Is Self-publishing for Losers

If you’d asked me ten years ago if I thought my book Dear Manolo would ever come to light, I would probably have said, of course—one day. If you told me how hard it would be to make that goal a success, I would probably have asked, “seriously,”? But, unfortunately, I found out the cold hard truth is that getting published is not as easy as it sounds. In the beginning, I sent out countless, okay, I’m exaggerating (20 to be exact) queries—many of the letters weren’t even greeted with a response. But even the few that were kind enough to do so weren’t interested in my project. No one seemed intrigued with the concept of a modern-day Cinderella story. My fictional adaptation of magical realism wasn’t anywhere on their radar. I was utterly disheartened at first, but then I got the idea—urged by my husband that if there weren’t going to be any traditional takers—if I wanted to get it done, I would have to self-publish. 

At the start, I felt like I was taking the loser’s way out. Not hearing back from agents and editors made me feel like my work wasn’t good enough. Even though I had written for several online publications and had the experience of interviewing some notable people, I was convinced—from the repudiation that my talents were sub-par at best. Regrettably, that introspection would carry over to my writing and, at times, curtailed me from completing personal projects. 

If I wasn’t working on a feature or essay for one of those publications–one of the few places I felt my writing was appreciated—I would procrastinate in finishing my book. Surfing back and forth between my blog writing and social media networking, I would try to make an effort to complete the work, but I found it difficult and felt uninspired. 

Before I had a solid draft worth ascribing into print, it took five years, give or take. So that, along with procuring the necessary funds to see it to fruition, proved to be a long and arduous journey. But if I wanted my story read, then this was the only logical path. I convinced myself that if I genuinely believed in the nonsense, I would have stopped writing a long time ago. Although it’s encouraging to receive praise from professionals in the literary world, however, when you don’t or when the feedback you receive is less than stellar, it’s important to remember why you started writing in the first place. I know my reason is to convey new ideas and sentiments, propose unconventional outcomes in a story, and hopefully entertain and amuse my readers. Once I reaffirmed my acceptance and trust in myself, I was well on my way.

And even with the firm belief that I was a good enough writer, I questioned my choice, was I taking the easy way out? The answer came swiftly–no, I wasn’t! Had I successfully acquired an agent and published traditionally, that would have made the process much easier. In addition, an entire team to handle all of the editing, design, marketing, and distribution would have made the creative process so much smoother. But I didn’t go that route, and even though I’ve taken so long to reach the finish line, I’m glad that I didn’t give in to the false acceptance that I’m just not good enough.

When it comes down to it, I know what I like. Although I will always need a second (maybe a third) set of eyes on my work and trust and rely on other’s opinions from time to time, publishing my book myself has been an extraordinary learning experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything—except a multi-million dollar book deal. Just kidding.

Creative Writing and Why You Need a Writers Group

Do any of these situations sound familiar to you?

You’re dragging and procrastinating, unable to get your thoughts straight and find your inspiration? Or, you’re right in the thick of it when your creativity dwindles from a robust flow to a drip. Or, you start your writing assignment with vigor and anticipation; the ideas flow endlessly, but is it your best work? Of course, any or all of these situations can happen to writers, at least sometimes throughout the creative process. But, if and when it does, what do you do?

Here are three good reasons to join a writers group. Whether you choose to interact virtually or in-person, a writers group can give you the push you need to keep going or the motivation to get started–

