We Interrupt an Attempt at Self-Publishing to Bring You This Blog Post

Hiii friends.
So. I know it’s been almost a month since I blogged anything, and for that you have my apologies. It’s been kind of a whirlwind lately, and lots of factors have contributed to my unintended month long break. For example, I: went on a date, met Steven Adams, had two interviews for a job at a bridal store (waiting to hear back), went on vacation, got rejected by Avon, and decided to self-publish. Also the World Cup.
Mostly the World Cup.

But things have been a bit busy, you might say.

I intend to address the date, Steven Adams, job interviews, and vacation in another/other posts, but for now I just want to bring everyone up to speed on what’s going on in the world of Sara Rowe, potential author.

About a month ago, I submitted my manuscript to Avon. I can’t say I was surprised when I received an email telling me they weren’t interested a few days ago, because most authors get rejected hundreds of times and my book is just hella long compared to average romance novels. As I mentioned before on here, I have been toying with the idea of self-publishing anyway, and this was the necessary ingredient to push me into doing it. I still plan to pursue traditional publishing avenues, but in the meantime, I’m going to take advantage of the ever evolving and changing literary market and self-publish with Amazon’s KDP program.

This is much, much easier said than done. I knew when I initially looked into self-publishing that it was going to be a bit complicated. But, lo, how young and naive I was–I had no idea just HOW complex the process is. Let me just shoot you my top three concerns right now:

1. You have to copyright your book before you can self-publish it, and it costs $35. I do not have $35. A friend suggested a Kickstarter but that seems so weird– “Please give me money so I can publish this book that you’ll need to give me more money for!”

2. TRYING TO CREATE AN ACTIVE TABLE OF CONTENTS IN A WORD DOCUMENT IS REALLY REALLY HARD AND JUST PRETTY MUCH THE WORSE. To convert your Word Doc to an ebook, you have to preformat it in a certain way. One of those ways is putting in a navigable Table of Contents that will transfer to ebooks. Spoiler alert: SUPER CONFUSING AND AWFUL  AND GOD I’M STRUGGLING.

3. Designing covers– also really, really hard. Especially when you don’t have Photoshop. I started at about eight or nine yesterday, and didn’t finish creating my cover until about 9:30 this morning. I used a combination of an online photo editor, the KDP cover creator program, and Microsoft Paint. Because I’m just fancy like that. Now, for you viewing pleasure, I will debut my cover:

slow cover 2

I’ve actually had a few people on Facebook offer to help me create a cover, which is just ridiculously kind and wonderful and I’m not sure how to answer them. To be honest, I love this one. I really, really, really love it. I put an ENORMOUS amount of work in it, including finding a background; finding a picture of a girl in an appropriate dress and editing the colors and the style and then painstakingly cutting it out of its background in Paint; finding a picture of a flower and pasting it into Paint over and over and over again in varying sizes and then cutting out different pieces of it to create the flower train of the dress; and trying to appropriately format the title and my name in the very limited capacity of the Amazon KDP cover editor.

Is it truthfully that good? I can’t tell. Much like with a child, I put so much work and struggle and pain into this cover that all I can see is perfection, but it’s just probable that I may not be very objective. But I have essentially reached the limits of my cover designing abilities, and after twelveish or so hours, I’m pretty much just done with the whole thing anyway.

When creating it, I had in mind the covers of my current favorite author’s most recent series:

courtney milan cover

 

(Just a quick PS, if you like historical romance, you are committing a crime by not reading Courtney Milan. She is unspeakably wonderful and amazing and talented.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I’m really just riding the struggle bus right now with the whole self-publishing thing.

Meanwhile, my brain has been overflowing with ideas for the second novel in what I plan on being a series, and I’ve just been busily working away on that. You would think that simultaneously going through all the awful, horrific editing/revising/trying to publish nonsense at the same time would put me off, but alas, I just can’t be that sensible.

Maybe this means I really am a writer at heart.

Speaking of, a writer isn’t officially a writer until they have their own webpage, so I have created one where you can find info and updates on how publishing the novel is going. It’s pretty basic and bare right now, but I’ll be working on it periodically and adding things as they come up. Hopefully I’ll actually have something more to put on it soon. You can also like and follow my Facebook page for updates, there’s a little box in the right upperhand corner that you can click and you’re set!

So that’s pretty much a quick summary of what’s going on right now. For the first time in probably ever, I’m going to publish a post that’s not even 1,000 words.

Maybe that will tell you guys how sick of doing work  I am.

