Over the years I’ve written several short books. Usually it’s to get an idea out of my head, or work through a scenario on paper. Once I write it, I tend to put it away without letting anyone else read it. Perhaps writing is more therapy than anything for me, and once it’s been dealt with, it’s laid to rest.
But this past summer, I really got the writing bug. I wrote a 20,000 word draft and felt it was something I shouldn’t keep to myself. So over the past 6 weeks, I’ve gathered up a group of people from reading groups and asked them to read it for feedback.
Sending out my work was terrifying. As soon as I’d hit the Send button on my email, I nervously obsessed over every word in my story as I imagined these people reading my work. God, what was I doing? Who was I fooling? Could I really pull off being a writer?
The first response rolled in. Then the second. Then the third. The people who read it loved it. Some were more critical than others, and that’s okay. I needed the criticism to grow. They were constructive and detailed without being hurtful or mean-spirited.
Variations of the phrase “strong narrative voice” kept coming up. Apparently that’s one of my better qualities, at least with the draft. “Sexy” and “emotional” were others.
I felt invigorated. Maybe I really could build something from this. I was excited by the prospect.
The story is about a cancer survivor who has a chance encounter with a merman in the icy waters of San Francisco. As he delves into a dark and mysterious world he never knew existed, he discovers danger is lurking behind every corner.
Using cancer in the storyline was a risk for me because I used inspiration from my own life. If the story tanked or was ripped to shreds, the impact could have felt deeply personal, even if it wasn’t. But it seems to be paying off, and perhaps my experience offered an authenticity to the story because it was written by someone who lived it. (Thanks cancer.)
So what’s next? I’m working with an editor to help me develop it into a full-length novel. Then I would like to self-publish it next year. I can already tell you there’s no way a traditional publisher would touch this. Graphic gay sex scenes are a tough sell for a traditional publisher, and they’d probably want to make the merman a mermaid instead. I would rather publish it myself and market it to a smaller audience, and I’d still be able to sleep at night feeling like I’d kept my voice.
My terrifying tale wasn’t so terrifying at all. I’m glad I put myself out there, letting readers give their honest feedback on something I’d written. Stay tuned for more developments!