The Writer's Journey
Over 45,000 Americans make their living as writers and authors. Whether that's copy writing, technical writing, ghost writing, content writing, screenwriting, or publishing books or short stories, every writer out there has their own unique journey.
It's been said that 80% of Americans (or even higher) want to write and publish a book. Anyone relatively immersed in this business knows that's easier said than done. The life of the writer isn't for everyone. About the only things promised are struggle, plenty of twists and turns, and healthy doses of self-doubt at the most inopportune times. If you can live happily without doing this, you probably shouldn't.
But I believe every journey, no matter where it starts or finishes, is worth sharing.
It's four in the morning and I should be in bed instead of up sitting at my laptop next to a glass of cold water. Alcohol is reserved for weekends. I put this post off, but it can be put off no longer. Deadlines are hard, but I gave myself one (7/1 bright and early) and I'm sticking to it.
I've always gravitated toward the hours when most people prefer to be sleeping. According to new research, that means my brain differs from early risers. It's an occupational hindrance, but one that sometimes can't be avoided.
I consider myself fairly normal. In college I studied business and joined a fraternity that came built in with what I take to be fairly standard collegiate pursuits. Attempting to walk-on to Clemson's football team ended in failure so I played on the club-level football team instead and kayaked a nearby lake in my spare time. My life could have ended up like countless people I knew and still remain friends with; graduate and find a job in the business world that opened doors to all the middle class American standards - wife, kids, career, and that suburban house that will never be quite as satisfying to me as a downtown condo.
But I had a secret. I didn't want any of that stuff (at least, not the cookie cutter job). I wanted to write books that sold millions of copies and had readers everywhere singing my praises. And I thought what way too many novice writers think - my ideas were so transcendent they would instantly change the game.
A rude awakening is only the first of many lessons that separates rookies from the veterans. Mine came in the form of several agent rejections and the realization that I didn't have much of any understanding regarding how the publishing business works. A lot of would-be writers tap out here. Contemplating the odds and seeing the scope of what you've signed up for is enough to put plenty of literary pop-up shops out of business for good.
For better or worse, I didn't choose that route. From 2015 to now I wrote the following:
Brothers for Life: A mystery about two best friends who get to college and join a fraternity where things start out perfect and then go horribly wrong.
Carcosa: An off-kilter mystery/thriller on a strange planet where a quirky academic must uncover the culprit behind three consecutive gruesome murders or take the blame himself.
Fraternity Nights: A complete re-imagining of Brothers for Life where an unruly fraternity that behaves like a Goodfellas-style crime family on a college campus falls under suspicion when its pledges start to go missing.
Place D'Evils: In this New Orleans thriller an ex-assassin on the run gets caught in the middle of a turf war waged between a criminal gang comprised of the city's elite and the last remaining members of a mysterious and powerful Voodoo lineage.
A Day in Fall: America itself is at stake in this topical thriller. Savvy agent Michael Larson must get to the bottom of a plot potentially involving the White House and the country's extremist fringes after a prominent scientist is abducted in broad daylight.
Dark Satisfaction: A travelogue laced with suspense. The plagued Ridge family relocates to a vibrant southern city only to discover via an intricately woven plot that their problems are only beginning.
Pharos: In this breakneck thriller, the forgotten past of an ancient Christian scholar buried in the sands of Egypt is the key to finding a weapon that promises to wipe out one of the world's most enduring religions.
You can't find any of them on Amazon or browsing shelves at Barnes and Noble. Not yet.
A manuscript is far from a completed journey. But it does come as a relief to have that completed collection of words sitting in front of you. Getting the idea written is part of the battle. Seeing it through a quagmire of revisions, editing, agents, and publishers is equally (if not more) daunting.
The writer's journey is long and winding. And despite what anyone says, it's never truly finished. To this point, I haven't published any of my finished manuscripts. I plan on releasing A Day in Fall via an independent publisher in the coming months. Dark Satisfaction currently sits in agent limbo. Pharos isn't quite finished, but could be one to look for on the horizon. More details to come.
In a way, I circled back to the business-oriented roots my younger self strove to break away from. I've helped start and operate a small business outside of writing books. Life9, a vertically integrated initiative that essentially aims to combine authors and intellectual property with screenwriters and movie producers, is in its infancy. The next big idea I hope to have up and running before the close of 2020 is a full-service business strategy firm geared specifically toward professional writers.
Books are only part of the journey. My advice probably isn't worth much, but I would tell anyone looking to break into this world to take it one day at a time and refuse to give up. Literature has a niche for everyone, and as you can't stand the thought of not bringing your ideas to life, you're bound to find yours. Oh, and a dead project can always be brought back to life.
What's your journey been like? Let me know in the comments or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, please subscribe and be on the lookout for future updates.