It took 17 years to write and self-publish my first book. What stated as a short piece of writing in 2003, would become the second chapter in my 2020 debut novel Prey/Pray: Origin of The Average Man.
Looking back on that time, I’d love to say it took so long to complete because I regularly worked on it and tweaked the book, searching for perfection in the story over those 17 years. But in reality, I spent the time dragging my feet and ignoring the voice in my head telling me to finish writing the story.
In truth, I never wrote the story intending to publish it. As well received as the book has been, it was only originally meant to be written for my entertainment and maybe to share with a friend or two. I didn’t even have the idea to publish it until I completed the story, which made marketing the book a much slower and more painful process, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Thinking about it now, I wonder what I would tell my younger self about the book and the process. What would my 40-year-old self tell my 22-year-old self one year after having published my first book and having had the time to look back on everything? Let’s find out…
22 (me from 2003): Hmm… This is different… What’s going on? Where am I? Why is everything so dark?
40 (me now, 2021): Hey.
22: **startled, throws a fast punch**
22: I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got less than a second to explain!
40: Geez I was fast back then **rubs jaw**
22: Start making sense, or start getting hurt. Your choice.
40: Calm down. I’m you, stupid.
22: No, I’m me. You’re some old guy that’s about to get hit again.
40: I’m you from the future. 18 years from now.
22: **looks 40 over** Uh, no. Not buying it. Maybe I hit you too hard. Are you so soft that one hit made you stupid, or is that your default setting?
40: **rubs face in frustration** I should have really thought this out better. An introduction at a distance would have been safer. It’s not like I was less sarcastic at 22 years old. Ugh. I am you.
22: Nope. Time to hit you again.
40: **throws hands up defensively** Just listen for a second. We’re never going to get through this at this rate. Our name is Dicky Kitchen Jr, our favorite drink is tea, our best friend is a guy that’s fought us more times than any enemy, and we have a scar on our right middle finger from hot poisonous wax gluing our fingers together when we were young. **holds up right middle finger**
22: **cautiously inspects both his and 40’s middle finger** Ok… Anyone could have a scar like that though.
40: And the other stuff I mentioned?
22: I don’t know, maybe you’ve just been watching me.
40: Look, you have other scars and more personal stuff I could say, but we’re going to share this with other people so it’s probably best to not over share.
22: Other people? Since when do we share personal stuff with other people?
40: It’s a recent development, and honestly still a work in progress. It’s taken you a while. I don’t think I need to explain to you why.
22: **relaxes some** Yeah, ok, you’re probably me. But you understand why I didn’t believe you, right? I mean, not only is this nuts, but… **waves a hand at every part of 40**
40: **shrugs** Yeah, there’s work to be done.
22: And the hair. Since when do we have hair?
40: On and off for the last 5 or so years.
40: Got bored.
22: **thinks it over** Ok, I can see that happening.
40: Listen, we need to get on track here. People reading this conversation aren’t here for existential weirdness. We’re here to talk about what we wrote.
22: What we wrote? You mean what I just wrote tonight?
40: Yep. That’s the one. Let’s see, what did we call it back then?... Diary of a Serial Killer?
22: Yeah. I just wrote that. Not sure I’m sold on the title. Something about it doesn’t work.
40: We’ll change it a few times before it’s done.
22: Done? Wait, does that mean I actually finish writing the story?
40: Yeah, we finally finish one of the stories we start.
22: That’s great! How long did it take to finish?
40: 17 years.
22: Geez! Why so long?
40: A few things got in our way. We focused on other things in life, we didn’t believe we could actually finish it, and in a few years you’re going to hear about a show called ‘Dexter’ and think the premise of the show is too similar to what you have in mind for the story. You’ll actually go out of your way to never watch the show, just to make sure no one can accuse you of copying the idea.
22: Ok, well now that I know all of that, I can change it right? I can just go back and work on it more right away. Or did it suck and I shouldn’t bother?
40: No, actually it turned out great. It’s getting fantastic reviews. But, no, you can’t go back and change anything. That’s not how these sorts of things work. Changing the future would prevent you from ever having this conversation, and so you’d never change the future. Besides, you’ll forget all of this when you go back to your time.
40: **shrugs** It’s the only way any of this makes sense.
22: Fair point.
40: Anyway, it’s been a year since you’ve published the book. And like I said, the reviews have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s really been a great experience.
22: That’s crazy. I can’t believe people actually like my writing. I haven’t even given the main character a name yet. What do I end up naming him?
40: Um, well, actually… he still doesn’t have a name. None of the important characters in the book do.
22: Damn. Really?
40: Yeah, and there’s no cursing in the book either.
22: There’s no cursing?
22: In a book about a serial killer?
22: So, you’re telling me I end up writing a story…
40: **interrupts** Novel, actually.
22: Ok, so I write a novel about a serial killer where no one has names, and there’s no cursing, and people are actually enjoying it instead of using it to kindle?
40: **chuckles** Kindle, that’s funny.
40: You wouldn’t get it. Consider it a future joke.
40: But to answer your question, yeah. That’s exactly what you do. There are a couple names in the book, but those are just nods to friends.
22: What about the ending? Do I use the ending I have in mind now?
40: You expand on it a little, but yeah, you use the ending.
22: **smiles largely** And it works?
40: It blows peoples minds. 99% of readers never see it coming.
22: That’s awesome. So, did some big publisher pick it up or something?
40: No, you actually decide to self-publish.
22: You can do that?
40: Yeah, it’s actually a pretty big thing in my time. Millions of people choose to self-publish.
22: Why do I do it?
40: By the time you decide to publish, you really want full control over the story. Instead of risking a traditional publisher telling you to make changes, you decide to do it all yourself.
22: Was it the right decision?
40: Hard to say at this point. Self-publishing is definitely harder than traditional publishing because of how much you have to do on your own. Marketing is probably easier with traditional publishing, as long as you get a good publisher. And the initial cost of self-publishing is more than you’d expect, but it’s necessary to make sure the book appears professional as the traditionally published alternatives. But on the flip side, you get higher royalties self-publishing and own all the rights to your book and characters. At only a year out from the release date, it’s still too early to say if self-publishing was the best decision.
22: So we’re not famous?
40: **chuckles** Nah, not yet. But who knows? It could happen. Getting a book in the hands of readers takes a lot of time and effort. It’s a bit of a never-ending process. And when it really comes down to it, one book alone seldom gets a writer big recognition. Typically, an author has several books written before they really get noticed.
22: So, I have to write more books? You just said it took 17 years just to write the one!!! Great, I’ll be dead before I even write 3 books.
40: Actually, you’ve already published your first 3 books. The one you just started writing inspires you to write a companion book exploring the back stories of the characters created in the first book. You released the first part of that as your second published book, and then you wrote a kid’s book and published it with an author who is also an illustrator.
22: I write a children’s book? That can’t be a good idea. No way did my mind produce a book safe for kids.
30: Actually, it’s a really cute reimagining of Peter Piper. It’s a great book for kids.
22: What possessed me to write a children’s book?
40: Our son did. You were teaching him the tongue twister, and it turned into something much sillier.
22: We have a son?!?!?!?!?!? **wobbles and faints**
40: Huh… I really should have seen that coming. I never thought I’d be a dad… Oh well, not exactly how I was planning on ending this conversation with myself, but I guess it’s as good as any.
POOF. Back to reality.
I hope you’ve enjoyed watching me talk to myself. What questions would you ask your past self, and how do you think you’d answer?