When I first fell in love with writing as a young teen, I thought it would be easy to write a novel and get it published. Surely, it couldn’t be that hard, not when my ideas were as good or better than the books lining the shelves of my local library. After all, I’d been reading since I was three and I devoured books like nobody’s business. I knew what it took to make readers love a book. Dreams of young adult novels with my name on the cover danced in my mind, along with visions of my books front and center in every bookstore and library in the country.
Then reality hit and my dreams came crashing down. So did my young ego. Writing is hard work. There is so much more to it than just writing an interesting story and sending it off to a publisher or agent. Once the first draft is complete, revisions abound, followed by synopses, cover letters, and query letters.
Once I accepted this hard truth and put forth the effort to write and polish an awesome novel, plus an enthralling synopsis and query letter, I had to deal with rejection. A lot of it. On everything I submitted (I had a young adult novel manuscript, a couple of picture book manuscripts, and random short stories and articles I was trying to sell). I developed a thick skin thanks to that experience, but I also learned a very important lesson. Just because I had worked hard on my writing before submitting it and revised the daylights out of it didn’t mean it was truly ready to be submitted. I also decided refocusing my writing on just YA novels would be my best bet.
So, with a new plan in mind, I took my novel to a critique group, where it was promptly torn apart by writers who actually understood what it took to make a manuscript publishable. While they were kind about it, one thing quickly became obvious to me: that manuscript would never see the light of day without a complete rewrite. Since I was still learning how to write publishable material, I didn’t feel ready to tackle rewriting that mess. So I worked on a new idea, with slightly better results. I still had a long way to go, but I was getting there.
After more hard work, many more rejections, and taking a long hard look at my writing, I ended up setting aside my YA writing for a while and wrote a short story. It was published by a small college literary journal. Then I wrote a short women’s fiction piece that was published by an online magazine. Had I finally found my niche, albeit one that had never crossed my mind until that point?
When I received a contract for my short inspirational romance Dreams Do Come True, I had to face another hard reality. While I had dreamed of becoming a YA novelist for so many years, the only success I had found was with short stories for adults. This left me with a dilemma. Continue writing short romances or take what I had learned and apply it to my YA novels?
I chose to do both, although the short romances took precedence for the simple fact that I could get them published. Four short stories published in ebook format later (three of which are still available for purchase), I can finally admitted something I have been aware of for a few years. I will likely never see my books on the shelves of a bookstore. I seem to have found a home in the ebook and small press market, one I enjoy even though it’s not where I had originally dreamed I would be. Plus, the publishing world is slowly changing to become more ebook focused, bookstores are failing at an alarming rate, and with millions of books published each year my chances of getting a novel into a bookstore are slim anyway.
Looking back at where I started all those years ago as a bright-eyed high school kid with big dreams, I can see how reality has caused me to adapt. Through it all, I have learned and grown in ways I never would have imagined. I’ve met some amazing people, worked with awesome editors, and published a small list of ebooks. The journey has been rocky and I still dream of getting those YA novels published, but I can accept now that they may never be more than ebooks or print-on-demand ordered online.
The days of assuming my book on bookstore shelves indicates success are over. Now I know it is truly all about the reader. Even if I never sell a million copies, if a handful of readers enjoy my work I have succeeded in the driving force behind my original dream–sharing my stories with others who will love them as much as I do.
What truths have you learned in your journey? Have your dreams changed over the years as you worked to make them a reality?