Recently, I shared more information about my upcoming novel – Take Me Tomorrow – and that included fan art I received from a very talented fan during the time in which Take Me Tomorrow was posted on Wattpad.com.
That’s when I received a fantastic question from Taking on a World of Words.
I love this question, and because of Taking on a World of Words, I am writing this blog post today. It will include a backstory as to why I even joined Wattpad, but I promise I will get around to how Take Me Tomorrow went from Wattpad to AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. That being said, most of my events are going to sound like they aren’t connected to Wattpad, but they are, so please bear with me as I describe the events that happened to me over the years of publishing. Yes – years. So this is a rather long post, but I think it will be helpful to those that want an insight into the ups-and-downs of publishing, Wattpad’s pros and cons, as well as my publishing and writing history. Also, this will be my last blog post of May. I am taking a blogging break, but I have wonderful guest bloggers set up that I’m announcing in two days. Now onto the story -
Disclaimer: Publishing – especially self-publishing and sponsored publishing – was VERY different in 2007. It was beyond taboo. It wasn’t even heard of. The Kindle was not even around for another four years, and there were no support groups online that I could find at the time. This is a huge factor in the story I’m about to tell.
2007: Publication as a Downfall
I was first published in 2007 with my first novel, November Snow. I was 16. I don’t mention this age because I’m proud of it. In fact, I’m rather saddened by it, because it ultimately was my downfall. I talked about this in my recent interview with Whispers in the Dark, but this is the basic story:
November Snow was published in 2007. Three months later, I received a letter from a vanity press. (At least, that’s what I would call it.) They said they had a copy of my manuscript – which I never sent them – and they were going to publish it because I did not have the “right” to own my copyright as a minor. They had bought a copyright instead, and they were claiming they now owned it. Because of this, I had to pull my novel – that I had worked so hard on after my mother’s sudden death – off of the “shelves” immediately.
It became a rather large battle, but it resulted in my father owning the copyright since I was not a legal adult at the time (and that was a factor at the time.) Even then, I was emotionally crushed. I didn’t want to release it again. I didn’t want to share it. I was simply afraid it would happen all over again. So I only sold copies to people I ran into in person, and I told myself I was done with publishing.
Of course, even though I was done with publishing, I wasn’t done with writing.
2008-2009: Writing in Private
I spent the next few years only writing for myself (and a few trusted readers who were interested in my work.) By the time I graduated from Blue Valley High School in 2009, I was more focused on college than I was on getting published. I don’t believe I was even interested in getting published ever again. I just wanted to write. So I went to the University of Kansas to study psychology.
2010: Take Me Tomorrow on Wattpad
During my freshman year, I switched to an English major because I found myself more and more drawn to my original love of language. This is around the same time I heard about Wattpad. I was in my first (and it turned out to be my only) fiction-writing class, and I befriended a girl who had recently joined and enjoyed it for finding “writer-friends” purpose only. She didn’t share her work. She just networked, and she sent me an email with the link.
Hesitantly, I joined as shanashlee23.
I networked with a few great writers, read some fantastic stories, and I got to the point where I wanted to share something – just SOMETHING – and see what happened. Plus, it made it easier to meet fellow readers and writers if I had something on my profile.
At the time, I was writing Take Me Tomorrow. (I will explain my inspiration for TMT in another post.) But I didn’t think too much of it. I just uploaded the first three chapters. And the next morning – I had readers. I had votes. I had comments.
I was blown away. I even remember seeing the little orange rankings explaining how high up it had gotten. I wish I could remember one thing though. A girl had commented, encouraging me to submit my manuscript to a publisher, because she loved how refreshing the story’s concept was. Her little comment seriously changed my outlook on things.
I took a step back, and I evaluated why I had given up. Realizing that I had allowed myself to be crushed for 3+ years was the hardest part. I couldn’t blame anyone but myself. It didn’t matter that a publisher tried to take advantage of a young writer. It didn’t matter that I fought. It mattered that I gave up. It mattered that I didn’t get back up.
Even worse, I stopped sharing Take Me Tomorrow completely.
I was literally afraid of praise. I thought it would pressure me into continuing into publishing that I wasn’t ready for. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the praise. I wish I could say it helped me believe in myself again – but only I can be in charge of my confidence, and in 2010, I was anything but confident.
2011-2012: A Tragedy
I finished Take Me Tomorrow in private. I even stopped sharing the manuscript with the trusted readers I mentioned. (In fact, when I recently told them it would be published, they were shocked. They thought I gave up on it years ago.)
