It was November 2010. Maybe it was a dark and stormy night, I don’t recall. But I was going through a dark night of the soul, that’s for sure.
You know, a proper dark night of the soul, when you feel your chest being crushed under the weight of so many dying dreams that nothing can offer even a bit of comfort.
When the usual hack of, “Well, others have lost empires,” doesn’t help at all.
That’s when I found out about NaNoWriMo. I found out that I could self-publish stories. On Amazon. And sell those stories to people for money, which I could then use to purchase various goods that are needed for one’s survival.
I thought it to be the best thing ever, and so I dropped out of college and started punching those damn keys.
There were a couple of things that I hadn’t thought through though:
- I had never written a novel.
- I had never written a novel in English.
- I had no idea what it took to actually self-publish a book.
- I had no one to sell the damn thing to.
But, as I’m so fond of saying, we sometimes need a lot of courage to do something. Other times, we just need to be so dumb that we have no idea what we’re getting ourselves into.
And I was never brave…
What Did I Write About?
I had been writing for the past 6 or so years, but mostly short stories, and in a different language.
I also didn’t want to write one of my best ideas, which is one of the most common mistakes rookies make when it comes to writing.
In other words, I wanted to wait until I was older in order to have sex.
Right now, for the purpose of self-publishing my first novel, I’d just write something that I didn’t care that much about.
So I remembered about this short story I had written in high school, inspired by a friend of mine telling me about a secret of hers. I am quite curious as a person — obsessively so, actually. But she wouldn’t tell me what had happened, just that she had done something awful, and that it haunted her. To make matters worse, so told me she told this secret to a lady who happened to sit next to her on a bench in a park. A stranger. I felt insulted. But no matter how much I tried to persuade her to tell me her secret, she wouldn’t give in.
So I decided to do the next best thing, which was to write about it, and imagine this secret of hers into existence.
It’s funny how real life and fiction are so close to one another that they sometimes even touch, and thus we try to turn into literature what we hope could one day become real.
In the end, I had some twenty pages of mostly philosophical musings and question marks. Almost no dialogue, because I hated writing dialogue back then.
This was the story I’d turn into a novel for NaNoWrimo. Yes, I kind of cheated even when there was no one around to make sure I didn’t cheat.
And I wrote this novel.
Well, technically it wasn’t a novel. None of my novels are… the proper term would be micro-novel, that is novels that are less than fifty thousand words long.
So I cheated yet again, because I couldn’t even write fifty thousand lousy words in thirty days, but there was this offer from Createspace (Amazon’s thing back in the day for self publishing paperbacks), and I’d receive a free paperback copy of my novel if I “won”, so I just copy-pasted my novel three times into that thing they used to verify winners, and that was that.
So, I had this twenty something thousand word thing called a novel…la. Okay, let’s just say it was a novella of sorts. There was another issue with it: it was just awful.
But back then I could have easily been a poster child for the Dunning-Kruger effect, so I thought that my stuff was brilliant. I was delusional to the point of spending half my days fantasizing about the millions of dollars that I’d earn in royalties, and I even wrote down a list of actors who were supposed to play each of my characters in the movie adaptation of my novel.
There was but a slight problem: I was dirt poor. I couldn’t afford to pay someone to edit my book, to design a cover, the paperback, or to format it for Kindle.
So I did the next best thing. I learned all of those things, which is probably the best thing I did when it came to self-publishing my first novel.
Because of necessity, I taught myself interior formatting, typography, and graphic design.
But I didn’t spend that much time editing it. Okay, I didn’t spend any time at all editing it.
Here’s the thing about the mindset that I’ve always had. I believe that it’s better to create a lot of content, even if it’s rubbish, and then work on becoming better, than it is to allow self-doubt to trick my brain into rationalizing everything in a way that makes me want to quit.
I just didn’t want to brainwash myself into thinking that self-publishing a novel wasn’t worth it, so I did my best to release the damn thing as soon as possible.
