MY WRITING JOURNEY
PLEASE help me welcome the talented Dawn Hosmer to the Writer's Journey Guest Blog this week.
MY WRITING JOURNEY
by Dawn Hosmer
Writing is a journey full of peaks and valleys. I sometimes wonder if I knew how tumultuous it would be if I still would have chosen this path. I am pretty sure I would have, but a crystal ball would have perhaps helped ease some of my anxiety and stress along the way.
I first knew I enjoyed writing in elementary school when I wrote my first book titled, The Lame Girl and The White Steed. I recently found this in my crawl space and, let me just say it was quite a sad book. Everyone died in it except for the poor little lame girl. Even the horse died. So, my penchant toward writing dark things started at a young age.
In high school, I wrote loads of poetry full of teenage angst and longing. I still have a folder of that somewhere in my crawl space collecting dust, too. In college, I studied sociology and thought I would pursue my Ph.D. and do research-type writing, but marriage and children derailed that plan. Once I had children, I wrote a few children's books and queried them with little to no response, so those too are shelved somewhere collecting dust.
In 2006, a real-life event ignited my muse, and I wrote my first novel, The End of Echoes. It was a story that would not let go of me until I got it down on the page. This book was inspired by a true story that touched my life in a profound way. Writing the story was cathartic to me and helped me make sense of something that otherwise made no sense. After writing it and revising/editing, I queried, having full faith in my story and thinking I would certainly get an agent. Until the rejections started pouring in. Those with the standard responses of "not a good fit for me," "I'm just not passionate about the story," "Great story but not good for my list right now."
I received well over one hundred rejections for The End of Echoes, and each one took a bit more of my soul with it. I know we're not supposed to take rejection personally, but I did. This story was so close to my heart, how could I not?
It was then I decided to try my hand at a different kind of story, so I wrote Bits & Pieces, which is a Psychological Thriller. Again, I was inspired by a real-life event that grabbed hold of me and wouldn't let go. Bits & Pieces literally poured out of my fingertips, and I wrote the first draft quickly.
After edits and re-writes, I again began the querying process, hopeful that this would be the book picked up by agents. Again, I was wrong. I don't know how many rejections I received, but it was so many that I could no longer write. I felt defeated, hopeless, weary.
Then, I went to dinner with a good friend who suggested I join Twitter because of the writing community. I DID NOT want to join Twitter because the idea of adding another social media account to my life sounded draining and time-consuming. But she convinced me to at least try (Thank you, Rachel Hopmoen!).
When I joined, I decided I was going to go all-in by following agents and publishers, by participating in daily writing prompts and by participating in pitch contests. I joined in March 2018.
I participated in several pitch contests in March and April. For anyone reading that isn't familiar with what a pitch contest is – you summarize your story in 280 characters or less. Agents and publishers then read through the pitches. If they like your pitch, it means they want additional information.
One contest I participated in was #adpit. I got interest in Bits & Pieces from ten agents and publishers. I was over the moon excited and sent off the requested materials. Right away, one agent and one publisher requested the full manuscript, which I happily sent off.
The publisher was a small independent publisher, Ant Colony Press, and the agent was from one of the largest literary agencies in Canada. Ant Colony offered a contract the same day I heard back from the literary agent in Canada. She offered me a revise and re-submit saying she loved the story and would more than likely accept it if I eliminated the major plot twist in the story.
I went back and forth on what to do. My dream was always to be traditionally published, and it sounded like that would be possible if I adjusted my story to fit what the agent wanted. I didn't sleep much that night, trying to make my decision about the path I wanted to take.
I ultimately decided to go with Ant Colony Press for a few reasons. One, I was not willing to change my story and remove the major plot twist (most readers LOVE that plot twist, and I'm so glad I kept it in there). Two, I'd heard so many horror stories about agents taking a book and then waiting years to find a publisher and sometimes never finding one. Three, the industry is changing so much, and I'd heard that many traditionally published authors were still responsible for all of their own advertising and marketing with much lower royalties than indie publishers offered. Because of my chronic illness and being in my mid-forties at the time, I didn't want to wait years to have my book out in the world. I didn't have any emotional energy left to ride that rollercoaster. So, I signed with Ant Colony.
