Your Path to Publication: Find Your Story

January 28, 2013

Let’s face it.  A lot of you are out there.  You’re plugging away at your blogs…write-on-november-is-national-novel-writing-month-a5349cc216

…But you have another ambition.

You’d like to be an author.  Of a book.  With pages and a cover.

We all know it’s true.  A lot of us get into blogging in the hopes of becoming authors.  When I started blogging over four years ago, becoming an author wasn’t the first thing on my mind.  But as I saw more and more bloggers publishing books, it became a goal for me too, though I wouldn’t admit it to many people.

Well, it’s hard to believe that we are just two months away from April 1, the release of my first book, Life After Art.  It’s an event that I could not have imagined less than a year ago.

So, along with the Creative Giants series, today I’m starting a five part series, which I hope will encourage you, the blogger who would like to cross over into writing your own book someday.

This is my path to publication.

First, 10,000 Hours

It’s easy to think in social media world that it’s easy for anyone to accomplish anything they want to.

But we know it’s not true.

Like I said, I started blogging in October 2008.  It took a good year of solid writing before I figured out what I was doing.  Another year after that to even think that writing could be something I could do outside of the blog.  You know how they say it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something?  Well, I started from square one.

If you are wondering, or discouraged about how long it’s going to take you to achieve your ambitions (any of them), don’t worry.  There really aren’t any overnight success stories, except the made-up ones.

A Couple of False Starts

Life After Art was not the first book I tried to write.

Seriously.  A couple of summers ago, while I was off of school, I thought I had a killer idea for a book.  I didn’t have a publisher, or any connections.  I didn’t tell anyone about my idea.  I just sat down and tried to write.

Then I sat down and tried to write it.  It was garbage.  It was all wrong.  It was a struggle to put words to the page.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I was trying to write something I wasn’t supposed to write.  I was trying to force it.

So I tried again.  Another idea.  Starting fresh.

And another false start.  I hung up my second attempt at a book a couple of weeks later.  I told myself I must not be a real author at heart.  I must be a blogger at heart.  If I were an author, then I would not have failed to write a book.  I had wasted a few weeks and a lot of time and was feeling really discouraged about the whole thing.

“Do You Want To Write a Book?”

At the end of 2010, I met Darrell Vesterfelt.  He just randomly contacted me, because he does that.  So I drove across town, really too far to meet a stranger, and we had coffee.

Over the next few months, we became great friends.  He launched Prodigal Magazine.  I started writing for him.  And one night, I had a phone call with him and his new wife, Ally.

“Matt, do you want to write a book?”

I sucked in my breath, anxious about the question.  I confessed for the first time that I did, and I had actually tried and failed a couple of times.

“Well, let’s think about what you can write about.”  Darrell and Ally said this because they are great encouragers.

The next hour was the key for me.  Sometimes, all you need is someone to be a soundboard for you, to bounce ideas off of.  You need someone to encourage you, to tell you when you have an idea worth pursuing.  Sometimes, you can’t just keep trying and failing in private like I wanted to do.  Life After Art didn’t have a name, but it was conceived just about a year ago in a phone conversation with two friends.

Do you need a sounding board?  An encourager?  Someone to just ask, do you want to?  I’ll be that guy.  Seriously.  Tell us about your writing ambitions, your false starts, your hopes and dreams, and let’s encourage each other.

19 responses to Your Path to Publication: Find Your Story

  1. Wonderful idea, Matt. And how fortunate you were to meet up with Ally and Darrell, and to receive that kind of encouragement. I’m rather on the opposite spectrum than you were…I have a novel in progress…again, at last…thanks to NaNoWriMo 2012…and the germ of an idea for novel #2 (NaNoWriMo 2013?) but am now interested in re-entering the blogosphere. Well, I’ve been *interested* in doing so for years, but needed a new platform. Finally figured that out at the end of last year. In addition, I’m interested in doing more freelance writing. The problem is, I’m a lot better at talking about and thinking about writing than actually doing it. Which I suspect is a common problem.

    Congratulations once again on your upcoming book – though we have never met, I’m very proud of you and encouraged by your publication!

  2. My wife and I went through a 16 month separation and then reconciled back in 2003 and 2004. Ever since then I have thought of writing a book- I have a partial draft done.

    Part of our testimony is that during our separation I relentlessy dug for resources to help me and us, and with Jesus help alot of them did.

    Part of my holdup on writing has been not knowing whether to write our story more or less chronologically and intersperse the resources as they come up in our story, or whether to write about major areas of struggle during separation such as loneliness, depression, finances, sex, etc., the resources that were helpful and then intersperse parts of our story around those sections.

    My desire is to have a book that a person in marital crises can grab ahold of, hear our story- get hope, and then have some practical resources for more help.

    If you spend some time browsing around my blog, and have any thoughts on book structure, that would be great.



