I graduated from university in July 2010, more than ready to never sit an exam again.
Autumn came around quickly and I was still looking for a job, with more spare time than the VIVA channel could ever possibly fill. After three years of independence, I was back home, sleeping on a cat hair-covered couch and sending job applications into the void. I turned to Erin Brockovich, ultimate badass chick, for inspiration and lines about effing ugly shoes.
I also turned to writing. I’d written hundreds of essays and reports. Putting together a sentence, cleaning away the crap till it shone brighter than a matte bonnet on a hundred degree day – pfft, I’d been doing that for years. How different could writing a book be?
I stared at the computer screen. The Microsoft Word Paperclip had joined me in my own personal hell. ‘Hey, no good writer starts at the computer,’ I said to myself. ‘I need to go out and get some paper.’
I stared at the blank sheet of paper. Where were these sentences and words? Where was anything? A pop culture reference, a line to grab people’s attention. Wait a second, what time period would my work be set in? Present? Past? Dystopian with mood organs and continents that may or may not resemble America after radioactive fallout/zombie apocalypse/eight years with Arnold Schwarzenegger as president?
‘Writing a book is hard,’ I admitted. ‘I’m going to play Civ IV.’
Days passed. I allied with Elizabeth, and knew she was using me for my longbowmen. Sometime in October 2010 I got a job and moved to the small town of Ballinamore, Ireland. (For those unfamiliar with the area, there are about 1,000 people tops, but they couldn’t be nicer. They say good morning to you even if they don’t know you, which came as a bit of a surprise after living in a place where strangers only speak to you if you’re blocking their view on the 8:15 bus ride to work.)
No matter what I did, I still couldn’t get the idea of writing a book out of my head. Living alone in a new place with no TV had also conveniently robbed me of the VIVA channel.
I started writing in early October. The flood gates had opened. Ten thousand words turned into twenty, then twenty into thirty. It was magical. I was finally doing it. One day I decided to leave my book for a week and come back to it with fresh eyes. Seven days later I discovered the work was about as magical as a sump pump in a sanitary sewer.
I canned 50,000 words and started the book which became Torrodil. I was more comfortable writing fantasy, and the sewer novel had helped me develop a voice – warm yet bittersweet, humorous without being showy.
By January I had finished my first draft. I came back to England to visit my family and they read parts of Torrodil, rating more than slating. After a couple of months of editing I started sending it out to British agents, all of which politely declined. It hurt, sure, but I knew the stats – especially for first novels – and they weren’t pretty.
I moved on to American agents. ‘The pace is good,’ they said, ‘but there’s not enough romance for a female audience to find this compelling.’
I sacrificed a copy of Twilight, then inserted more romance.
‘The romance is believable,’ another said, ‘but I just didn’t like your main character. Rebellious girls don’t sell.’
The Hunger Games fell from the ether to mock me, and I tuned up the X Factor of Anna Gray.
‘The pace is very good, you throw us into the story quickly and there are some vivid descriptions. Yet I didn’t find the novel as gripping as I’d hoped.’
The dream was over. Hell, my skin had gotten so thick from rejection I couldn’t even pull a Joplin anymore. Living alone for the first time was pretty depressing, too. It was strange to have silence at 2 AM instead of Finnish heavy metal, or go into the kitchen and find the floor clean instead of covered in meringue from a Baked Alaska explosion.
Somehow the months had continued to drift on by without me noticing. People had Moved Like Jagger and dislocated their hips. At the end of August 2011 I decided to self-publish on Amazon, fully aware that the traditional publishing route would be closed off to me.
Two weeks on, I’m still okay with that. I like talking to blog reviewers instead of having someone else do it for me. Through doing so I’ve discovered a lot of great books I may never have found otherwise. So far the few reviews I’ve gotten on Amazon and Goodreads have been positive, and I’m grateful to be able to share my work with the world after keeping it to myself for almost a year.
Right now, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The original post was published on Luke Geraghty’s blog.