Like many, I have a quote that always pops into my head whenever I’m going through a particularly stressful period. Or am chipping away at a veritable iceberg sized goal. It always makes me take a step back and try to put things in perspective. The quote is : “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
These wise words come from Nelson Mandela, who faced unimaginable cruelty and injustice, yet taught a nation the value of love and compassion. I could fill a whole post about Mandela. I WAS born in South Africa, so you can just imagine … but this is a post about getting through stressful periods – big or small. The same premise holds.
When I wrote my first book it felt like an insurmountable task. I’d been trying to finish a book for eight years. I had all these half complete manuscripts languishing on a hard drive, and I’d never managed to get to the end of one. This was mostly (absolutely, actually) because I kept getting caught up with the idea of perfection. I’d be happy with what I had so far, but then get stuck thinking that anything else I added would ruin the story. If I left it … it was possible that it could still be perfect. Someday.
So I’d start another, get to the same point with the next book where I’d get stuck and think , “If I come back to this later, I’ll know what to do then. The magic will appear and it will be better for the wait.” Rinse, repeat. Add eight years. Six or seven books.
Then my BFF met a woman who self-published her books on Amazon, and lived in a remote town and was able to support herself and her growing cat sanctuary. Basically our kind of quirky lady. The BFF phoned me, breathless, and told me that I HAD to do this TOO. I had to pick up one of my half complete books and finish one and just bloody well see what happens. Also it would be good to finally have a complete one for her to read.
See, she’d been reading the half-finished manuscripts and putting up with the ‘Cath! I have a new idea for a book. Yes, yes, I know you’re still reading the last one, forget about that one just for now… it’s this one that I want to tell you/send to you/ get your opinion about …” conversation for those self-same eight years.
I don’t why she put up with it for so long. But the foot came down. It’s a very gentle foot, is the BFF’s foot, but it came down and it was firm: “Write a complete book by the end of the year. C’mon. Let’s try this thing and see if we can put it on Amazon.” She was going to do the hard work of editing the thing and fixing all my grammatical errors. I knew I had the easy part. I am a terrible grammarian. Commas are my Achilles heel.
Anyway, I digress. So I did it. Wrote, the book that is. I chose one of the older ones. It turned out to be the worst one, but there was something there, some kernel that I could use which was the premise of a girl running away from her life. I REALLY loved that idea.
So I started the whole thing over, keeping about 200 words from the original. Then I set it aside for a bit, convinced it was dreadful. I was a hack etc. The BFF, thankfully, disagreed.
To distract myself. I wrote a novella during NANOWRIMO which with the BFF’s help (she has a linguistics degree and is a brilliant editor) I released it and this became my first book for sale on Amazon. Words can never describe the feeling when you’ve realised you’ve gotten a sale and it’s not from anyone you know. You know the people who buy it out of pity. Like the sweet cat lady I mentioned. Or you get a review from a book reviewer who has taken the time to read your book instead of the gazillion other books available and takes the time to leave you a review. That day was pretty damn spectacular. My first reviewer was the gorgeous blogger Isabell Homfeld who is just a wonderful person generally. Book bloggers are a special kind of people. They’re the ones that if an alien race was thinking of destroying earth, because we are mostly an awful bunch of polluters and marauders, I’d want to present to provide proof in the existence of good in this world. But I digress again.
A few months later after the release of my novella The Postcard, we edited the first book, which was called, An Invincible Summer – and that went live as well. The funny thing is, if my BFF hadn’t (once again) been the voice of reason I might never have published it. I was nervous about it, maybe because there was this little piece of my soul in it, I’m not sure. But luckily I listened to the BFF and it was released. Somehow in the space of a year I’d done the impossible: I had two complete works out in the world. An Invincible Summer, outsold my novella at around twenty to one, and stayed in the top 100 of holiday fiction on Amazon UK for over three months – I couldn’t believe it.
Then almost a year after I started my self-publishing journey, An Invincible Summer caught the eye of Bookouture (after I sent them a copy, of course, lol) and I was offered a three book deal. Two of which included my self-published books. That day was a pretty darn great day.
Invincible Summer is now The Summer Escape. It’s grown from the attention of the incredible team at Bookouture and is a much more polished version, but it’s essentially the same book that had the BFF not convinced me to release into the world, may still be languishing on my hard drive. The book that led to a three-book deal with pretty much the most exciting publishing team to be with right now. I don’t say that lightly, I’m in company with people like Mel Sherratt, Robert Bryndza of The Girl in the Ice, Caroline Mitchell, Christie Barlow, and Holly Martin … to name a few. Yup, it’s insanely cool, and I do sometimes feel like I snuck in through the back door, but oh well.
Now as I turn my 35,000 word novella The Postcard, into a full-length novel which has to be handed over in May, while dreaming up book three which I have to get done by November, while I pack up my home and life in Joburg, South Africa for England, and work out the notice for the day job, I know how important it is to have support – I couldn’t have got here without the BFF, my family, and friends, and am reminded once again of those words: It always seems impossible until it’s done. Because, it’s so true. And what no one tells you, is what dreams may come when it is done.