Poem: To All The Shy Girls

This whole Tinder thing lately has really got me flustered. In case you were wondering, I never again heard from The Lad, even after bucking up and messaging him. Ah, c’est la vie. But still, the whole process of setting out, deliberately, with intentions admitted, to find someone romantically feels rather bizarre to me. You’re essentially just shooting in the dark, hoping that the right person for you will come into your orbit by the most unlikely, randomest of odds. Instead, I’d always imagined that one day I’d simply stumble into the right person, and he’d catch on pretty quickly that there was something between us, and we’d just figure out things from there.
But what people have kept telling me, all with nothing but affection for me and the best of intentions, is that love will never work like that. You have to put yourself out there, take risks, get outside your comfort zone. You have to do the work, or you’ll never find anyone. That’s why I need to give dating a try, even if it’s scary and uncomfortable for me.
But here’s the thing–I’m just not wired that way. I’ve always thought that it was because I’m just too shy, but at the same time, I’m not really actually that shy. It’s always strange to me, this weird state I get in when I imagine actually dating a guy. So I did some thinking, and when I finished thinking, I did some writing. And I have concluded that, with all due respect to anyone who prefers other methods, I think that I’m just going to wait until I find the guy who feels like he’s worth the risk.

To All The Shy Girls

I used to think
that I was shy
that the reason
I couldn’t meet a boy’s eye
was an excess of embarrassment

And when I got
my first kiss
I chattered nervously
against his lips
and the second time
I giggled
helpless

Then one year passed
and then two
where I dreamed of
realer kisses
more than just a few
presses of lips

But again I couldn’t
meet their eyes
without a sudden tide
of bashful, red-cheeked stammering
to their amusement

How come when I
felt a blow
a fluttering clench in my chest
at the way his lips quirked
or his hair would rest
just so
on his cheek
and it seemed as though
he might feel the same for me

I was always gripped with a rush of panic
fathoms, oceans, miles deep
I believed it could only be
this overwhelming
overbearing
over-awkwardness
in me

Yet lately
I have come to think
that I am not shy because
I don’t want to be seen
No, I shy away
from men who never seemed
good enough to look upon
all that I have dreamed

I do not fear I’ve nothing to give
I look away, embarrassed
for they should fear me instead
I laugh nervously
for them
because they don’t know just how
lucky they would be
to press their lips to mine
as I’m giggling

So if someone looks away
when you don’t
meet their gaze
and cannot divine the crackle
of power
in your stuttered lines
know you have managed
successfully
to hide your riches
from lesser beings

You are a goddess
hidden in plain sight
wait for the one
who looks on your downturned head
and can recognize
your might

 

Poem: Couch Potato

I haven’t posted any poetry on here in ages, so I decided to share one of my more recent efforts. In case you were wondering, this comes from the miserable experience of being an unemployed post-grad living with her parents. The job market sucks, you guys.

 

Couch Potato

I am organic
made of the earth
a tender young thing
still a little green on the vine

But like a budding bloom
plucked in spring
or a just ripening fruit
before true succulence

I have been cut off
pulled from the richness
of my nurturing soil
picked from strong, sheltering limbs

My growth suddenly arrested
on the verge of blossoming
clipped from my garden plot
and arranged in isolation

I am a brown root vegetable
dug from the ground
packaged with my fellows
and sent off with little ceremony

Now I sit at home
trying to recover from the shock
putting out tentative little shoots
but lacking the food for proper growth

Always stationary
a lump resting in the same spot
all wild eyes and dreams
but growing nowhere

I cannot shake the fear that
I am slowly decomposing into my couch

Going Viral

Well, Readers.
It’s been an eventful few weeks since I last posted.
First in my big news, I wrote an article for Buzzfeed called 27 Embarrassing Things That Can Happen When Substitute Teaching that went viral. I got the idea from my admittedly rough experiences with subbing, and then thought to myself, just think how much worse it could have been! I started working on it at about ten or eleven on April 18, sat up all night finishing it, and submitted it to Buzzfeed at about 5 in the morning on April 19.
Just in case you’re not familiar with how writing for Buzzfeed works (I certainly wasn’t), you sign up to be a member of something called Buzzfeed Community. Once your first piece gets approved by an editor, you get to the first level of something called Cat Power. You can then continue to submit things which then get posted to Buzzfeed’s Community section, under the Just Launched tab. Everyone with Cat Power gets put on the Just Launched section, but there’s no guarantee your article will really get seen.
When I woke up in the afternoon of that day, I had an email from Buzzfeed that morning saying that my post was getting a lot of interest, and I should watch and see if it got promoted to the front page of the Community section, instead of just the Just Launched section. After I read that, I opened up my next, more recent email that said an editor had really liked my post, and so it had been promoted to the front page of the Community.

