Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Writing A Story - Inspiration

There's a part of me that wakes me up at three in the morning, my heart pounding hard at the idea of a new book that's suddenly popped into my head, inspired by the days events, a movie we watched, or a random comment someone made. I sleep with my phone on next to me, my morning alarm to wake me up, and I use the notepad feature to write these ideas down so they don't disappear when I wake up in the morning.

I've started over twenty books and my first official finished one was in December of 2013. It probably would have been another two years before that one was finished if it wouldn't have been my inspiration to get it done.

My Nana (Dad's Mom) loves to read. As long as I can remember, she's had stacks of books that she plows through in a week and trips to the library are frequent. She's not big on thrillers, science fiction, or fantasy but prefers books set in historical times about places she's visited or murder mysteries that are so complex, they make my head spin. My Dad's love of history comes from her and they read huge books full of history and promptly memorize facts I've never even heard of before.

Ever since I started writing, I liked talking to her about the process and about how nervous I was to show my books to anyone. We never really got into plots very much but she mentioned more than once that someday she wanted to read my books, knowing full well I didn't write the sort of things she normally liked to read. Two and a half years ago, while doing a somewhat innocuous surgery, they discovered by accident that she had stage 2 pancreatic cancer. The stats on pancreatic cancer aren't good at all but she was a bit off the charts considering they found it at stage 2 when it's normally found at stage 3 or 4 where there is nothing you can do but go home and live out your 6-24 months quietly. Even knowing that, she got very depressed and every topic of discussion led back to the things that would happen after she was gone including who she was going to give her stuff too. I wrote her a note around that time, telling her I hoped she would better soon and also saying that she couldn't go anywhere until I'd finished one of my books for her to read. With a new goal in mind, I started serious work on the book I had closest to being finished. I was of two minds about the work, wanting to get it done for her to read but not wanting to give it to her and be like "It's okay for you to leave now."

I was sixteen when all of this happened and my writing self at sixteen was a bit different than my writing self now. My book wasn't even written in a straight line but with bits and pieces going off in every direction, a proper mess. It was discouraging to even try and I put it off for a long time. January of 2013 came with a new resolve to work on it properly and I dedicated time to it a little bit every day (when I didn't get distracted by Pinterest or my blind depression about actually getting it done in time). I set a goal in mind, deciding I was going to get it done by Christmas '13. To force myself to stick to my self-imposed goal, I started telling my family members and friends who in turn began to ask me whenever they talked to me about how my progress was going.

A lot happened during 2013, mentally and physically for me. Recovering from physical problems, a weighted down schedule, and the unexpected move-in of my other Grandma, it was a little harder than expected. Even so, I worked hard and stayed up a lot of late nights. A lot of plot got changed, characters got added and subtracted, pages got written only to be totally deleted the next day, and somehow, I managed to let someone read it for the first time in November.

I've never been a person to let other people read what I write. As I'm sure is the case for most people, writing a book is a bit like writing my diary. Everything is personal to me and the characters are a part of me. The idea of giving that to someone else to critique and possibly not even like was very difficult but something I knew I was going to have to face. I had help with editing from family members and everyone who read it offered critiques and corrections. It was nice but it was really hard. I can only imagine what it must be like from someone who doesn't know you and is interested in selling a book, not necessarily sparing your feelings.

As it was, I got the book done in time for Christmas and Nana was very excited when she got it. My letter to her managed to get tears from most of the family and I felt something new as a writer. The feeling of other people knowing what I'd written and thinking it was good. Did they totally love it? No. Did they think it was going to be a best seller? My family is way to honest for that. In spite of those things, everyone who read it said it was pretty good and my younger sister even told me it was the best book she'd ever read (she's a little biased but hey, I'll take it :)

I self published the book on Kindle to be able to allow Nana to read it and probably would have left it at that if it weren't for my older brother. He told me he was going to find a way to market it and figure out how the process worked. This was a few months ago and even now, we're on the dizzying road that is trying to market someone like me who has no name and whose book is in with a few thousand no name writers trying to get their work out there. My brother found me a cover artist who gave me a great cover and started reading everything he could about sale tactics. To date, my book has sold (ready for it?) 18 copies and had 2 returns making 16 buys that aren't from friends or family. I'm shocked it's that many, especially when I pull open the book and groan to myself, wishing my first book had been a little better. I'm tempted many days to take it down and totally redo it until I remind myself it's a first book and very few people do well on a first book especially when its been self-published.

I learned a lot through the whole experience, mostly the fact that my grammar and punctuation are a lot worse than I initially realized. Sorry Aunt T for all the purple marker you had to use up. Embarrassing...

So, now you've gotten to hear about the birth of Only Human, my first novel. It's available on Amazon and has exactly one review from my oldest sister and editor. She says it has a lot of potential and that I'll get to be a better writer as I get older. I only hope she's right.

I finished a novella in February which I'll probably be uploading soon and am working on my sequel to Only Human, Human Nature. I have a short story in the works and a thousand ideas bursting out of my head, wanting me to work on them instead of what I've set my mind to work on. My goal for Human Nature is a thousand words a day and a hopeful finish with editing by the end of the year. Hopefully I won't get so many hating reviews on my first one at that point, I'll actually have an audience for my second one :)

Write again soon,

Anna Leigh

P.S. A link to my book just in case you're interested in checking it out :)

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