It’s been just over a year since my debut novel, Housebroken, was debutized.
For the most part? It hasn’t.
I mean I still rely on my day job to feed my family and put clothes on my kids. When asked what I do for a living I still tell people that I work in sales (except for those moments when I’m feeling particularly bold). And my world has yet to drastically launch into the atmosphere of stardom.
Don’t get me wrong, that last one I’m not disappointed about.
But this is all very normal for a first-time author to experience. And yes, I sometimes have to remind myself that I AM an author. Because life pretty much remains the same. I work, I wash dishes, I bathe kids and put them to bed, and then I try to scrape however many spare minutes I can find from the day in order to add a couple hundred words to whatever project I’m currently working on (two at the moment).
So what has changed?
For one, my confidence in my writing. I’m tackling an ambitious series set in the Amazon Rainforest, while also exploring an idea with a stand alone novel that I’ve never seen captured before. And the ideas I’m sitting on, (quite impatiently btw), are so much bigger than anything I’ve yet to try.
You see, once you run a mile, you realize you can run two. And then you keep running, keep training, and soon you hit ten miles and realize, hey – you could do a half-marathon. Which leads to a full marathon. And quite possibly beyond.
But then you hit an injury, as all runners eventually do. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, a torn ligament or blown knee. It happens to every runner.
And every writer.
Not everything we experiment with is going to be a success. But what’s important is that we keep pushing ourselves. It’s easy to keep running the same three mile loop that’s grown comfortable, but to up your game takes effort and discipline. It’s also the most exciting part about the process.
The second thing that’s changed for me has been a focus on the journey rather than any one particular destination. I love the act of writing. Taking disparate words and mashing them together in interesting and (hopefully) revelatory ways. Unearthing ideas and seeing where they lead. One such idea lead me to a story I could have never come up with on my own, “The Girl Who Couldn’t Come Up With an Original Title.” It’s still one that, if I go back and look at, I’m shocked that it came out of my keyboard.
The journey has become so much more important than the destination.
If I go a few days without putting fingers to keys, there’s a difference in my temperament and outlook. I NEED to write. Whether or not it’s covering my mortgage or rent (it’s not) or providing some much needed extra spending cash and rainy day savings (it is). My commitment to this writing gig has changed as well. I’ll be doing this for a long time. I just have too many stories to tell that no one else is telling. And with that commitment I don’t worry about when I’ll be able to say I’m a full-time writer, I just know that at some point it will happen along the way. It’s no longer a destination, it’s a point I’ll one day pass almost without realizing it was ever there.
The third thing that is noticeably different from when my debut novel hit digital shelves a year ago is the sense of community I’ve discovered.
Other authors, readers, bloggers … This is one of the most supportive communities I’ve ever seen, and I feel honored to have made so many amazing new friendships. And while my “following” is humble and small, I’m so grateful to those who have extended kind words of support, written notes that they enjoyed my work or identified with such and such character or have shared my work with others. Thank you, to each and everyone one of you — readers, authors, and fans alike. We authors are dreadfully hard on ourselves, and your words always come in the moments we need them most.
I’m grateful to my publisher, Kindle Press, for their faith in an unknown author and for continuing to support my novel even a year after it’s release.
This month Housebroken has been part of a promotion in the UK, and as such it’s held on to the #1 spot for Horror – Suspense on Amazon for the entire month. That’s something I could have never accomplished on my own. For what began as an ambitious yet quiet experiment, Kindle Scout has really grown into an amazing way for great novels to not only be discovered but pushed out to the masses. It will be exciting to see where it continues to go.
The last thing I’d say that’s changed since I’ve become a published author is my appreciation for imperfections.
I’m a tough critic, always have been, and while that hasn’t changed I love unlocking the puzzles of what worked and what didn’t in a particular movie or TV show or book. Because there is always something done which will be far better than I could have imagined. Always something I can find that I would have changed, possibly for the better. Always something to be learned.
There is no perfect story, no perfect novel, no perfect movie. And that’s a beautiful concept. Because there’s also no perfect life.
We live with the chinks in our armor on display every single day. We say things we don’t mean, or mean things we don’t say, and live in the constantly churning and turbulent waters of just doing our best at any given moment. It doesn’t mean it’s us at our absolute best, just the best we can do in that moment. And most times folks, that’s enough.
So has my world changed dramatically in the past year?
Maybe not in the ways one might at first imagine or hope for. But as for the invisible stretch marks of my own growth, not only a writer, but as a human being, it’s been one incredible year.