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I was crazy excited, so I went to my article to look at how many views I had. And then, to my utter shock, I read that I had nearly 8,000 views. EIGHT THOUSAND.
Guys, the most looks my blog has ever gotten in one day is 373.
I couldn’t even wrap my mind around the fact that almost 8,000 people had read something I had wrote. I floated about in a haze all afternoon, hardly able to believe it. As far as I was concerned, 8,000 views was viral for me.
At around 9pm, my parents and I decided to go eat dinner at the restaurant where my sister works. When we were leaving, my post had 12,000 views–I didn’t even know how to handle that.
And then, just before we left, I got an email saying that my post had been promoted to the actual front page of Buzzfeed, the one that EVERYBODY sees.

Screenshot_2014-04-19-21-17-27
My mind just went blank. I didn’t know what to think or what that even meant. I couldn’t conceive of this fact, that my post was actually going crazy.
At the restaurant, I was telling my parents what had been going on. You have to be on a laptop to see the number of views on your post, so I didn’t know what my front page promotion had meant, but I figured I was probably getting more views.
My dad, who had never used the Buzzfeed app on his phone ever before, opened it to see what Buzzfeed was like. Then he said to me, “Sara, isn’t this your article?”
I took his phone from him and looked–and I discovered that my post was the very first article on Buzzfeed.
THE. VERY. FIRST. POST.
wpid-screenshot_2014-04-19-21-18-18.png

My mom opened her app, and it was the same on hers. I opened it on my phone, and found that it really was true, not a fluke. Not very long later, I got a text from my dear friends Skye and Lauren, both freaking out because they saw my article on the front page of Buzzfeed. Skye asked me how many views I’d had now, and I told her I couldn’t tell from my phone. She got on her laptop and checked for me— 38,695 views.
Thirty. Eight. Thousand. Views.
In the hour that I had been at the restaurant since my post had been promoted, 26,000 people had read my article, over double the amount that had read it before that. As we ate dinner, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was euphoric, in a word. I just sat there with this stupid grin on my face. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

And then, people happened. I hadn’t even really thought to look in the comments sections, because half the time I forget that Buzzfeed articles even have a comments section. I was only reminded of the fact when Skye texted me telling me there was a hateful comment, and that she wanted to say something back.
Immediately, I felt a little uncomfortable. What could someone possibly say bad about the post I’d written? I went and started reading the comments, and quickly began to understand.

wpid-screenshot_2014-04-19-21-48-12.png

Unprofessional? I had never been accused of being unprofessional in my life. In fact, I’ve ALWAYS been a goodie two-shoes. I love rules, and I love following them. It made me feel good to do my best and to do the right thing.
I couldn’t understand this– didn’t they get that this was a joke? It was a humorous list on Buzzfeed–maybe ten of these things happened to me in reality. And I’d said it right there in my title–these were embarrassing things that COULD happen when subbing. Not that these all happened to me in one day.
And another thing–some of the things on my list included showing up a little late, or getting a kid’s name wrong, or making a reference that they didn’t get. And you guys are telling me that these things NEVER happened to you? Not once, ever, in all the time you’ve been doing this?
Because, I’m sorry, you’re lying. EVERY teacher, substitute or not, has mispronounced a kid’s name at some point.
But I could feel myself getting worked up, and I realized I needed to calm down. It was two people who had left negative comments, I just had to accept that they had completely missed the point and move on. Skye texted me shortly after to tell me that I had 46,819 views. I was immediately distracted by the fact that 8,100 people had read my article within a ten minute frame. I didn’t even know how to take that.

If you ever have something go viral on the internet, you’re going to learn the lesson that I did. As the hours went by, more and more people started saying awful things on my post. A girl called me a piece of smut. A piece of smut, guys. I’ve never been called smut before in my life. How did this girl who had never met me and knew not a single thing about me feel that she had the right to pass judgement on me??
One girl commented and literally said, “This post is irrelevant.” What??? What does that even mean? Irrelevant to what??
After about thirty comments of that nature (some from people who were going back and commenting again, like they were just so offended by my very existence that they felt they had to say something about it twice) I decided it would be best if I stopped looking at the comments.
The lesson I learned is this– people can be incredibly obtuse. My sister told me that someone said that they were really angry because they clicked on my link thinking that it was going to be something useful for teachers, and it was just my trashy list. Really? You thought that a list on Buzzfeed was going to offer you serious advice? There are always going to be people in a world who just don’t understand when something is a joke, regardless of how obvious it is, and these are always the people who are going to comment on your writing.
I feel the experience was best summed up by one of the comments. Someone said something along the lines that I made teachers look bad, and I was a horrible example for students, who are the future of our world, obviously, and that I should be ashamed and not allowed to sub. It just seemed ironic to me that  they were so concerned about me setting a bad example for students, and yet they were the one commenting spiteful hate on the internet. That’s certainly not the kind of example I would want my child seeing from their teacher.
That evening around 12:45, I received an email from Buzzfeed saying that I had passed the 100,000 viewers mark.