Also, at the time, I just wanted to hold a book in my hands that’d have my name on it. That was the goal. I was sure that it would inspire me to create better work in the future.
I self-published my novel in January 2011.
And then… then… nothing happened.
What Happens When You Have No Platform as an Author?
From January to May I sold 2 e-books and 2 paperbacks. I received two reviews. I gave an interview for a blog. I started a blog, gave up on it after five posts and no comments. Had a Facebook page with some 27 likes, all of them from friends and family.
And that was it.
The more I read the damn thing, the more I loathed it.
It was just awful. I didn’t like the story, the way the story was written, the cover, the interior designing… The only thing I liked was the dedication.
“To all the people who changed my life. For better or worse.”
I was never going to be a writer. This was all a stupid dream. I just wasn’t cut out for this. If you’re bad at something, what’s the logical thing to do? Quit, right?
So, I quit.
Didn’t write a single word from May to November 2011. Tried to find what folks usually call a normal job, and settle into a routine of sorts. No one would hire me, of course, because I was an high-functioning depressive, introvert, highly anxious type of person.
Then, one night, as I lay dying (actually I was trying to fall asleep), I had this… sort of vision. It was a scene from my novel. And I knew what I had to do.
I had to rewrite my novel.
I got out of bed and started punching those damn keys like never before.
The Support System
And do you know what changed everything for me?
Setting up an account on Wattpad.
There, I found a support system. There, I found people who’d read my stuff, comment on it, offer feedback, and encourage me.
During the five or so months that I spent on the platform, I build relationships with all sorts of writers, and for the first time in my life, I even decided to work with them on certain stories.
Also, during the time I spent on the platform, I wrote the following:
Jazz, and it only took me two weeks to write it into existence.
And since the novel was inspired by this painting a friend of mine had made, I already had a cover.
This is the cover I made for Jazz, by the way.
Then I worked on The Writer, released it a weekly series. Decided that the best thing to do was start a blog, and decided that I was either going to become Internet famous or starve to death.
This blog, the one this story is published on, was born because of the courage I was granted by a community of fellow creatives.
I did starve for a few months, but it didn’t kill. Can’t say it made me stronger either, but here I am, nine years later, still punching the damn keys.
Don’t Underestimate the Community
It took me almost a decade to understand that the support system I had nurtured during those early days was what truly inspired me.
Since then, I barely managed to write and publish 2 additional books (Dream City was also mostly brainstormed into existence during my time on Wattpad.)
So, what? 3 books in 5 months versus 2 books in 8 years?
That’s what it does to you when you try to play this game by yourself.
The Writer as a Solitary Creature
Writing is loneliness. True. But it’s such a dumb way towards creative bankruptcy.
Loneliness means that your words slowly become lukewarm. Your words become silence. You stop punching those keys, for fear of making too much noise.
Without a support system, it’s difficult to find the inspiration, the motivation, the energy to produce work that you feel will impact others.
Without a support system, you cannot even begin to realize just how powerful your words are.
Imagine this… you design 2 different covers for your book. And you can’t decide.
Who’s going to help you?
Or you feel there’s something missing with your first draft.
Who’s going to offer feedback?
Community-powered self-publishing is the future. I strenuously believe it. A support system that will help you produce work that stands out from the crowd, work that stands the test of time.
The myth of the writer as a solitary creature of enormous creative potential must be busted. We are only as creative as the people we surround ourselves with.
That’s why I’ve decided to build irevuo. It’s more than just an ever-growing library of resources for indie writers and self-publishers. There’s a lot of valuable info only a Google search away.
But a community of fellow creators to hold you accountable, to offer you feedback, to help you with your marketing process?
That’s something quite valuable.
And that’s something that I’ve decided to invest in.
If that’s something that you think would benefit you, then you must know that you can gain lifetime access to the platform (and the community) for a one-time payment of $19.
That’s, if you’re fast enough. Pricing will increase to $9/month at the beginning of June, so you’d better hurry.
If you want to join this community, which will launch on June the 15th, you can do so by clicking here.