  1. INSPIRATION— More often than not, writers are told to “write what you know.” This method implies writing about your own experiences, a particular trade that you’re proficient in, or observations you’ve made in life. It seems easy. Not always. So obviously, the first thing any writer needs to get moving on an essay or story is a good topic, idea, or set of ideas. The best place to bounce off concepts is in a group of other writers. Situating yourself in the company of like-minded individuals will likely jumpstart your creative juices. Sometimes just listening to other people’s experiences is a helpful way to move the process forward. Ask questions of your fellow writers—what are their hobbies, interests, or observations? How are these ideas/experiences similar to yours—or not? That “not” could be the jumping board. Follow up with—what could’ve happened instead of x, or what would I have done differently? Asking questions like this while in a creative setting with honest feedback can get the ball moving and propel you onward in your approach.
  1. CHALLENGE—Posing your ideas in a writing community is the best way to get going when you’re stuck. At this point, you have your beginning structure, but you can’t get past that. Sometimes just taking a break and stepping away from your work is enough to clear your mind and get your thoughts in order. Other times you need a fresh perspective—you require another set of eyes and ears to revitalize a weak narrative. Once again, laying out your story among other creatives is the way to go. I don’t know about you, but I get so tired of re-reading my work. I can never decipher the errors or decide when I should change things up. There always seems to be the same old familiar flow in my voice, but that doesn’t mean others will interpret it that way. My advice is to let someone else read through your completed work. When I first joined my group, it was one of the first exercises we utilized. Each member passed around their project, and we all took turns reading each other’s work. When they read my piece, I immediately started taking notes on what I interpreted that needed restructuring. Having a partner sound off what worked for them versus the message  I was displaying gave me a more precise direction. It doesn’t mean you have to change your view if it’s a solid one. If, after hearing from several other “voices,” you’re not convinced you should alter your wok, then don’t.
  1. POLISH—Now that your story has some legs, give it the momentum it needs to follow through. Sometimes all a good story needs to be a great one is tailoring and tightening up. It can be as simple as re-positioning word structure, better known as editing. Once more, relying on the trusted aid of your literary peers is what will take your piece to the next level. Unless you are a skilled editor, and in that case, you can skip this section— having a set or several trained eyes review your work is the final frontier in writing (aside from publishing). I am lucky enough that my congregation has a host of writers with different skill levels. Some are accomplished book authors or write for news publications. There are bloggers and book reviewers. Others are first-time book authors like myself. Some of the more adept writers offer to look over segments of your work that you feel may need fine-tuning. Unfortunately, I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity while in my writer’s group; at the time, I wasn’t that far along with my piece and didn’t think I needed it. And I stopped going after a while because of the distance. However, I now realize how valuable and vital it is to use these options when presented to you—even when you’re in the early stages, a new viewpoint can be beneficial. Now that locations are opening up again, I’m going to give it another go. I have some new pieces I’m working on, and I will need their expertise and camaraderie. And while nothing will ever take the place of hiring a seasoned editor, getting a preliminary look at your work will make the overall process a less daunting task.

Why I Wrote Dear Manolo in First and Third Person POV.

Linda Jamison

Yes, folks I’m a rule breaker. While many writers and book experts will have you believe that you need to choose a specific point of view when writing your book I decided not to follow that rule. I say this because more than a few times have I perused the internet for advice and guidance always to find that this standard applied. I understand the concept and that in some instances it may provide a clearer expression of your narrative and guide the reader more directly. However, I found that I needed to use both points of view in order to do exactly that. 
Why is that? I’m so glad you asked. Writing in first person is the way for me to tell the story through my main character’s eyes. Amanda concisely recites her thoughts and personal observations throughout the book. But the other characters would have never really had a true voice if I’d left their experiences only to when Amanda has interaction with them. For me, there is more going on in the story even when Amanda is not present and that part of the story needed to be told in third person. In order to make this work without confusing my reader I use clear verbiage and page breaks to notify the reader that the scene was changing and another character’s voice and experience is present. 
I will probably get a lot of flack from utilizing this strategy but it was an experiment of sorts. When I first wrote the book Dear Manolo it was actually an adaptation from a screenplay I had previously written. Obviously the entire structure was in third person POV. But during a writers group I was tasked to re-write the story in first person. I followed the prompt and found that I really liked that idea until it came to stretching it out among the other characters and scenarios. It seemed one-sided to me. So I thought I would experiment with two POV’s. In the end I am confident that I wrote a good story with palpable and crisp style elements that most readers will find relevant. 

Inspiration behind DEAR MANOLO

Why All the Shoe Love Linda?
I’m sure you all might be wondering why I have this sudden admiration for the Manolo Blahnik shoe? Well, it is actually been a brand I have romanticized for years and years and although I don’t own one single pair—no surprise there; they are exquisite but extremely expensive—in my heart I know they are one of the most finely crafted pieces of footwear. I may have to go the consignment path—secondhand doesn’t mean secondhand love. I’m talking to you #Tradesy and #TheRealReal.  And the designer, Mr. Blahnik puts such care, dedication and emotion into his craft it’s as if he has a “magic touch”.  Hence, my inspiration for the book, Dear Manolo which I actually started with a screenplay back in 2008. It was after a visit to Los Angeles for the Hollywood Film Awards that I had an inspiration to write my first screenplay of another title. Soon after I would challenge myself to delve into another. Five years later I re-adapted the screenplay into a novel form. And two years later it was perfect enough—I thought it to be ready for queries. But as we all know in the writing world queries don’t often end up with a book deal. So here I am hopelessly, selflessly and  unapologetically self-promoting.!  So keep an eye and ear out for further details. Dear Manolo—coming soon.