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It helped put things in perspective a little bit for me. Yes, I had about 80 or 90 mostly rude comments on my post, but that was such a minute fraction of people compared to the 100,000 that had read it. I had to believe that most of those people–including the Buzzfeed editors who had promoted it–had gotten the joke and laughed along at the picture I was painting. Buzzfeed even tweeted my list out on their official Buzzfeed account.
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Apparently Twitter got my joke a lot more than actual Buzzfeed did, because every single retweet or tweet about my post I saw was positive–it went a long way towards making me feel a little bit better. I had numerous people tweet me and tell me that these exact things had happened to them.

The next day I received like twenty emails from Buzzfeed, most telling me I had won different awards (none of which I understood, as this was literally the third post I’d made for Buzzfeed and I didn’t really get what was going on or what it meant). I got emails telling me my post went viral on Facebook, and that it went viral on Twitter, and that it went viral on Buzzfeed itself. The higher the views got on my post, the more unreal the whole thing seemed to me.
Yes, it was incredibly amazing and mind-blowing that this many people had read something I had written. But after a point, it really didn’t mean much. I got an email saying that I was one of Buzzfeed’s Top Ten Users–but I couldn’t even figure out what that meant, or if it was even significant. As wonderful as it was to have my post go viral on Buzzfeed, it didn’t really affect my life that much–aside from teaching me that people can be very mean behind the safety of a keyboard. This has always been a lesson I knew existed but I had never really experienced the effects of. People on my blogs have been unfailingly kind to me, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My post, which is pretty much in retirement now, sits at 319,113 views. To me, that’s an astronomical number, and an enormous achievement. I can say to people, yep, I was featured on Buzzfeed’s front page, and I had 319K views. But aside from the cool factor, it didn’t really do anything to change my life. It’s not like I suddenly got to become a paid writer for Buzzfeed.
I eventually moved down the list, and then got taken off the front page, and then faded away altogether. That’s generally the thing with going viral–as fast as it happens, it’s over. I think I ended with about 150 comments, most of which I’m assuming are bad, but I’ve decided it’s not worth it to look. Because when it comes down to it, it doesn’t really matter what those people said about it. I know that I’m a good substitute teacher, who has never cussed before in front of a student ever, and who has never slept through a class she was supposed to substitute for, or really done any of the more offensive things on my exaggerated for humor list. I’m not a piece of smut, thank you very much.

So thus was my experience with going viral.
For my second bit of big news, well, remember how I said that going viral didn’t really do anything for me or change my life in any way?
Well, I lied. After some of the furor had already began dying down a few days after my post went crazy, I got on my official Facebook writer page (which I beg you to pleeease go like if you haven’t already, you can follow this link or just look on the side of this blog where I have connected the page to this one and all you have to do is click the little like button!). To my astonishment, I saw that I had a message from somebody–I didn’t even know you could get messages on your official writer Facebook page.
Even more to my shock, the message was from this really nice guy named Scott, an editor for the Music section of a British website called WhatCulture.com. He told me how he’d saw my post on Buzzfeed and the amazing number of views it was getting. And then he asked me if I was interested in becoming a paid writer for their website.

I’ll admit it, Readers. I was pretty sure it had to be a scam. It seemed too good to be true– someone actually wanted to pay me to write funny lists, something I do for free on this blog and on Buzzfeed, too. But the more I read and looked into WhatCulture, the more I became convinced it was a legitimate site.

