ. Please continue to share your gift of writing and your thoughts along the way! And if you don’t mind, may I please reach-out if I have a question or two? I have learned that there are so many people who have made discoveries throughout their writing of their first Manuscript that I can learn from others; that I don’t have to reinvent the wheel in some instances; and that this ever growing #WritingCommunity is full of so many wonderful people who are so kind to share what they’ve learned that I mustn’t be afraid to ask for help or pose the difficult questions to writers who have become published authors – that it’s really okay to grow my support group and make new friends and mentors along the way!
Congratulations on your publishing contract! I couldn’t be any more thrilled for you than I already am! I hope you’ll take a moment and write me back whenever your schedule permits.
Until next time, #WriteOn!
With great appreciation,