    • My recommendation to you comes from my struggle to “start” writing. I had a bunch of jumbled ideas stuck in my head, and was absorbed with trying to organize them before I wrote them down. Don’t do that. Just write! Get everything in your brain on paper, and then print it out, cut it up and start putting the puzzle together. You will feel a hundred times better just pouring out your thoughts than trying to control the process so tightly early on.

  3. I’ve kicked around the idea of taking my blog posts and doing a book out of that. Maybe, maybe not.

    • There is actually a service called blog to print that can take your blog and publish it. A little expensive on a per copy cost, but for a small print- might be great. I am guessing there are similar services out there.

    • Might be a very good idea, Fred – I’ve seen it done, or something very like it, before, and it worked well.

  4. I have read and talked to various bloggers/writers who have wrestled with this whole concept of am I a book writer, or a blogger? I have watched people write books and then start blogs because publishers told them they should, I have watched bloggers write their book on the blog and then compiled it for publication, I have seen bloggers who just vetted ideas on a blog and then got inspired to write a book.

    The more I think about it, it seems to me that writing is the craft and then writers use different mediums or venues for their writing. Some use blogs, some use books, some use twitter, some write screen plays, some write ad copy, some write the ads for the park bench, some share their ideas on FB. Each venue at times appeals to a different audience and may require a different style, but it is all still writing.

    It is sort of like I am a midwest corn, and soybean farmer. I use a combination of machinery, seeds, chemicals, etc. with God’s help to harness sunlight, water and nutrients to produce corn and soybeans. Some farmer in california uses some of those same basic principals of using seeds, water, sunlight along with machinery, chemicals, etc. to produce oranges. Without some further training and understanding I would be lost with some of the details of how to grow oranges and probably he to grow corn and soybeans.

    Sort of like a great book writer maybe lost as to how to take his thoughts throug words and put them together for maximum impact on a blog, and vice versa, a great blogger maybe sort of lost when it comes to the whole writing, publishing, marketing aspects of sharing his thoughts through words in a book.

    • You are right, Rich. Writing is the craft. The medium is up to the writer. I can’t say I’d go for compiling my blog into a paper format. :) But it has been invaluable in honing my craft, and I think probably much more natural feeling than being a book writer, forced to start a blog for the sake of publishing.

  5. Matt, it was great exchanging notes with you last week. I have written two manuscripts, but it seems as if my “platform” is the biggest hurdle. I have been blogging for about 5-6 years but haven’t done a great job of networking evidently. I am sure that you will hit on that aspect, but I am curious about increasing blogger connections. Thanks for your help buddy and best of luck! peace…. brandon

  6. What if you have a story, have spent two years writing and completing a book on that story, built your platform at that same time, work-shopped your book, blogged about it, had excerpts of it published online, had friends and family and strangers read it and tell you to keep going because it’s so good and important, but yet you’ve found yourself at a place where no matter how hard you try, or which connections you reach out to, you can’t seem to get an agent or publisher to pay attention to you?

    That’s where I am. And I could use any help I could get.

  7. I have two “books” in progress right now. One is basically a collection of essays. I have lots of things to say, but not a whole book’s worth to say about them.

    The other is my version of a set of “Jesse Tree” devotionals. All the rest I’ve seen have either completely missed the point of walking through Scripture with an eye toward seeing how the need for a Savior (or the promise of a Savior) is presented, or they’ve been so wildly touchy-feely that _I_ could hardly get through them, much less manage to subject my preschoolers to them. But with “What’s in the Bible” coming out with their own advent devotional, and just the existence of the “Jesus Storybook Bible,” I’m not so sure that my take on things is needed anymore.

    My sister’s a copy-editor with a Master’s degree in Biblical Exegesis. She’s looking over them as she has time to spare. I don’t know that anything will ever come of them, but it’s nice to write down the thoughts that have been “percolating” in my brain.

  8. Short fiction is my passion. I read short story collections and novels that are basically interrconnected short stories. I’ve written a few, and a novella, to the sound of many rejections and much self-doubt. I shelve being an author for a while (reading more fiction the whole time) and renew the desire every few months (sometimes years) or so. I’m not sure if I need to scrap the stories I’ve written so far, being an author, neither, or both.

  9. Wow, what an encouraging post, Matt. Thanks!

  10. I am so far away from a book but have some creative non-fiction and some novel ideas (pun intended) bouncing around upstairs. I’m tossing around the idea of an MFA program to home my skills before really pursuing the job of “writer”. Any suggestions for growing ideas started on my blog or whether it’s a good idea to get a MFA would be most helpful Matt. Love what you do!

  11. That’s such a great story. I just started reading a Circle of Quiet and it’s so encouraging to hear that so many authors struggle before they are published. We so often don’t hear the grunt work and the discouraging times. Thanks for sharing. Headed to check out Prodigal Magazine and your book!
    Lindsey Whitney recently posted..Story Time in the Park: Dinosaurs