And one that wanted to PAY ME TO WRITE.
I began emailing Scott, telling him immediately that I was interested and figuring out how things would work. Now, anybody can sign up to write for WhatCulture.com (including you, and if you do sign up to write for them, please mention my name, it helps me out!), and the way it works is you earn 40 pence for every 1,000 views your article gets, and you get paid at the end of the month. But since someone contacted me and asked me to write, I don’t have to go by that system.
Scott is my official editor, so basically my boss, and when I get an idea for an article I get his approval; or he can suggest an article idea to me and we can tweak it until we’re both happy with it. Then, I write it and submit it for review when I’m done. Scott looks through and edits it, and then once the post goes live on the site, I know I will get a certain, set amount–regardless of whether one or one million people look at it.
It’s not a full time job, of course, but I’m getting paid a very fair amount to do what I love. And there isn’t really a limit on the number of articles I can write. As long as Scott approves them, I can write as many as I want. This is real experience, something that people can go and look at on an official, proper website and see.
My first piece, 9 Underrated Kid’s Movies You Didn’t Realise Were Awesome (British spelling of realize is my editor’s work haha), was just published on May 2nd, and it already has almost 20,000 views. It also has ten or eleven comments. Now, those numbers are not as lofty as my Buzzfeed article, but you know what? Every single one of those comments is kind or helpful or just friendly discussion. Oh, and it includes one of my favorite comments I’ve ever received:

I honestly don

I honestly don’t even care you used “your” instead of “you’re”

Oh, brandon. You flatter me… Please keep it up.

And so, I come to the whole point of this long, slightly crazy post. This whole experience has taught me a number of important things about being a writer, for example:
1. Some people are going to say awful things about your writing.
2. When you choose to write for public consumption, you better accept that people are going to hate your work.
3. Sometimes, making it big is not a pleasant experience.
4. Sometimes, out of an unpleasant experience comes something really wonderful.

Basically, if you’re a writer, you just have to keep writing and putting yourself out there, regardless of what anyone thinks of you. After all, you never know who might be reading, and what kind of opportunities might come your way.

Speaking of–Brandon, if you’re reading this, hit me up, son.

10 Lessons I’ve Discovered While Writing My First Novel

Hello, Readers.
I’ve been meaning to write this post since about February, but somehow am only just now managing to get to it.
As I mentioned a few times, I recently finished my very first novel. To put it simply, it was an eye-opening experience. Over the course of nearly four years when I was writing this book, I learned a great deal about myself, my abilities, and the process of writing an entire book. Now,  I bring to you some of the most pertinent bits from my journey.
Throughout this post, I will be using my favorite meme of all time, Writer Leopard. Now, there have been times (SOOO MANY TIMES) when I have questioned whether I was meant to be a writer, whether I had any talent at all, if I was just wasting all my time. Then, one day, like a treasure chest of priceless gems in your own backyard, I discovered Writer Leopard, the most accurate meme I’ve ever found (aside from Socially Awkward Penguin). You may or may not know this, but I am OBSESSED with leopards. They are my favorite animal, hands down. When I realized that the meme for writers was emblemized by a leopard, I knew I had found my calling and that I was in the right profession.
Whether you are an aspiring writer, an avid reader, or just a kind person who is reading my blog, I hope you will find this useful. I cannot, of course, promise that this will be the same experience you are having, have had, or will have, but this is what it’s been like for me.
So get ready, because I’m about to hit you with a realization tornado.

1You will have a whole lot of ideas for a novel.

Since deciding I wanted to be a writer somewhere between the age of twelve and fourteen, I would estimate that I have started approximately fifteen to twenty books. I have had ideas for about 1,000. The best source for these, of course, is when you’re in bed at night, five minutes from the verge of sleep, and you’re suddenly struck with most incandescently brilliant and utterly original idea for a novel that has ever blessed the mind of any writer ever.
Generally, if you don’t write it down, you’ll have forgotten it by the next morning.

Did I mention it was a leopard IN A MONOCLE?!

The idea for the novel I finished actually came from another book I was reading at the time. I was very frustrated by the interaction between the hero and heroine, and I felt a need to make it better (another great source of novel ideas).
Suffice it to say, if you are drawn to writing, you will see ideas everywhere and in everything.

2. You should not, under any circumstances, believe all those ideas are really as great as they initially seem.

There’ll be a whole lot of ideas that you have that never even make it to paper, and that’s as it should be. But there will be ideas that you love so much that you do find yourself starting them into a real, actual novel. But one of the hardest lessons you’ll ever have to learn is that some of your ideas are just not good, and even though you’ve written a hundred pages on them, they are never going to see the actual light of day.  Some of your novels just need to be abandoned. As badly as it hurts, however, one day you’ll look back on them and wonder what in god’s name you were EVER thinking.

It’s for the best.

