Today I’m happy to post a first on Dcafwriting: a guest post with another author!
First, the background: Last fall I attended a concert in Denver (Within Temptaton; they’re awesome, and everyone should check them out). While waiting in line at the merch table after the show, I became engaged in a conversation with a gentleman about writing—and found out he had just published his first novel. We had a great conversation, exchanged emails, and have kept in touch. Recently, the idea surfaced to do a little cooperation between our blogs. He interviewed me over at demerybunn.com, and I asked him to do a Lessons Learned post here, about his writing process and his experiences with his exciting first novel, Darkness Concealed.
And now, the post, by D. Emery Bunn!
Lessons Learned from Darkness Concealed
Drew asked me onto this blog to share what I’ve learned from writing a dark fantasy epic, then releasing it as a self-published book. So in that vein, I’m going to look at specifically what I’ve learned and what I’m going to do about it.
It’s been about 5 months since my debut novel Darkness Concealed went live. I’ve sold a decent amount of copies, and learned an awful lot from the release of the book, its reception, and my overall feeling about it long-term.
Lesson 1: I will always write what I want to read
Darkness Concealed is a grab-bag of character traits, plot devices, narrative depth, and layered mystery that I wanted to read. I wasn’t seeing strong female characters, mind-rending revelations and their effects on characters, or women who weren’t fawning over the nearest guy at some point in the story. So I wrote them.
And I loved writing all of it. I got giddy thinking “yep, just flipped that cliché on its head” over and over again, grinned from ear to ear each time a piece of the puzzle fell into place in an unexpected way. I know my epic fantasy and science fiction inspirations, and I didn’t do things the way they had. I did it my way, with subverted/averted tropes and twisted expectations.
I wrote Darkness Concealed ultimately to fill one niche: the genre of me, containing books that I might know objective faults of but just make me shrug with a mumble of “I’m okay with that.” Because it’s so perfectly tailored to what I want to read, I can understand people’s reviews and criticism, but it doesn’t bother me if they absolutely hate it.
I’m going to keep writing that way, because frankly, I don’t want to write toward any other aim.
Lesson 2: I’m not in it for the money
I was psyched back in September. My book was going to come out, I was going to sell a few dozen copies the first day with more to follow over the next month, it’d chart, and I’d have a steady stream of sales adding some extra income to my pocket all the way until I could get the next book out there.
I sold 13 copies the first day (6 preorder), and it’s trickled down to a total sales of 26 in the past five months. It never charted, I’ve had one sale in the past month, and I’m only halfway to covering the cost of the cover.
This doesn’t bother me at all. I thought it would. But honestly, I’m doing this to share cool stories with people, giving unexpected takes on the same-old while asking hard questions about the world we live in. I do it for the love of writing and storytelling, with the royalties being a nice plus.
Sure, I could promote the book way heavier than I am (spoiler: I haven’t promo-tweeted the book in over 2 months), but I hate doing it. I hate promoting all the time, hocking my wares like some door to door salesman. Even though I sincerely believe I have a quality product to provide to readers, I don’t want to shove it in people’s faces and say “Hey, read this! It’s awesome, so say all these reviewers!”
I don’t have the time, interest, or frankly, need (I have a full-time job that covers the needs and wants), to promote my books by every avenue I can find. I’m going to just stay out of the way of the people who want to make a legitimate leave-your-other-job career of writing and publishing books. The airwaves are crowded enough with promotion, why should I make it worse when really that’s not what I care about?
Lesson 3: I already have a “voice,” I just didn’t realize I did
Around this time last year, when I was just starting on writing as a regular occupation, I read a ton of writing blogs (I still do, but fewer). Several of the posts I read specifically mentioned “finding your voice” and “knowing your writing style.” I was confused by reading them, and when I asked I got the answer “you’ll find out after you’ve written your first few books. It’ll even out.”
So I let the thought drop about having a voice. But as I’ve written more in the past year, particularly after Darkness Concealed released, I’ve realized that I already do that. The way I phrase dialogue and narration is exactly how I would say it if I was telling a story to people out loud, the decisions of what I note and not guided by the same. I’ve had a voice the entire time, I just discounted it as not being the same.
But it is. I write in my own voice, the same one I’m writing with right now in a nonfiction meta post about writing. For the longest time I thought that just meant I wrote conversationally, but looking back, I was just voicing what was in my head.
Talk about a relief. I can write and enjoy the act of writing, without worrying if I come off as fake, or posing into someone else’s style. My dialogue can just be, because it will read naturally and authentically. Sure, I’ll go back later and revise the snot out of it, but the pressure to “be genuine” isn’t there, because I know I am every time I write.
I’ve learned many others things from writing Darkness Concealed, but these are the major ones. Here’s hoping I learn just as much from the other works I write.
- Emery Bunn is an author, editor, and engineer, though his pile of interests keep on getting larger. He is an avid supporter of free culture, the power of writing, and the creative arts. Darkness Concealed is his first novel, and he is working on both a cyberpunk novella and the sequel to Darkness Concealed. He lives at his home in Clovis, New Mexico.