I know this was the right decision for me because as soon as I did, my words returned and I could write again! I hadn't been able to write for over two long years!
I signed with Ant Colony in May 2018, and Bits & Pieces was published in November 2018. It was well-received, and I've had steady sales and reviews since it released, thanks mostly to the Writing Community on Twitter.
As many small, independent publishers face, Ant Colony was having trouble managing all of its authors because money was tight, and they were operating on a shoestring budget. I signed with Gestalt Media for my second book to be released, The End of Echoes, which came out in August 2019. Gestalt Media worked with Ant Colony Press to also obtain rights to Bits & Pieces, which re-released in September 2019 under Gestalt.
Sales and reviews have been much slower for The End of Echoes, which has been hard for me. It truly is the book of my heart, and I want it to get the same love and attention that Bits & Pieces has received. I also know that it's a much more emotional read and may not attract the same audiences as Bits & Pieces. It is a slice of life suspense that follows two families' tragedies over the course of eighteen years.
My third book, Somewhere In Between, is a Psychological Suspense, and it releases in June 2020 through Gestalt Media. It is currently on pre-order through Gestalt (the paperback and hardcover) and on Amazon (the eBook). I'm also currently working with a narrator, so it will also be available through Audible (as are my other two books).
I'm currently writing the sequel to Bits & Pieces.
Some things I've learned on my journey that I hope can be helpful to other authors:
Perseverance is key. I heard this over and over but didn't believe it was true until I lived it. There are so many times I felt defeated and wanted to quit, but I'm too stubborn and believed too much in my stories to let that happen. I'm glad I kept trying and didn't quit.
There is no one right path to publication. There is no shame in self-publishing or going with a small publisher. Traditional publishing is not for everyone, and that's okay. No one way of publishing is more valid than the others. Do what is best for you and your story.
Rejection hurts, and it's okay to acknowledge that. Every rejection I received was like a knife straight through my heart. I felt that pain. I talked about it. But I didn't let it stop me from pursuing my dream. We don't have to smile and act like it's all okay and that the process isn't hard because it is. Find someone you can be real about this with.
It's okay to want to give up. I can't tell you how many times I told my husband, through tears, that I was giving up on my dream of being a published author. I meant every word of it, too. I felt like I was chasing a silly dream and needed to get my head out of the clouds. My husband would tell me to keep trying and not give up, but sometimes I couldn't hear his voice past the Imposter Syndrome and despair.
Some days, this journey is still hard. Even though I have two books out in the world and have gotten many good reviews, Imposter Syndrome still rears its ugly head. My next book, Somewhere In Between, is in Advanced Readers' hands right now, and I'm so anxious about their thoughts. What if they hate it? I've learned how to shut up those voices a bit better now, but they are still there whispering to me. It can also be discouraging when sales aren't coming. When readers aren't reviewing. When a bad review comes in. It's so important to find ways to take care of yourself on this journey, especially when things aren't going well.
Every no is one step closer to your yes. I had a friend say this to me over and over again, and I hated her for it sometimes. Because each no hurt so badly. But it is true. Each rejection did make my path clearer. Even my despair served a purpose. All of it solidified that this IS my dream, and I would do whatever it took to make it turn into a reality.
Celebrate every success. Because this writing journey is difficult, it is important to celebrate every milestone and success. Sometimes that will be a big celebration like a book launch party. Other times it will be a small, internal celebration like just feeling proud for a moment of a good review. Or letting it sink in that someone connected to your characters. Own your successes. Give them value. They matter.
If you've read all of this, thank you! I know I'm wordy. This journey has been full of peaks and valleys, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. I wish you much success on your journey.
Dawn Hosmer is the author of Bits & Pieces and The End of Echoes. Her third book, Somewhere in Between, releases June 2020 and is currently available for pre-order.
She spent her career in social work but had to quit working due to a chronic illness, so she now focuses her time on writing. Dawn is a wife and the mother to four amazing children, three of whom are now adults. She is a lifelong Ohioan but loves to travel. She also enjoys reading, playing board games, watching true-crime TV, and HGTV.
You can find more information at www.dawnhosmer.com.
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