 

3. Writing a book is really hard.

Hopefully if you are really serious about being a writer, you’ll already have accepted this as obvious. I mean, the funny thing about writing a book is that you actually have to do all the work. Like, if you don’t write it, it just… sits there. It doesn’t go anywhere or do anything, because this is literally just stuff you’re making up. And one of the hardest things about writing a book is actually sitting down, picking ONE idea, and actually finishing it. Part of the reason I took four years to finish a book is that in that time I started five or six other ones, worked semi-seriously on two or three, and periodically lost interest and motivation in writing anything at all. But I think the way to know that you’re a writer for real is that no matter how tired of it you get, you always come back to it in the end, no matter how long it takes, because you just physically can’t stop writing. Even if it takes four years.

4. There’s no specific way to write a book correctly.

This was one of the big struggles for me. I googled all kinds of stuff to try and figure out how to motivate myself to write. When I was younger I felt sure that there had to be some specific method that was guaranteed to work. Like if you make an outline, type up a list of plot characters, and designate an hour every day when it’s time for you to write, you’ll have your book churned out in no time. I even tried making a timeline on a big piece of posterboard for one book I was writing, and you can figure out how much that helped me when I tell you that I’ve only written about twenty pages on that story to date. But writing is not like cooking (thankfully, because as you all might remember I am abysmal at cooking). There is no recipe that says, if you takes these ingredients in these quantities and put them together in this manner, you will end up with a product in a specific amount of time.
The more I read, the more I realized how personalized writing a book can be. Some people keep a notebook for each book they write, where they jot down ideas and impressions as they come to them, and create an outline and a character list. Some people start their book from the end, and some people start it from the middle. Some people write the big, important scenes in the story, and then just fill in and connect them together later.
There is literally just no right way. You simply have to work through the process of finding out what works for you. I wrote probably between 50-75 pages from the time I started my book as a sophomore in college to when I graduated, parceled out over three years. Then, after I graduated, I revisited the book and wrote about that same amount in a couple months. Then I got sick of my book and abandoned it, only to open it again in around November of 2013 and finish it in February of 2014, feverishly writing about 100 pages in four months. Writing just came to me in weird spurts and starts, generally in the middle of the night and in huge chunks. Anytime I tried to plan out my plot ahead of time or make an outline, nothing would come to me. Or, I would decide to write the story one way, and then suddenly I would just be writing something else and the characters would just be doing things and I would be just as surprised as someone who had never looked at my book before.

Three weeks, ha, try three days.

What I’m trying to say is that the only correct way to write a book is the way that gets it done.

5. You will hate your book at some point.

As I mentioned, this book took me nearly four years to write, and that’s partially because I hated it for a collective period of about two years. During college, I periodically worked on it and periodically hated it deeply and pretended it didn’t exist. The first half of the book was edited over and over again, because I would open it with the intent to write more on it, end up reading what I had, discover it was awful, and then go back and extensively edit what I already had. I fell back in love with it after graduation and managed to accomplish about as much as I had in the previous threeish years in just a few months. Then I read one of the best books I’d read in the past few years whilst in the midst of this writing fury (I DO NOT RECOMMEND), and subsequently fell into a decided and violent hatred of my book, essentially convincing myself that it was the worst ever and I would never be a talented writer.

The only reason I probably ended up finishing this book was because I reopened it months later and realized I had a really large chunk of a novel written. So I thought to myself, eh, might as well finish it! Then, after I reread what I had on my Kindle (an extremely handy editing tool) I fell back in love with it. The closer I got to the end, the more I loved it and wanted to finish it– until finally one day it was done.

6. Finishing a book is one of the most euphoric feelings a writer will ever know.

The night I finished my novel, I cried because I was so happy. It was like that feeling you get at the end of an amazing novel except times ten, because it was the end of MY novel. I couldn’t seem to believe it, that I had written an entire book from my own hands. The whole thing that makes writing hard, the fact that it comes entirely from you and you do all the work, is the same thing that makes finishing a book so amazing, because you have DONE IT ALL. When my best friend Skye read it, she told me that she would forget I had written it until suddenly she would think “SARA wrote this, HOW WAS THIS ALL JUST IN HER HEAD.” And the only thing I could say was that I didn’t know either. I don’t know where it all came from or how I had an entire story just there inside my head that I actually managed to translate into words and pages and dialogue. I read my own book and couldn’t seem to believe that all of that had come from me.

IT’S LIKE I’M POSSESSED

I used to scoff when I was younger at writers who said that the characters just did what they wanted and had a mind of their own, and they just wrote it down. I found the idea ridiculous; you’re the one writing the story, and making it all up! But I have been converted–I now know this to be the gospel truth. Most of the time, writing feels like I’m just watching this movie play out in my head, and I’m just frantically trying to keep up and write down what I’m seeing as it happens. To me, my characters are real and they exist, and I am as emotionally invested in their lives as I am in my own. The culmination of their story, therefore, affects me as much as if I’d found my own happy ending. In finishing this novel, I took a piece of my heart and soul and typed it into a Word document.