I only wrote for myself. But I will say this – my fiction-writing class left a sour taste in my mouth. It truly disappointed me. So much so that I decided to focus on another genre: poetry.
I enrolled in Megan Kaminski’s Poetry Writing I class, and I fell in love. (Not that I wasn’t nervous. I was ridiculously nervous, and I cringe anytime I think of the very first poem I turned in.) But I enjoyed it. I actually enjoyed it. And I enjoyed sharing my poems with other writers for the first time in a long time, so I continued to study poetry instead of fiction, and I studied poetry into 2012.
It was the first semester of my senior year. I was feeling better about poetry and more confident in my writing, but – even better- I got to have a class with my roommate – Kristine Andersen – for the first time in our three years of college, and my professor was accepting submissions for a poetry collection to be published. I was nervous. I didn’t submit. Not right away anyway.
Unfortunately, if you’ve been with me since 2012, then you know what happened: my roommate – Kristine Andersen – passed away.
I don’t know how to explain to everyone how crushing it can be to return to a class you share with someone – someone you saw every day – someone you lived with for years – to hear roll call and her name to not be listed anymore. Moments like that aren’t something even a seasoned writer can explain fully. Moments like that are wordless.
But that’s when a surprise came over me.
My fellow classmates had pushed all the desks into a circle. This was something we did at the beginning of every class. But there was something different about that day. They put Kristine’s chair in the circle. Even though she had been gone for over two weeks and I had just returned after taking a break from classes, they put her chair in our circle.
I don’t think I remember what we discussed at all that day. (My apologies to the wonderfully talented Ms. Kaminski. I was not in a good mind state for a long time after Kristine passed.) I just stared at her chair. I could not look away from her desk. I just watched it…But I did get a flyer from Kaminski that day. She was reminding everyone of the poetry collection again.
Almost uncontrollably, I believed that if I couldn’t get published for myself, I wanted to be able to do it for Kristine. I told myself it was the least I could do. I told myself it was the best thing I could do. In fact, I still had a manuscript of Kristine’s in my folder from the month before. She wanted me to read it and tell her how she could improve it. Now that she was gone, all I could think about was how she wrote and how we discussed our writings together.
So I submitted on the basis that Kristine would’ve submitted – fearlessly and wonderfully.
That December, Poems: a collection of works by twelve young Kansas poets was published. I went to the event to read my poems, never knowing what I would see. I held the collection in my hands, and I opened it to the first page. That’s when I saw the little words: Dedicated to Kristine Andersen.
Again, I can’t explain that emotion. I can’t, and I won’t try to pretend that I can. I am not capable of explaining my emotions about this yet. Maybe in the future. But not yet. Maybe never. It had only been two months since we lost her, and – here I was – trying to keep it together to read four little poems I wrote.
2013-2014: Determined to Begin Again
From that moment on, I knew I had to pursue publication again. I will be truthful when I say I took my Wattpad account down. I didn’t think it would look good to a publisher if they saw that I was giving away my novels for free. (I now regret this decision because I wish I could reconnect with those readers who encouraged me. I wish I could thank them. I wish I could do a lot of things, but I can’t change the past.)
I began submitting Take Me Tomorrow to publishers, but I knew it would be a long, tedious process, so I decided I was going to self-publish an older novel of mine in the meantime. Yes. Believe it or not, this “older” novel is Minutes Before Sunset. Originally, I really didn’t want this novel to be the one that went under contract, but – alas – the world has a funny way of working out. AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. came across my website through Twitter. Yes, Twitter. And they asked me if I had anyone to represent me. I didn’t, and they were interested. Within a few months, I was signed with them, and I couldn’t be happier. I even dedicated Minutes Before Sunset to Kristine Andersen and Megan Paustian, my other roommate at the time.
In a way, publishing Take Me Tomorrow is a moment I’ve been searching for since 2012. This publication feels like my career is coming in a full circle. I feel like it will help me grow into my next stage of writing. I feel like this is my next stage.
Yes, it began on insecurities. Yes, it was shared on Wattpad. Yes, it was taken down. Yes, I made mistakes, even mistakes that still twist my heart into guilty pieces. Yes, I fell down over and over and over again. But – no – I didn’t stay down. This time was different.
I got back up, and I’m going to keep on standing.
P.S. If you’re gut is telling you to share your story on Wattpad, follow that instinct. I understand the concerns fellow writers have had about their stories and concepts being stolen, but that happens when you’re published, too. Just take the proper precautions before sharing your story with the world. I am back on Wattpad, and I truly believe it’s a fantastic community of encouragement and passion. Please join me on there by clicking here.