STEP BY STEP
My dear friend Christina has asked me to share a little about my journey towards becoming a self-published author. I thought long and hard about how to condense everything that comes to mind into something that makes sense, and here’s what I have come up with.
In the broader sense, I have always been a writer. Almost as soon as I could spell and knew enough words, I put them together to write stories. Actually, my parents swear that when I was a tiny toddler, I didn’t use my crayons to draw stick figures and flowers and clouds, but to scribble illegible writing in rather neat lines. During my schooldays, I used to write poems and the occasional short story. When others said they wanted to become doctors and teachers and lawyers, I firmly insisted that I’d become a writer. To publish my own book one day has featured in my dreams for years and years.
Without boring you with more ramblings, what I mean to convey by this is: I believe that people who are writers just know. It’s inside their blood. Whether they have wanted to write since childhood or it just hits them in their late 40s, ultimately they have this strong bond with the writing side of their personality. If writing doesn’t come naturally to you and you don’t really WANT to write, it’s not your vocation. If it does and you do, then don’t repress it, because writing can be a wonderful way to deal with your life and can have a cathartic effect, whether as a hobby or a profession.
Some years ago, it became clearer and clearer to me that more than a ‘real’ job, I would be successful with freelance work. While struggling first in Sri Lanka and then in Germany and then again in Sri Lanka to get a grip on life, I searched the internet far and wide for work-from-home opportunities and learned three things:
- There are a million offers;
- Almost all of them are fake, especially if they claim record income;
- It’s best to really do your own thing.
Luck came my way when I found an agency that was looking for web content writers. I made a pittance with them for a year or so, but I stuck to it because I loved writing, because I learnt a wealth of useful things that I had never even known about – especially SEO and writing techniques – and because I now had a plan: to start my own writing business. In 2011, I quit my writing job for them and started on my own. It took some time and lots of effort, but ever since, writing articles for German customers has been my job. While I’m very glad about how well things go, I realized one thing: Writing like this – for others, without being given credit, without much flexibility and with internet marketing directing your steps – had somehow robbed me of my creativity. Gone were time and muse for writing poems or thinking up stories.
The lesson I learnt is that writing and writing are not the same. What I mean is that professional writing like articles for online shops are a totally different matter. I still love what I do and I’ll never give up on it, but I also need an outlet for the creative writer in me. Which is why I finally told myself to make my dream come true and focus on becoming an author of fiction.
I didn’t just plunge ahead and risk drowning or being carried away by the currents. Instead, I read and read and read some more. I absorbed lots of writing tips, I followed other writers and I familiarized myself with all the important guidelines on story writing. All those ideas I had and the drive to just write-write-write got channeled productively by the new knowledge and experiences. Which is why I always reply with two things when somebody asks me for advice on how to become a successful writer:
- Read as much as you can and write as much as you can.
- Never stop learning and improving.
When I decided to self-publish, it seemed kind of terrifying. Again, there were lessons to be learnt and shadows to be jumped over.
I believe it’s important that on the one hand, you don’t lose your joy for writing and your own style as well as the focus on what you like – and that on the other hand, you are not afraid to ask for advice, to learn and to follow certain rules.
I don’t want to forget mentioning one part of my journey to becoming an author: crawling out of my shell. I am what you could call a loner, although I make friends easily and am blessed with some truly wonderful friends and a very supportive husband. Especially when it comes to my writing, I prefer to keep it to myself, to do things my way, and to view every single word as a piece of me. However, I soon realized that this wouldn’t lead me anywhere.
I need criticism. I need to share my work and discuss it with like-minded people. I need to interact with other authors and with potential readers. And once I had gotten over cringing when receiving feedback, sleepless nights wondering what others might think and the urge to let the perfectionist in me have the last say and change everything a hundred times, it actually proved to be fun. I’ve met some amazing people along the way.
So here’s what I think: Even if you don’t choose to self-publish, networking is going to play an important role. Get yourself and your work out there. So what if you earn a negative review or the only ones who buy your book at first are your friends and family? If it’s good enough for you and you have faith in yourself and you are open to what the writing world has to offer, carry on.
I went through phases full of doubt and sometimes I’m too busy to properly focus on my creative writing, but I have never and will never give up. Ultimately, that is probably the one thing I like most about myself, that I’m a fighter. In my eyes, almost every writer is. We fight against prejudice and unfair payments and social norms, and above all we fight with our own insecurities holding us back. But it’s a fight that can be won.
Having lived in Germany and in Sri Lanka with her husband has made her experience the best (and the worst) of two totally different worlds – something that influences her writing. Besides being a romance novel author, she works as a German web content writer and as a translator. When she’s not writing, she’s reading or thinking about writing.
Her first romance novel, When I See Your Face, is now available at Amazon.com. For more information, visit Devika at her website: