I got curious about the Writer’s Journey/Writer History trend thing going around on Instagram where authors are sharing all the books they’ve written and which actually got published, so I decided to list mine out so I could decide if I wanted to share it. I wasn’t sure I would, because those early stories…it’s hard for me not to be embarrassed I actually tried to sell those. The first two in particular are…not good writing and terrible titles. 😅🙈 But then I finished listing them out, looked at the list, and went *dang.* I’ve written kind of a lot. I’ve published kind of a lot. And you know what? I’m proud of that. Many of you probably know I struggle with discouragement (and anxiety and depression) frequently. Somehow, though, this was really encouraging and motivating. Maybe it’s seeing how far I’ve come and not wanting to abandon all of that.
I only listed the years (I’m pretty sure, early ones are sketchier) when I wrote the rough draft for these. Not reflected in the graphic/list above: 8 uncompleted and/or abandoned ideas/WIPs from before I started publishing, abandoned M&M spin-off ideas, short stories & bonus scenes I’ve shared with my newsletter, a short story published in an anthology, and little things I wrote before 2009 that I don’t even remember. ALL CAPS titles in the list are published books (or soon to be/planned to be published—I am hoping to finish the first draft of A Stolen Heart this year), information in parentheses indicates if I tried to query them and/or when the book was published. Also not included is that I went back to Realm Makers Conference in 2023, this time with books on consignment and I signed/personalized books while there, and that was amazing.
I kept rewriting and editing the Necarius Knights trilogy for a few years. Based on my Word doc metadata, it looks like I stopped working on those in 2014 (which makes sense—that’s when I graduated with my AAS in Digital Video Production, was working toward and then attending a semester abroad, and then came back and went back to college to major in history and minor in English).
I think I got the idea for what became The Mercenary and the Mage duology around 2017 and started poking at it, but didn’t get far until after I graduated with my BA in May of 2018, temporarily moved to Maine—where I started working on it, and once drafted a chapter or two on my phone on a bus ride to Boston—and then moved back to Colorado in October. I did NaNo and finished the 94k-word rough draft of Prince of Shadow and Ash in early December, and then moved right to the 105k-word rough draft of Staff of Nightfall, which I finished two months later.
I first had an idea for a Beauty and the Beast story with a dragon twist in 2015. I guess I was fired up for drafting after writing M&M, because that idea came back to me, and I stopped working on edits to M&M in March of 2019 to revisit what I’d previously written and finish writing . . . almost the entire 90k+ words rough draft of A Thieving Curse. To date the fastest rough draft I’ve written (and the unhealthiest—I barely slept for a week. Do not recommend). It changed a lot from the original idea, and it went through tons of revisions and edits before I published it.
In fact, clearly, all of my books tend to take a while to revise/edit. I do some plotting and then partially discovery write/“pants”—during which sometimes I check my original plan and go “oh…oops. Rerouting” 😆—and then, once I have a fuller picture, clean things up and get feedback and clean up more, which sometimes is a lengthy process for me. It’s something I’m trying to work on speeding up (now it’s months instead of years), but it might just be what it is. I’m not a landscaper. I’m a gardener who throws down seeds while hoping for the best and then pulls weeds. 😆😅
As I was editing MercMage later in 2019, I realized Drez needed more development, so I wrote some scenes from his POV and some backstory shorts that originally where just me getting to know the characters better and for fun. I threw them up on my blog, but then later took them down and published them as my dry-run/”figure out how this works with a lower-stakes title” first book in Servant, Mercenary, Brother: A Dresden Jackobs Vignette Collection Vol I. in November of 2019, and in 2020, I finished writing more scenes for Vol. II.
Anyway, also not totally reflected in the graphic/list is that I found Realm Makers in late 2018 and started getting involved there and joined bookstagram (thanks, Nadine Brandes and other authors for hosting a photo challenge that prompted me to do so), both of which resulted in 1) me finding some dear writing friends and 2) getting my first real exposure to indie published books and seeing that they could actually be *good* and professional. I saw authors like Laura VanArendonk Baugh, H.L. Burke, Janeen Ippolito, and Savanna Roberts and was impressed with what they were doing (and some others, but I’ve since lost track of what they’re doing). I started looking more seriously at publishing and the market with much more experience and knowledge than high school me, and realized my books were not currently the kind of thing likely to entice a traditional publisher. I actually can’t remember if I actually tried querying Prince of Shadow and Ash or just made one-sheets and queries and thought about it, but I also started researching how to self-publish. Then I made a detailed pro-con list for both paths and decided to go indie, mostly for control and speed, a decision that likely wouldn’t have happened without RM and bookstagram.
Anyway, my point in sharing this is:
1) It was good for me to stop and think about all of the progress I’ve made, all the things I’ve done and accomplished, and remind myself that I have a track record of being able to finish books, so I can do it again.
2) As encouragement for aspiring authors that it can take a while, to keep trying and learning, and a reminder that everyone’s journey looks so different. There are so many variables and factors. So many life things that affect what we do and when and how. The order in which you write/finish books might not be the order in which they are published, and that’s okay (I actually finished edits on The Crownless Prince way before I finished edits on A Fated Quest, but Quest was published first). Learning is so, so important—whether that looks like conferences (I was very blessed to have a fairly affordable writer’s conferences close to home when I was in high school) or writing blogs & newsletters or craft books or webinars or editors or critique groups, etc. I’ve learned from them all. What’s important is to know it’s okay to start “badly.” Having room to grow isn’t a bad thing and definitely isn’t uncommon.
3) No effort in your writing is wasted. Those early books I sometimes look at and think, “Burn it. Did I say stand there and look stupid? No, I said: Burn. It.” 😆, but they still got me started. I still learned so much in writing and especially in rewriting them. (They also showed me that I want to write about castles and swords and fantastical creatures and relationships both romantic and not. Although Teen Me was magic-avoidant and wrote very simple, chaste kisses, lol.)
Go at your own pace. Learn. Make mistakes. Try things. Get inspired by others. Figure out what’s a good fit for YOU. Be open to changing your plans. It’s gonna be hard sometimes—don’t let resistance alone make you quit. And be proud of everything you’ve worked so hard to accomplish so far. 💜