I have been a writer for as long as I can remember. In elementary school, its all I would do. Scribble stories about fairies and dragons on my math papers, read all through recess, write epic poems about what we had for lunch that day.
I wrote what I would consider to be my first novel when I was in eight grade. It was awful. I don't even have an electronic copy anymore, but I do have an old printed out version in the attic at my parents house. I cringe just thinking about it.
I became a "serious" writer when I won my first National Novel Writing Month. Its a challenge The Office of Letters and Lights holds every November to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I won my first one in 2011, a rewrite of my sinful first novel, and this one wasn't much better. But I've done NaNoWriMo every year since then, and a few of the Camp NaNoWriMos held over the summer as well. Not a single one of those will see the light of day, but I enjoyed it. It was always fun for me, to dedicate myself to writing for a month, even if it was on top of school and work and a social life. And I would like to think I became a little more skilled each time.
I got very sick when I was in 11th grade, and I was out of school for most of the year. My cousin had told me how one of his favorite authors, someone I can't remember the name of anymore, had passed away before he had finished his book series, and had a friend finish for him with his notes. I wasn't sick enough to be concerned about that, but still, I thought about it. What would happened if I never got any of my stories out there?
Writing was never about the fame or money, because lets be honest, both of those are seriously lacking in this career. It was always about making something bigger than myself, making people and stories and a world. That idea has always been very comforting to me. Maybe I can't fight dragons, but my characters can. Maybe I can't go to school every day, but my characters can. Maybe I can't live in a world with magic, but my characters can.
Getting published is very difficult. Extremely. I think most people know that J.K Rowling was turned down by a handful of publishers before she was able to get Harry Potter out. And it wasn't because it wasn't a good book, but because the timing wasn't right, or the publisher had something similar coming out and they didn't want it to conflict.
Stories that are a little more "out there" or about topics people don't often discuss, such as mental illness or disability, are harder to get out. Stories about LGBT+ issues are hard to get out. Novellas are hard to get out. Pitching a story I knew was different, as a novella, wasn't going to go over well. I knew this. Every article, advise blog, and interview told me this. I'm not saying this is right, stories of all kind should be shared. I'm just saying this is the reality.
And don't get me wrong, if a publisher contacted me and wanted to pick up one of my stories, I would jump on board in a second. But for Prison 917, self publishing felt right. Its my first published work. I want to do everything. I want to do the website, the marketing, the social media following, the editing, everything. Even if it doesn't do well. Even if I sell 5 copies and everyone hates it. I wanted the entire thing to be mine.
I would like to pretend that all of this comes naturally and it was super easy for me to whip together a novella and get it out there. But it hasn't been. It took about a year to write the story (and its only about 60 pages long), then about three months of just reading about self publishing and marketing, then a month of working on a website, a twitter, a book cover, and editing. This isn't meant to be a list of complains, but self publishing is hard work.
And I've loved every second of it.