I wrote my first book in 2009. This may be a surprise to some of you, because the first book you can buy was published in 2015—The Bootlegger’s Legacy. I actually refer to the TBL as my first book. That should be corrected to the first book I actually wanted anyone to read was the TBL. The actual first book was The Originals. It is not available any more (thank goodness).
I still think the story line of The Originals was good. It was about a son finding a mysterious past about his father after his father’s death and the world shattering consequences of that discovery. The story was good, but the storyteller had a lot to learn. I sort of got burned out three fourths of the way through the book. I wanted the whole experience to be over; so I ended it abruptly. What I had not thought about much when I began to write; was how hard it is to write a full-length novel. Towards the end I just wanted it to be finished and rather than doing the hard work of writing when I didn’t want to; I just stopped. Created a false ending and declared the whole experience done.
That was ten years ago. The world has changed a lot and my world has also changed—but not that much. For about half of that time I wrote very little; licking my wounds from the first experience. But after that huge pause, I have turned out ten books which are available today. I have experienced a level of success that was not expected based on my 2009 experience. And that is completely thanks to you, my readers.
Writing may come easy for some, like a good athlete with natural gifts becoming a great third baseman. If you have great talent, a lot of things are easy. My talent for most of my life was numbers (yep, I was good with numbers) and painting. Not writing. My connection to writing was reading. I loved books. Being an avid reader might make you a good reviewer, but it does not mean you can write a book. I know.
Even with that love of books I had never thought about being a writer. For one, the prospect of actually being published seemed remote. For most of my life the book publishing industry was controlled by a handful of large publishing companies. But the world changed. The on-line retailers and e-books created a whole new environment for books. Suddenly being an indie author was a solid path for a writer.
Writing that first book opened my eyes to the difficulty of producing an acceptable book. Sure you need a story and some reasonable ability to write complete sentences; but that is just the beginning. Like so much in life I learned that it was actually very hard work. Now I’m not suggesting this is on the same level as ditch digging all day, but it is hard work. Physically hard, mentally challenging and emotionally draining. That is hard work. I had anticipated that I would sit-down at my computer and within weeks have a rough draft. After several weeks all I had was a rough outline and many discarded pages of failed attempts at telling a simple story. At that time, I was still fully employed and was writing very early in the morning or very late at night. Anyone who writes a book while working full time at something else is to be admired. It was a struggle and led to my abrupt declaration that the damn thing was done; when in reality it was not.
The next book which I began in 2014, five years later, was much different. I had learned a lot, but most importantly, I was no longer working long hours at another job. For the Bootlegger’s Legacy I spent almost full time just writing the book. That was much better. We may think otherwise in our multi-tasking world, but being able to concentrate on one thing with full energy is the best path to creative success. Writing is hard enough without a zillion distractions.
Today I have a process to writing which allows me to handle my life and writing better than when I began. At first it felt like I should be alone and undisturbed to focus on writing—ah, yes; the great artist is at work– do not disturb. Good way to alienate anyone and all most everyone you care about. Being an asshole may have some historical basis for creative people, but it sure doesn’t make for a happy household.
Now, I know there will be spells when I am not writing, usually because I’m stuck on some plot point and don’t know how to resolve the conflict; but rather than screaming and throwing things (I’m sure I never did that), I relax and enjoy the break as my brain works on the problem. I pick my writing times (early morning, late evening) when it’s the least disruptive.
So over the years I have become a smarter writer, I have more help (which I welcome—with exceptions) and I no longer think my books have to be perfect—but they do have to be good. That distinction has meaning to me—don’t obsess over every little thing—do your best and move on. My goal is to write an interesting story that entertains and in some way informs the reader about flawed people and the complications of life—and yes, a little humor along the way. Some days I get there and some days I don’t. But I will keep trying. Maybe even get around to rewriting that first book and call it the Un-originals, or something equally stupid.
Thanks for being a reader!