Sunday, June 28, 2009

On the Threshold of a New Adventure

I am moving in a new direction in my life and in my writing, a new adventure in storytelling, if nothing else.

Since I was in grade school, I have spent a significant amount of my spare time writing. I have written abominable poetry, pretty decent non-fiction, forgettable short stories and a dozen or so novels ranging from the merely awful to a couple I think are good stories. I always wrote strictly for myself and never gave any thought to letting anyone read my work.

A few years ago, I got serious about working hard to write well. The result was a novel that I really liked. That was a breakthrough for me and, since then, I have written several other novels. Writing my stories was an act of joyful self-abandonment. I loved every minute of it (even the editing). But, after finishing several manuscripts, it dawned on me that a story untold and unshared is a very sad thing.

I decided to try to get my stories published. Frankly, I rather regret that decision. I was having such fun writing for myself, why'd I have to go muck it all up by trying to find an agent and get published? It ruined a couple of perfectly good years for me.

I spent more time in the last two years working on query letters than I spent writing stories. I got some good feedback but never actually succeeded in getting an agent to agree to represent me. This year, after participating in the National Novel Writing Month, I took advantage of the opportunity to print off a proof copy of my novel from CreateSpace. It was cool to hold my very own novel in my hand.

Correction! It wasn't merely cool. It was a positively beatific experience!

That got me to thinking some hitherto unthinkable thoughts.

The idea of self-publishing had always been anathema to me because I believed that vanity publishing was only for terrible writers who couldn't get published (and, of course, I couldn't possibly fall into that category!!), and no publisher would ever publish a novel by someone who had self-published. After exploring CreateSpace a bit, suddenly self-publishing didn't seem like such a bad idea. I sort of tucked the idea away in the back of my mind and visited with it from time to time just to see if I might ever get comfortable with it.

A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I were discussing our reading habits. (When I'm not writing or writing about writing, I'm either reading or talking about reading.) My colleague mentioned that he had a signed copy of John Grisham's first novel. He said he bought it directly from the author, because in those early days Grisham couldn't get published the "regular" way, so he self-published his book and sold copies out of his car. So much for the idea that a self-published author can't ever get published in the legitimate press!

That got me to thinking about other things, like why I write or what I want to get out of publishing, or at least sharing my work with others. Once I realized that my real motivation is the desire to share my stories with other story lovers, not to make money or to achieve any kind of critical acclaim (not that I would turn down either of those things, of course).

Suddenly I felt I had the freedom to explore options other than querying agents to try to get the attention of a standard publisher. What those options may be and how I might go about exploring them is still a mystery. That will be part of this new Adventure.

I have blogged for years, but I have never shared my fiction. I decided to create a pseudonym and, potentially, head down the road to self-publishing and self-marketing. If nothing else, instead of blogging about the daily minutia of my ordinary life, I'll blog about the daily minutia of my writing life, for a change.

This blog, then, will be both a record of my Journey toward self-publication and a forum for sharing my writing -- as well as an escape valve for the frustrations and joys of the process.

I have no idea how I will go about any of that, that will be the Adventure.

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