7. You can always assume that you have missed something while editing.

After finishing my novel, I knew I had a great deal of editing to do. I went through and read it on my Kindle, making notes of every mistake I made and every part I needed to change slightly, and spent a couple weeks fixing it.  Then I read it again and edited it more. Then I read it AGAIN and edited it even more. Next I let my sister read it, and fixed all the new mistakes I had made while in the process of editing. By this point, a few people had asked to read it, but I had to make sure I’d edited it enough so that I didn’t embarrass myself.

NO NO NO IT’S NOT READY YET

Even after I let my friend Skye read it, she STILL found mistakes for me to edit. It is a seemingly endless process.
(Funny fact: the header for this said “You can always assumed that you have missed something while editing.” until I went back an edited it for like the third time.) 

 

8. Letting someone read your book for the first time is the most terrifying feeling ever.

I am closer to my sister than any person on earth. We are like the same person essentially. But letting her read my story was even nerve-wracking. When I then turned my book over to my best friend Skye and next my best friend Tiffany to read, I honestly thought I was going to vomit. It didn’t matter that I loved it, that Rae said it was great– I was convinced that they were going to hate it and think it was the most awful book ever written, but worst of all they were going to have to pretend that it was good just because they were my best friends. Like I said, in writing this book I wrote part of my heart and soul on to every page, and I felt like I was essentially opening my chest and exposing it to them to crush if they so desired. It was AWFUL. But luckily, they were both wonderful and complimentary and very helpful in what they told me about it. It was a balm to my terrified soul.
What I eventually accepted was that I had written a novel, I was damn proud of the fact, and people would either like it or they wouldn’t. What mattered was that I loved and was happy with it– because if you don’t believe in yourself as a writer, nobody else is going to either.
Of course, that does not mean that I am one hundred percent comfortable telling everyone that my novel is a historical romance replete with things like kissing. For the people who I don’t expect to ever read my book or don’t want to let read my book, you just come up with the blandest description imaginable.

“It’s set in London in the 19th century and it’s about a girl whose sister gets kidnapped and she’s trying to find her andddd… ummmm…. Yep. That’s it. Nothing exciting, really.”

I’ve already told my parents that I’m very sorry, but they can never, ever read it, and that’s all there is to it.

9. Publishing a book is harder than writing a book.

Now, there might be people who quibble with me here, but as I am deep in the throes of trying to figure out how to publish my book, I am firm on this point. Publishing is terrifying, confusing, depressing, and overwhelming. What I have discovered is that most major publishing companies don’t even accept unsolicited manuscripts–this means you can’t send them your book unless you have an agent that can contact them and set it up. And from what I’ve managed to learn, getting a reputable agent is even more difficult than actually publishing a book.
I have found only three major publishers of romance novels that will even accept unsolicited manuscripts. And, let me drop a piece of information on you that I would have LOVED to know before I started writing my novel– all of these companies have specific word count requirements for the manuscripts they will accept.
As you probably know if you read this blog, I have a tendency to be rather long-winded. I have always been that way; when I was writing essays in school I always had to edit them down. I have never had a problem with meeting a word count, only exceeding it. I’ve just discovered that I have a lot to say. When I was writing my novel, I had no real idea exactly how long it actually was, because Word document pages don’t exactly translate into real book pages. I knew it was pretty long, and my word count was high, but I had no idea just how long it was until I finished writing it and started googling average lengths for romance novels. Apparently that average is between 80-100,000 words.
I have approximately 130,000 words.
Of the three publishers that might accept my manuscript, the highest acceptable word count was 120,000, and the other two companies highest were 100,000 and 95,000.
I don’t know how to explain to you just how difficult it is to consider trying to cut out 30-35,000 words from the novel you just spent four years laboring to finish. And of course it was especially disheartening to read these articles saying if your book is long then it means you’re a bad writer and you don’t know how to edit and blah blah lots of other depressing things.
Well, duh, I’ve never written a book before so no, I DON’T really know how to go about editing it. And even though it’s admittedly very long and I am sure I am biased, I don’t think the book really drags that much–it’s just that a lot of stuff happens and it takes a few pages to explain it. Of course I’m sure that there’s plenty of editing that could be done to it to make it shorter– but 35,000 words worth? I just don’t know if I can do that.
And so I started considering the option of self-publishing. It’s easier than ever for writers to self-publish their book cheaply with things like Kindle and Nook and the whole world of ebooks. If I self-publish, there would be no restrictions on the word limit. The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.
But then I started actually reading about self-publishing, and I started getting just as confused and worried as I did with regular publishing. Which platform would be the best to use if I did self-publish? How do I format my book correctly? How do I create a cover for my novel? What is all this stuff about royalties and fees? And if I did self-publish, how big of an audience would I really be reaching?
Turns out self-publishing is not quite as easy as it initially sounds.
And so I find myself stuck in this strange limbo, wondering which direction I should go in. So far, the best I can think of is that maybe I will self-publish the full length version, try and see what feedback I can get on it, while simultaneously working on making a much shorter version that I could send in to publishers. Just when I find I’ve FINALLY completed my novel and I’m ready to share it with the world, it seems that I’ve got a whole world’s worth of work in front of me.

