Step 1: The journey to non-fiction author
Many years ago now, I was a bright eyed eager journalism student studying at Queensland University, the world was on fire – my friends and I were going to write for a living. Joy to the world.
One of my student buddies had a party that I attended, and that’s when I met him. Cute, athletic, a few years older than myself who I became smitten with. He was successful – he worked in a bank no less! – and owned his own house (he was so young to do so, oh how smart he must be).
The relationship progressed at lightening speed, and before I’d even finished my degree I was married.
I had everything – a gorgeous successful husband, wonderful friends, and pretty soon I would be setting the world on fire with stories and articles that I wrote.
Except happily ever after endings don’t always turn out that way do they? Inch by inch and day by day I’d prefer to stay at home than go out. I saw my friends less and less, as my new husband wanted me to stay at home with him – and of course I wanted to too – we were newlyweds after all.
I don’t really know when I lost myself. Perhaps it was when he started calling me ugly and fat, or when I finally finished my degree and found that finding work as a journalist wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be and had to take a job as an admin assistant.
Or perhaps I started to believe it when he told me I’d never publish a book. I was far too stupid for that, he said.
My confidence has come back slowly over the years, and of course we are no longer together – I was strong enough for that at least.
And when I did get a publishing contract – a real contract from a real publisher – I thought, that’d show him. God I hoped he watched the television morning show when I got interviewed. ”Suck on that,” my eyes said as I looked into the camera and smiled.
But I didn’t write it for him or to prove anything. I did it for me. And I was proud of myself.
I was a non-fiction author. And a bestselling one (in Australia) no less!
Step 2: The chrysalis emergence of the fiction writer
Five years ago the world of publishing changed forever with the birth of a strange looking handheld device – the Amazon Kindle. Not many people knew it then, but that was the start of a revolution for writers.
By that time I was already disillusioned as a writer. Royalty cheques were few and far between, and I had moved onto to other money making pursuits such as investing in the stock market and delving into building niche websites online and monetizing them with adsense and affiliate products.
I had fleetingly thought about writing a book again, but remembered how hard the second one had been as by that time I had a lovely bouncing baby boy to attend to. Writing and babies do not, an alliance, make.
But slowly slowly my ears pricked at hearing authors doing the unthinkable. Publishing their own works directly to Amazon. What an idea! Could it be, could it be?
And around eighteen months ago I published my first book as an independent author. Non-fiction of course – since that was all I thought I was good enough for.
It was a modest success – but by then I was hooked. I had tasted the nectar of opportunity and I wanted to get drunk in it.
All the success stories at that time pointed to one type of author - the FICTION AUTHOR!
I’m a writer, I said with my chest puffed wide. Of course I can write. This fiction thing – it’s just making things up after all. Isn’t it?
The cross over from non-fiction to fiction was not as seamless as I predicted. Now don’t get me wrong – fiction writing is fun - dazzlingly so.
But just because you can write a good non-fiction book – doesn’t mean you know anything about plot, characters, and a three act structure.
My first stories are, at best, mediocre – the latter ones, decent. (Although in my eagerness they are all published in their raw and naive glory under my pen name).
My skills are growing, and as I work my way gradually through the novel I’m writing (32% through the first draft! Wooo!) and devour every writing book I can find from Stephen King’s On Writing to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I can see this is going to be a longer journey, albeit a greater learning one, than I thought.
I’m not pretending that this post is going to end with a happy every after ending. I’m not a successful fiction writer. Not yet anyway. But every day I can see that the road is clearer and less stony. My vision for what is possible as a writer, is coming into better focus, the way the old television channels used to when you fiddled with the antennae.
My hope is that when I look back on this post in one, three, five years time, I’ll swell with pride knowing that even though I struggled at first, it was worth every step, every frustration over what word is best, every blank moment when I yell to the wall – what the f*** happens next?
I still have insecurities. I still wonder if I’m ‘good’ enough or ‘smart’ enough to figure it all out.
I dwell on the fact that perhaps I shouldn’t have published the earlier stuff – that I wasn’t really ready. I wonder if I should leave it up, or take it down.
I contemplate whether I should pursue fiction at all. Or I should go back to what I know best – the non-fiction, which I know I can do, and where all my friends make more money than I do now.
But my heart knows it isn’t about the money, it’s about the journey. It’s about believing.
It’s about writing posts that hopefully inspire others and are not just a self indulging stream of consciousness. It’s about realizing that others no longer have power over you many many years later when their words ‘you’re not good enough’ still echo somewhere deep down inside you.
But most of all it’s about confidence. Maturity. And knowing that there is nothing in this world that can stop you if you want it bad enough. And I do. I want it. I want it baaaad.