Soo from Silk Screen Views invited me to write about my journey as a writer. When I began, I quickly discovered I could ramble on for quite some time, meandering over many topics. Here then, in an attempt at tidiness, is the third of three shorter posts I have provided to Silk Screen Views, touching on some aspects of writing in my personal life.
I am one of millions of people who write. No one’s counted, but I’m quite sure that’s how many we are. We write for a whole range of reasons. We’re like the countless music lovers the world over who also play an instrument, or sing. Our pens and pencils, our scraps of paper, our notebooks and our keyboards – these are our instruments. We are everywhere and we stretch from those who are happy to simply bash out something and immediately publish it – in a wild breeze of confidence – to those who toil hard to hone what they produce, in the desire to create something that will be seen as unique and special. Most of us who take our writing seriously sit somewhere in the middle of those two points.
For me, writing is the completion of a circle. We are all consumers. We consume food. We consume art and music. We consume stories. Some of us continuously consume stories! Movies. Books. News and gossip. But we are creators too. To me, it feels wrong not to want to give back to the world in some way. I see others, good people for sure, but who seem more focused in their day-to-day lives on buying, owning and consuming. Don’t get me wrong, I love to shop too. But without also having space in my life where I can attempt to create, I would not be happy. Writing is the form of creative expression that I have had the most success with and it’s the one I have stuck with since I was a child.
I really do slip into sleep more easily at night when I feel I have created something that day. I know others feel this way about their creative expression. I meet them every day on Twitter. Many are writers like me. While it is not an essential element to creativity, the opportunity has never been greater to put our creative works out there and invite others to come and see. The publishing industry has split open, and we are pouring in with our creative endeavors. I am merely one of many on Amazon and Smashwords.
I am grateful that I have also had the opportunity to traditionally publish, however brief! EleMental was written on a first-generation laptop, way back when laptops felt as heavy as milk crates, and long before ebooks. It took one year to write the novel. Even though the manuscript had won a national scholarship award fairly early on in the proceedings, it took ten years to get it traditionally published. In those ten years, the manuscript had been reshaped countless times at the request of various publishing houses and had been up to the starting gate about half a dozen times with various publishing houses. Does that seem like a long time to you? It’s a common story, varying only in some lesser details here and there.
I present to you now, in one fast paragraph, the story of my-one-and-only experience of publishing with a trade publisher.
EleMental was finally published traditionally by Pier 9 (an imprint of Murdoch Books, one of Australia’s major publishers) in 2010. The staff publisher who first bought my book then left the publishing house, the publishing house dropped the young adult fiction list, which had been that publisher’s baby, and the publishing house was subsequently bought out by Allen and Unwin. The end.
As delightful as the people were that I met during my experience being traditionally published, perhaps you will understand why I say I feel that ebooks has been a direction in which I, like countless other writers, have been pushed. So I jumped!
Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word. At least it isn’t, if you do it properly and never let go of quality. Indie writing is a valid, exciting new route to publishing. One that can also include traditional publishing in the future if that option opens up for you and you want to take it (sometimes called the hybrid approach – sounds like a car, or a rosebush).
The indie approach has one distinct advantage: you are in control. It can be more exhausting, as you have to steer all of your own promotion, and it can be lonely when you know of no one else, outside of the virtual arena, also pursuing this route. I still feel very new to indie-publishing, but my experience of the traditional publishing process has given me an appreciation of the importance of control, one I would not let go off lightly if ever I found myself traditionally publishing again.
Another significant advantage is speed. Don’t get me wrong, you should never take shortcuts with your writing just because you’re in indie publishing. You must be as slow as you need to be. Traditional publishing is so slow. It can take a long, long time to break into traditional publishing, if at all, and then still a long time for your book to see the light of day.
I would love to have published EleMental soon after I’d first written it, even a year or so later. The book still depicts a fun and interesting, tongue-in-cheek future but some aspects are no longer as interesting as I would have liked. Video gaming, on which the futuristic plot is based, has come a long way since I wrote the final draft of EleMental. When I finished the first book, the world did not have consoles like the Wii, Xbox, Playstation 3, or online video gaming. I even wrote the book before the iPad. That last one is particularly irking, as both EleMental and its follow-up, MonuMental, feature Zeepad which is very like an iPad. I have a hard time convincing people I wrote my stuff before all of these things.
The professional social work influence in my writing remains is as pertinent as ever. Sadly the human condition does not progress like technology. In EleMental, three teenagers struggle with an addiction to a futuristic form of video game.
Writing is a lonely business. Indie writing, doubly so. But there is a growing indie community on the internet and numerous collectives. I belong to the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), a global collective based centrally in London, but (thanks to the internet) present everywhere. I still have a lot to learn, particularly around marketing, which does not come naturally to me, but also around social media. I have a lot of learning about information technology to stay on top of. To be honest, it never seems to end. I have become far more aware of how to step up and be counted amongst the other indie writers out there in the world. I meet with many of them regularly through Goodreads, through Twitter (especially through twitter!), Facebook, and though countless other social media avenues.
Don’t forget to drop by sometime and say hi. I’m always around and love to chat on twitter, my website, Goodreads and Facebook.
For more information about Steven O’Connor and his work, check out his website.