10. No matter how rough the first one was, before you know it you’ll be starting on your next novel.

Seriously, guys. It was  barely two months from the moment I had finished the first one– not even like from when I edited it or let other people read it or started researching publishing companies– literally from the moment I finished it mid-February that I opened up a new Word document and started working on the sequel. I’M NOT EVEN DONE EDITING THE FIRST ONE. I just couldn’t help myself, the characters were already there in my head and clamoring to be heard.
17 pages already in that one, everybody.
At least this time, I know about the word count thing.

Go big or go home.

Poem: I Fall Short

I apologize, Readers, for my extended absence. I have been working on a special project that I am very much looking forward to sharing with you all, and it’s taken up much of my attention. I also have been endlessly, soul-crushingly job hunting. I believe I have now applied at thirteen or fourteen places, and only two have even bothered to respond in order to reject me. One of them was something of a dream job for me, and for once I was completely qualified for it, and they did not even take two full days to tell me they had no interest in me as a candidate. That job listing is still up, which almost seems worse, because it’s like even not knowing what kind of applicant they might end up getting is better than giving me an interview. It has been an incredibly disheartening effort.
So today, I am going to share with you an old poem that rather sums up my feelings lately. It’s so strange to me sometimes, to re-read some of my old poetry and remember what inspired me to write it, but then to realize how well it has come to apply to different things at a different time in my life. Apparently I was an insightful little punk haha.

I Fall Short

I stretch my hand
my fingers feel a phantom brush
a butterfly kiss on my skin
that isn’t quite there
again

I hear the wind sigh around me
just a little farther
and it tries to lift me up
granting me half-formed wings
but I always fall short
it seems

The wise trees nod their heads
wisely
their gnarled countenances unsurprised
their green leaves tsking in agreement
the whole copse swaying disappointed
a picture of bereavement

The river runs swiftly by
sighing rippling sighs
babbling and laughing over rocks
at me
playfully teasing my failure
with fluid hilarity

The emerald blades below
ripple with disapproval
tickling my feet of clay
so I will leave the ground
and finally
be on my way

They keep misunderstanding
like if I reached a little farther
jumped a little higher
worked a little harder
it would be easily in my grasp
nature is demanding
don’t quit

Yet the earth just doesn’t get
I can see the blue of the sky
but I will never feel it
my visions always exceed my range
I am tired of always leaping
for something that will never change

So I fall short
back to the earth
a hostile, unwilling host
to gaze up at the sky
a stunningly blue, eternal almost

Just a quick PS, I have created a tumblr page to post my writing on, so if you are on tumblr please go and follow my tumblr page!

The Best Advice

Snippet Four

Be kind.
I think that is the best advice you can give yourself or any other person. Two words– it is as simple as that.
People will try to argue this, to tell you that the world doesn’t allow for kindness; that you cannot be kind without getting hurt. So it follows in these people’s minds that they cannot be kind because the world isn’t kind, and will not be kind to them if they are kind.
This is circular reasoning– it is an excuse. Perhaps in the course of being kind, yes, someone will destroy me. But if I can inspire even one other person to be kind, it is worth it. For all I know, they may be more successful than I, and inspire one hundred people, or a thousand, to be kind. Or possibly, just like me, they will change only one or two others.
However– when you plant seeds, if even one plant blooms we count it as a success. And within that one plant is the potential of countless seeds, dispersed over a lifetime, and each one containing within themselves the possibility of growth and new life.
Patience is the key here. Changing the world, this world that people claim is too unkind to allow kindness, is not the work of a day, or a year. It is a slow process. But we must have infinite patience, for what more worthy task exists than tending to our own existence?
So be kind– no excuses, and with a brave, open heart. And commit yourself to being patient with a world that is just waiting to bloom.

Credit: Michelle Marshall Photography