Behind the stories

Two weeks from today, the whole world will be able to purchase my new book, Ghost Stories for the Brokenhearted. To celebrate this momentous (for me) occasion, I wanted to share some “behind the scenes” information on the process that got me here. Not the boring, technical stuff (Google. Google like the wind.) but the stories behind the stories.

On Tuesday, August 25th, I’ll be counting down the release of Ghost Stories with a daily BTS, one for each short story in the collection. I’ll explain the history of the story, the thought process that went into creating each one, and maybe answer some questions you didn’t even know you had yet. Stay tuned! It’s going to be fun!

Today, let’s chat a bit about how I went from unpublished schlub to published schlub in the blink of an eye. I mean, it took a little bit longer, but it certainly felt like a blink because the hardest part was deciding to actually go for it.

A quick primer on my writing career: I have been writing since I was a kid. I still have a beat-up folder full of stories I wrote when I was 10-12, and MAN are they bad! But even as Wee Nicole, I knew writing was my calling.

Sadly, life got in the way, and I only very passively wrote anything for most of my adult life. I would participate in a NaNoWriMo here and there, but gave so little weight to what I wrote that I *gasp* deleted it all once the month was over. It was a silly hobby that kept me busy during my boring time as a military wife.

In 2016, however, I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast where she introduced her guest, Rayya Elias, as having had a “big life” after giving a grocery list of things Rayya had done with her life. It was beautiful, and exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I declared right then that I wanted to also have a big life.

I immediately set forth to do as much as I possibly could. I took a SCUBA class, started studying Russian, and, among other things, took a not-for-credit writing class through a local university, and a bunch of other things.

Of all of the new things I jumped into, I only stayed with writing. Looking back, that should have been no surprise to me, but I was pumped enough to keep writing that I enrolled in college immediately. I wanted a degree in creative writing. I wanted to learn how to write well enough to be published and have my stories out for the whole world to read!

Fast forward two years–I had taken all the writing classes I could and realized an English degree wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. There’s nothing I wanted to do that I couldn’t do without that degree. I’d been lucky enough to avoid student loan debt that far, but I couldn’t see the point in investing in a degree that there would be no return on. In spring 2019, I left school to focus on writing.

Problem was, writing is such a solitary activity. I’m an introvert and am totally good with being alone, but I got used to the support system I had in all of my friends from college. I love them all madly but only a couple could understand what I was going through as a writer. The ones who did had lives of their own and couldn’t be there to fill in when I needed someone to kick me in the butt to get writing.

I found my way to AuthorTube, the writing community on YouTube. It looked like fun and, hey, I had a recordy machine! So I signed up with my own channel and started posting.

Fast forward another few months–I had actually done LESS writing during my time on AuthorTube than I had done all of my years at college. The community certainly gave me lots of opportunity to write, with the live write-ins and word sprints and challenges and such. The problem was that I spent more time being social than being a writer. They were so good about being understanding when people couldn’t write for mental health reasons, or just busy life reasons, and I took too much advantage of that. Someone in my situation, (no job, no responsibilities past my front door) should not have been so lazy about writing, and that’s exactly what I was. Lazy. And the goodness of AuthorTube enabled me to be lazy. So, in December 2019, I said goodbye to the community and set out on my own to write.

Lemme tell you guys how much I wrote in 2020 before July–ZERO! There was exactly no writing! I wasn’t even properly editing! I would look through my files, opening stories to edit, closing them when my brain couldn’t focus enough to find issues, or when I found ALL the issues and got overwhelmed. I don’t think anyone could fault a writer for being a mess in The Year of Our Lawd 2020, but I was increasingly disappointed in myself. If I wasn’t writing, was I even a writer? Is that not THE ONE requirement for the job?

It finally occurred to me that my big ol’ block was because I had bogged down the processor of my brain. There were way too many tabs open. If I was going to clear my head enough to be creative again, I needed to close some tabs.

It was the middle of July when I started considering publishing a collection of short stories. It was the end of July when I finally set the goal of seeing it through by October 1st, 2020. That gave me two months to get the stories together, get them edited, and actually learn what it took to self-publish. I was excited! I felt rejuvenated spiritually! This was the right thing to do!

I was so excited that I completed everything on my two-month list in four days. Four. Days. That’s formatting, cover design, editing, you name it! I worked like I was possessed by a demon, but other writers know to take advantage of that flow when it hits because it’s a gift.

Rather than sit on my duff for two months while the publication date crept up, I pushed the release up to September 1st and opted to pass the month of August away by writing a new short story to include in the collection. That took about ten days to finish, complete with edits and beta readers, so I plugged it into the manuscript and that brings us fresh up to this exact moment.

There’s nothing left to do but get the word out that my book exists. I don’t have any delusions of making millions or being famous. I’d just be happy to break even, honestly. With the tabs of these stories now closed, I’m able to start looking both ahead and backwards. I have a YA novel that is about halfway finished (more on that in a later post!) and a new idea for a short story collection about a night market sprang to my head during brunch last weekend. I was able to write the first story in that collection a few days ago, and the second is already bubbling around in my brain.

This, my friends, is progress!

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