Guest Post: The Heart of the Indie Writer by Chelsie Shock
What an amazing time we live in today. Opportunities and possibilities are endless. If things hadn’t changed this much in the writing world, I think my novels and stories might still be sitting in notebooks, word documents, and scribbles on sticky notes. Here’s a little story about a writer.
She always wrote. When she didn’t write, she imagined. When she was fourteen she “self published” an angst ridden poetry collection that was frankly embarrassing looking back. No editing, no experience. She just wanted her words out there. She had that true longing to transport a reader and connect with a reader through words. Self publishing was a lot different back then. She paid a large sum of money to a print on demand publisher and a crappy book cover was thrown together. But… it was the best feeling in the world.
As you have probably gathered, she was me.
As I grew into an adult my love for writing and reading never ceased. I was completely in love with the portable magic of writing and reading. But I also had a strong discouragement lurking around me. I was fond of writing short stories and poetry, I would occasionally jot down ideas for novels. I had a problem, I notoriously started novels and never finished them.
Some people might say that I sound like I didn’t have much motivation or I just wasn’t strong enough for the industry. But I digress. Hear me out for a moment.
One of the most magical things about writing to me, is to share a deeply emotional and connecting experience with readers. A portable magic to share together. Deep in the back of my mind was reminders of rejection by the publishing industry, ideas of editors reshaping plot and characters. I was saddened by the idea of spending hundreds of pages with a character so close to my heart they were a part of me, and an editor saying “Hey, he needs to be this way. Let’s change him. Let’s make these two fall in love instead.” Or “Let’s change this name, or kill this character.”
What was the point of writing a story and characters from your heart when they could be transformed into something totally different? This haunted my mind. Stories needed to flow organically through me, and the most important parts to me might not be the most important parts to someone else. Take the story about Stephen King’s The Shining and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining adaption for example. King wanted to do right by his own story — his own in more ways than one, since King has stated that Jack Torrance, the deranged aspiring writer played by Jack Nicholson in the film, is the most autobiographical of all his creations. He also said that one of the main ideas of the novel was that alcoholism can turn a father into a monster. I love the movie too… but those are two vastly different interpretations for the story. I found Jack in The Shining movie to be more of the deranged, psycho type than a struggling alcoholic.
Back to my story, I struggled with writing for several years. I never finished anything. I kept ideas to myself. Of course, I had a lot of other things, sometimes difficult things going in in those few years. I moved at least five times to different states. I completed a certification in nutrition. I had a lot going on but I carried a longing in my heart. I still had a need to transport to the worlds I created, and a need to share them with others. I wrote a letter to Ray Bradbury two years before he passed away telling him how inspiring he was and praising him. I like to think he read it. I hadn’t ever had too much support in terms of my dreams of writing, until I had my husband.
He’s this great man who supports and encourages my writing dreams. Even when I don’t get around to doing the piled up dishes in the sink that day because I had a good writing day. It’s amazing what you can do when you have someone you care about truly believing in you for the first time in your life.
It’s March 2014. I was browsing writing articles and amazon, which I sometimes did. Sitting in my small rental house, unbeknownst to me about to be struck by lightning and changed. I stumbled upon Colleen Houck author of the Tiger’s Curse series. I read through the author’s Q&A section on this fateful day. And then there it was, the paragraph that struck me like a bolt of lightning.
“I also wanted to say how grateful I am to all of the Amazon readers who have left such kind and supportive customer reviews of my books. I originally self-published my first two books through Amazon and the reader comments created enough buzz to attract a film producer and interest from foreign publishers before I even had an agent, which I’ve learned is kind of unheard of! Amazon was really the key to launching the Tiger’s Curse saga and, because of that, I now have a career as a full-time writer.” –From Colleen Houck’s Tiger’s Curse amazon page.
Suddenly, the possibilities were endless and I felt a surge of energy and a frantic need to write. I hadn’t researched the self publishing world since my youth, and I spend that day until the wee hours of 5AM reading about how everything has changed and what the new possibilities were as a writer hoping to publish novels how they want. The control back in the hands of the creator, who, loves to create. Book covers, ideas, stories, format, paperback, ebooks. I was on fire now.
