Well, it's the end of 2012 and the world still exists, and for that I can only be grateful. You see, life can be a funny thing. One minute you're sat at a desk, on your Packard-Bell desktop, forgoing your usual spates of Delta Force and Red Alert to place your first written words on a page. The next, you're here, with a couple of fan stories under your belt and work underway on a novel you've envisioned since you were a spotty, awkward teenager. I'm now ready to turn professional with my craft. I'm motivated, consistent and productive, though this has all come about within the last six months alone.
How did I reach this point? A combination of the right words, the right places and the right people would be the obvious answer and yet it's not quite as simple as that. I've had to make some huge changes in both my life and what lies deep inside. Not my internal organs of course, I'm talking about my very outlook towards what I love to do.
Of course, I believe this is best told as a story so make yourselves comfortable and allow me to spin you all a yarn. Apologies if I get somewhat sidetracked, but I do believe these experiences are best relayed like a whimsical old grandfather telling a tale to his grandchildren, so that's what I'm going to do.
The story begins about twelve years ago when I was a fresh-faced young lad of sixteen. I was literate, which is always a good start, creative and full of bright ideas and so I dabbled in writing a bit of sci-fi. Now, riding high as I was on the crest of what is now known as the Playstation Generation, I was influenced mainly by movies and games. Though I'd enjoy the odd book now and again, Metal Gear Solid and Soul Reaver were my Dostoevsky and Tolkien, Final Fantasy VII my Iliad. And so I wrote, bringing to life all my fevered imaginings.
The results were mostly god-awful.
Still, I felt an odd twinge. I knew somewhere deep inside me that this was what I wanted to do. So I kept practising, on and off, for the best part of ten years until I finally discovered fan fiction.
Fan fiction has something of a bad rap, and much of it is deserved. However talented writers, whether hobbyist, professional or soon-to-be-pro, know full well that there are many diamonds in the fan fiction rough. I aspired to be one of these individuals. I learned. I corrected. I lapped up every bit of criticism along the way even as I studied the techniques and flaws of my favourite authors, and accordingly my fictions grew in both scope and originality. I've written just under half a million words in total, completed two complex stories and refined my craft in a way I simply couldn't have done just by making a wild stab in the creative dark. The focused and devoted audience of fan fiction has been my baptism of fire and I wear the scars proudly. I've even picked up true friends along the way who've actually helped me identify and correct the most consistent errors or flaws in my work ( deserves the most credit for this).
Now, two and a half years later, I feel I'm ready to take all those accumulated ideas, lessons and experiences and make a go of it. That was the case a few months ago and now I stand on a precipice of sorts, overlooking the chasm of the future. I look into its dark depths and I feel hesitance, fear even, and yet also an insurmountable sense of hope. I know if I flap my wings hard enough, I'll sail right on over that chasm and never look back.
Now, all of you are now familiar with the growing role the internet is playing in literature. It's everywhere to be found; in our homes, on our phones, you'd actually be hard-pressed to escape it in this day and age. Though I had a good idea of what the internet was two years ago, I hadn't fully grasped what it could do for me. When I released my first fic, Dark Rendition, it was on BioWare Social Network as a blog. After a few weeks of doing this, I then learned about fanfiction.net and released the story there. Much easier, much quicker and I was reaching a wider audience. It was about this time I created this deviantART account, though I didn't use it. It felt clunky and unwieldy next to FFN's chapter release system and so this account was neglected for a long, long time.
Of course, my goals as a writer were different back then. Back then I was happy with writing, honing my skills and receiving a few reviews for my trouble but I didn't really care about being a part of a community. All that changed earlier this year, when I simply woke up and decided I wanted to turn pro by this time next year. About five months ago I made two key changes to my process that can be best summed up in two words: Attitude and knowledge.
This was the first of my changes. Attitude.
I came to the belatedly obvious conclusion that if I were to turn pro, I would have to work for it. Publishers, big or small, do not simply pluck writers out of obscurity. I knew if I wanted to sell my work, I would have to sell myself first and foremost. The first step was to ensure I could write reliably and consistently. Writer's block is a myth, I will say that right now. The muse is a mythical creature; she does not exist. We are the only ones who can motivate ourselves to produce art and this can come just as easily as anything else, with time. It might not be the most romantic of ideals but it works.
We humans are creatures of habit. It's a known fact that whether learning an instrument, improving your fitness or even baking a cake, routine practice is key. Small amounts, regularly and consistently, will guarantee large returns in the long run. My own work has proven the effectiveness of that method, with nearly 200,000 words of a 300,000 words story being written in the last five months along. 1500 words a day was all it took. Sounds a small amount, no? Perhaps, but it's sustainable over a long period of time. I started and before I knew it, I was reliably releasing a chapter a week. And my audience loved it.
That was not the only change in my attitude, however.
No published author ever got where they are alone. I knew I needed friends, comrades in the ongoing battle to professionalism. I knew I had to make connections, cultivate a devoted audience and that decision was instrumental in both improving my confidence, in my abilities both to write and engage people on a more lasting level. Great deviants like , , right up to newcomer are all testaments to this change in attitude. The fact that they are all fine writers/artists in their own right only adds weight to their decision to add me to their watch list.
So, with my new, forward-looking attitude I'd steadily been releasing material on dA alongside other sites. I've slowly but surely, and most importantly; consistently, been gaining followers and watchers. But it wasn't until I met and discovered her group that I realised I'd only been learning through baby steps. So far the transformations that had come about had been thanks to small realisations, ones that had relied on me putting two and two together but there was still so much I didn't know. Abstract's articles have been instrumental in showing me that there's so much more to learn and there always will be, hence the second of my big changes; knowledge.
Simply being a good enough writer is not good enough to make it as a professional fiction author these days. In fact, considering some of the titles that have found their way into people's hearts and minds over the past few years, one could even go so far as to say skill is not even a prerequisite to being published. What truly matters is finding your audience. They're out there waiting for us, waiting to read what we write. All we have to do is reach them.
The Getting Exposure For Your Art series of articles (build-your-platform.deviantart… has been a fantastic help in this regard and I've only tried out its advice with my fan work so far. Since I've slowly integrated these lessons by consolidating my (much more dynamic) online profiles, being much more direct and proactive in seeking my audience and generally putting a little work into actively promoting my stories, I've found my daily view rates across the board have not only increased, but the figures have been ongoing and reliable as opposed to being mere 'spikes' of activity.
But where will all this lead? Well, those who know me will know that I intend to release a partner profile on this very site, one dedicated to original works. They will be supplements to my upcoming novel and the profile itself will be part of a small but potent group of connected platforms across the social spectrum. It is also here that I will be airing my own opinions on everything art and literature.
I have the tools I need. I have the attitude, the habits and the knowledge, or at least the compulsion to acquire it. I know the right people and my skills are sharper than they have ever been before. As 2012 ends, I leave it with the knowledge that 2013 will be a landmark year, thanks to the above. Turnin pro will be a challenge. In fact, it already is. I've had to put many things on the back burner already in my personal life as they are ousted by the constant need and desire devoted to my craft. I'm frightened. Terrified, in fact. But all this is offset by the regular, warm feeling I get from knowing I'm about to embark on my life's ambition.
I may succeed, I may not, but I know that I'll have put my all into it. Of course, at the back of my mind is the knowledge that I'm not doing it alone. I've mentioned only a few people in this article but many more are out there, supporting me in different ways. Next year will be the start of a great adventure and you are my companions.
Despite its hardships, I know the journey will be more than worth it.