Tuesday, November 5, 2013

College…a time of big dreams, of crushed dreams, of readjusted dreams, of surprising dreams. I finished my first inspirational historical romance manuscript my second year at Corban University – and I confess I was quite proud of it. It was a story that had been with me for years, one that took a lot of time and dedication and heart-tears in order to get to “The End.” So as soon as I was done, I thought for sure I had a winner on my hands. (Isn’t that how we all feel when we complete a story?) 

I started contacting author friends I had met through blogging, looking for some help to prepare a proper query and, of course, someone to pat me on the back for a job well done. While I was certainly blessed by encouragement, I was also introduced to a world both foreign and terrifying: the world of publishing, of what comes after “The End.” And, to be honest, I didn’t want to face it! My story was perfect just the way it was, thank you very much, and who wanted to boil it all down to a cold, unfeeling blurb that may or may not catch an agent or editor’s eye eventually? 
As I’m sure you would agree, that sort of attitude was a sign I wasn’t ready for the world after “The End.” So I set my first baby aside and went on to begin a new story…
Two years later I came to “The End” of that second story – the sequel to the first. During those two years I had grown in my thinking (courtesy of a well-rounded education), developed a platform with my blog, graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English, and returned home (who knew that publishers don’t just beg for you to come work for them after you graduate?). And you know something? Everything was different the second time around.
From friends and connections I had made online, to witnessing self-publishing success, to having reached a point where the world after “The End” looked promising instead of insurmountable – this time, I felt ready to prepare and share my story. 
Here’s a different look at the journey, told through the titles of my stories:
Forget Me Not (the title of my 1st book, soon-to-be-self-published prequel) ~ There’s an initial idea, a first love, that shouldn’t be forgotten. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you expect it to, but it’s a part of the journey all the same. We need those times of excitement, of optimism, of being thrilled with that first step without the burden of worrying about the steps to come. This is the magic of the first draft.
Bleeding Heart (the title of my 2nd book, recently self-published) ~ No matter what publishing route you take, there’s a time of hardship. It doesn’t have to be all grim, certainly! But it does involve struggle on some level. For traditional publishing, this might be the waiting – the waiting for an agent to respond, the waiting for a publisher to accept your story, the waiting for a book to go through all the hoops before it can be truly published. There’re also the edits, which should hopefully be a part of any publishing journey. For self-publishing, the struggles are a little different. There’s the editing, yes – and finding the right editor(s) to hire. There’s the investment needed to hire a good editor, a good cover designer, and possibly a good publicist (even bartering services involves an investment, of time instead of money). There’re the formatting woes, the craziness of marketing, the research, the wading through opinions of what works and what doesn’t, the precarious balance between overload and underachieving. Your heart bleeds and your brain bleeds…and yet you love it all (when all is said and done).
Morning Glory (the tentative title of my 3rd book, yet-to-be-written sequel) ~ Then light starts to stream through the windows of your soul… It starts out with thin rays reaching hesitant fingers through, then blooms into a full-out burst of sunshine. The little moments that add up to a big blessing: the encouraging tweets, the people who come alongside you to answer your questions, the reviewers who word their thoughts so eloquently, the celebrations, the day your first paperback arrives, the joy that comes with knowing your characters are alive for other people and their journey can be used to touch more than your own heart. 
It’s a hard but rewarding process, no matter which route you take. And the thing about seasons is…they’re cyclic in nature. The world after “The End” leads right back to the beginning again, because writers aren’t generally one-hit wonders. We’re full of stories to explore – and marketing, developing a readership, and moving forward in the industry all build off of the promise and potential of more stories. 
So I’m preparing to revisit Forget Me Not, and I’m hoping to write and share Morning Glory someday. Each story has a season… (The name I gave my publisher is actually “Seasons of a Story,” so you know I love this concept!) For Bleeding Heart, that season came before Forget Me Not’s, and that story bloomed in a self-publishing environment. The world after “The End” can be bright when viewed at the right time and cultivated in the right season.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
 ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing.
You can connect with Amber on her personal blog (Seasons of Humility), the group blog she contributes to (The Borrowed Book), Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Shelfari, and LinkedIn

To learn more about Bleeding Heart, visit www.bleedingheartnovel.blogspot.com


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