For the next few weeks I revisited a long lost story that I had thought about constantly. A story I had abandoned at page 50 and continued to have dreams about. The story turned into a series the more I worked on it. I wrote and wrote until 5AM every morning, I couldn’t stop now. Eventually I had a first draft, and after many, many revisions, countless hours of formatting, researching cover artists, researching editors, researching marketing and amazon and smashwords and indie publishers, I had a book. I had a cover artist, I had an editor. My goal originally for the book was to have the book published before my twenty fifth birthday. It was published a day before and up on Amazon. On my birthday my book had been approved and the paperback proof was on it’s way to my house. It was the most amazing feeling. I held it in my hands a few short days after. The burning passion of writing was coming back to me again, and full force. There wasn’t enough hours in the day for me to do all the things I wanted to do. I designed an author website, I continued with my nutrition blog. I have always written in one form or another.
Self publishing and ebooks changed my life, and let my dreams flourish in ways I don’t think they ever could have.
What I started learning also, was about the sometimes bad reputation of “indie writers/self publishers.” When trying to find reviewers for my book, I noticed a majority not accepting self published writers. There was a surrounding aura about self published books that was bad. I didn’t feel it was fair. I had invested a lot of money, time and my heart and soul in the book. Maybe it’s because there’s been a string of bad writing that has found it’s way into the self publishing world. Maybe it’s not taking the time or effort to hire an editor, or to learn to format the book correctly. Whatever it is, it’s not fair.
This world of self publishing is glimmering with possibilities. Some well known authors are even choosing to go this route for their new books.
Ebooks now have the ability to be read by many, many people, even picked up by publishers through the buzz (if you so wish to accept.)
You are even in control of how your book is marketed. Although it is a daunting task I might add (I’m more interested in writing) you have the option of doing it yourself or putting it in someone else’s hands because of all the great emerging sites, such as Self Publishers Showcase.
I think that some are authors, and some are writers. The term “self published,” has negative connotations that aren’t fair, and I love the term “indie writer.” I have nothing against the term “author,” or “self published,” but here’s my two cents.
An author I imagine, is someone who is sometimes unbeknownst to them, driven by sales, fame, and the support. They may have a big name publisher and maybe they have just lost their way a little bit about what’s important.
A writer needs to write. Needs to create. A writer wants to pour their heart out and serve it to the reader on a silver platter. There is an urgency to be able to share it.
Self published, unfortunately the negative connotations I hope will disappear. We must continue making the negative connotations disappear, they aren’t fair! We can’t carry around those negativities because a few people decided to post up an unformatted and unedited first draft.
An indie writer, an independent writer. Just like indie bands, a hipster might boast that they discovered this writer “before they were cool.” I am proud when I describe myself as in indie writer. Although mostly, I just say I’m a writer when anyone asks.
So here we are as writers and readers in a constantly engaging and wonderful world where authors and writers can take back control over their own work.
As Ray Bradbury once wrote, “First jump off the cliff and build your wings on your way down.”
To me, whether I had a hundred readers or a few thousand readers who enjoyed my work, I would be ecstatic. Yes, I have bills to pay too, I have budgets for marketing and editors and book covers, so any profit helps, but it’s not the why in writing. To sit down at a blank page and know that whatever I create is in my hands, is a good feeling. No one can force me to kill my character, and no one can rush me for a deadline but myself. Writing is a magic, an art. Good reviews or bad reviews, the magic of having the power to share the novel is revolutionary.
Will my novels ever be on Barnes and Noble bookshelves? Will they ever sit in a library? Will there ever be a movie about them? Will they have masses of fans clamoring for my autograph? I’m not trying to be a pessimist, but probably not. That’s not to say I’d want that anyway though. It’s certainly not why I write. If I had faithful readers and fans, no matter the number, I’d be happy. To know that readers have been transported to another world, touched by the words, going with me on the journey through my story, that’s a warm feeling in my heart.
To touch just one person with words that I wrote, a story I created, that is what makes everything worth it. That’s the heart of the indie writer.