I spent ten years tinkering. I always wanted to be a writer (I know, big surprise, totally didn't see that coming, and on a blog too), and by God I am one. I wrote the fantasy novel I always wanted to shortly after moving to the UK. I only started my menial and mind numbing job at 10am, so I had plenty of time beforehand to write. I did this in a coffee shop, because of course I did. That's what we do, when trying to be writers.
With my book finished I had my girlfriend read it. She is not a fantasy reading kind of girl, but she was proud that I'd managed it and she gave it a read. She loved it, but by the time she was done I knew that the book I'd written was crap, her opinion didn't matter, and I had to rewrite the whole thing.
Sidebar: I genuinely didn't know that what some writers meant by a second draft was really just an extensive edit of the first draft. I believed that the only way to get a novel into shape was to rewrite it, over and over, and over, until it was all shiny and ready. There are people who do this, I realise, but they are crazy, and I should never have listened to them. Also, this was before I had regular access to the internet, so my information sources were limited.
To continue: I rewrote the book, turning it from a svelte 160 000 words to a true Big Fat Fantasy, at 260 000 words. The story got better, the writing got much better, and I handed it to my wife to read (this was the same woman as before, but she'd morphed into a wife while I was busy writing). She dutifully read it, pointing out that the middle was dragging but it was otherwise very good. I distrusted her and had some other people read it, just to be sure. They seemed to like it too.
So I sent it off to some agents. One at a time, as is the tradition, with all the necessary accoutrements. And they, one at a time, told me to bugger off. Nicely, politely, with carefully constructed form letters.
This book was my big book, the beginning of my awesome future as a world dominating writer, and nobody wanted it. Which I know is perfectly normal, but it stung my baby-writer ego.
I kept following the advice of other writers and wrote stories and entered competitions, and kept plugging away at it. I changed genres as I went, moving into science fiction, because fantasy has too few cyborgs.
Then, one day, I wrote something good. The other stuff was alright, serviceable, I think. This, though, was actually good.
This came as a surprise to me, because even before the big fat fantasy and the little fat fantasy (is that a thing?) that came before it, I'd been writing stuff. Not complete stuff, or stuff I was happy with, but stuff. Words arranged into stories that, at the time of writing them, I thought were pretty good.
I had been wrong, I now knew. Those words had been arranged badly. They were dog shit on the shoes of my new and great story. I sent it off, poste haste, sure that this would be the one that made my name.
This may come as a surprise to you (because you live in a cave and haven't been on the internet until today), but getting an agent is hard. Like, really hard, man. So of course this wasn't accepted anywhere. And of course I took it to mean things it never meant, like that I wasn't meant to be doing this, for example. I've been rejected by the best agents from around the world, and several crappy ones. I've had some of them want to read my stuff, but they've all passed. That book, the first one I thought was actually pretty good (and still do), was soon joined by another two, that I actually think are better. Nobody was interested in them either. Because they're bastards, one and all.
I have an alternate theory though. Maybe they aren't all bastards (they are, of course, but for the sake of argument please go with me here). Maybe my stuff, which some of them liked but didn't think they could place, or liked but thought it was a little late to catch a literary wave, or didn't even bother reading (this happened too often for my liking), wasn't publisher material. Maybe the stuff I enjoyed reading, and therefore writing, wasn't selling out in the world.
Or maybe it was me. I'd won some competitions, had some agents say they "enjoyed your stuff, but..." and I thought I was pretty good, but maybe I wasn't. So I stopped submitting. I still wrote, of course. I've been doing that too long to stop just because nobody reads me. I spent a summer holiday in high school learning to use an actual, old fashioned typewriter, for God's sake. I lacerated my fingers on that stupid thing, feeding it my blood and, I believe, my soul. Something silly like not being read wasn't going to stop me. Feeding my soul to that typewriter meant I was trapped in this life, obscurity be damned.
Then, while plugging away at some more writing (it's kind of my thing), the whole publishing world went to shit, because Amazon decided that self-publishing was a pretty good idea and we should all get on board.
OK. I'll get on board.
I've read blogs and articles by traditionally published authors who claim that the publishing industry is a fantastic wonderland, and self-publishers (henceforth referred to as "indies", because that's what all the cool kids are saying) are regurgitating their crap on unsuspecting readers. I've read blogs and articles from indies (see, it is a cooler word) that claim the traditionally published are full of shit, and are being taken for a ride. There are some compelling stories from both sides, but only one side lets me write what I want to write, and then give it to people to read.
Actual readers. You lot. You can read my stuff, and nobody can stop you. They can bitch about it. They can try to convince me not to inflict myself on you (nobody, thus far, has tried to convince me of that. But I hear their voices, even now). What they can't do is slam the door in my face anymore. And they can't slam it in yours. They can't decide what you should be reading.
So, to sum up: I've spent a bunch of time writing, mostly for fun. I will continue to do so, even if I have to do it in my own blood on the walls of a post-apocalyptic cave. I'm going to put this writing in a place where people I don't know can read it. I will live with the consequences.
Thanks for reading. Now go buy a book. Preferably one of mine, but if you don't want to do that then buy some other guy or gal's book. Buy two, books make great gifts.