My journey to writing, editing, self-publishing my first book

On July 6th 2014, my first novel went on sale on Amazon. After a long and difficult journey, I checked off the item on my bucket list and still, a week later, I'm riding off the high. It's a dream come true, and despite the book being self-published, it's still an amazing achievement to me.

Before I get into how I wrote my book and what challenges I faced, I'd like to backtrack a bit and discuss how I even got into the business of writing.

My passion for writing

My passion for writing started at a very young age. By the time I was eight, I was writing stories in school that even my teacher enjoyed listening to and my classmates often prompted me to write more, some even prompting my teacher to assign more topics to me (which never happened). I read some amazing books over time since then and began to formulate a few different ideas that reflect across most of my writing.

The first theme that I stumbled on came from the frustration I experienced while playing videogames and watching cartoons. I would watch these shows and play these various games (usually RPGs or RTSs) and always think to myself, "wouldn't be awesome to be in one of these worlds?" which would eventually translate to, "I'd love to be in all of these worlds! And experience EVERYTHING!" and from that, I started to work out a character called the Traveler (based on me, obviously) who could travel to different worlds and blend in.

The idea, by the way, has some roots in the show Reboot where a game cube would enter the city and characters would enter it, double-tap their badges and become characters of the game.

gc screenshot

But enough about that. So over time, I formulated specific themes I wanted to target, usually having to do with cross-dimensional travel, ability to make thoughts into reality, and the ability to disappear/be in a lifeless place.

I would often talk to my mother about these ideas when she'd walk me to my violin classes or taekwondo and really shape things into place.

It was back then that I decided that one day, my idea will be on paper and will be published, one way or another.

My first stories

At the tender age of 13, I finally jumped into writing these ideas down in the forms of stories. My first attempt was a book under the project name of Skalp which followed two young boys on their adventures crossing their realm, fighting and gaining respect of various creatures in order to summon them in their hour of need. The story took a wild turn with time travel and I still think of it as pretty damn good. I actually recently rewrote the first chapter as part of my Story A Day May efforts.

I wrote in Czech and quickly abandoned it just as I abandoned the language and started writing a couple story series. One of them, the Gods, I wrote with my best friend. We'd plot it out together and I would write it down and then we'd edit it together. The stories were basically about the two of us, as some god-like creatures, doing all kinds of things in the world with a villainous Shadow trying to hunt us down.

This is where a lot of my story ideas still stem from. The ominous Shadow along with Ant (the God based on me), Rain (God based on my best friend), and Avion (third God), were my first non-flat characters, all with their flaws, and all of them progressing and changing. It's still a storyline I draw ideas from and would love to cross with my other stories (perhaps reference the characters as part of some culture's diety system). I fully fleshed out this idea of "making thoughts into reality".

Alone, on the side, I wrote a spin off called The Traveler (which I plan to turn into a book for NaNoWriMo) which built on that idea and also took advantage of my obsession with "cross dimensional travel". The Traveler was the perfect vessel to use to tell various short stories from various places, always with the same character who grew with time. It was like a "framework" for telling stories and I loved it.

Finally, my book

Skalp, Gods, and The Traveler finally converged together into my book when I watched Danny Phantom, a cartoon about a boy who could turn into a ghost and get ghost-like powers. My current book, Aetheran Child, is a direct result of mixing all of these ideas together.

When I was 14-15, I started writing Aetheran Child, reusing much of what I had written for other stories. My main hero's name was Haron (just like in Skalp and The Traveler), the project was actually originally called "Skalp" (which became my own little way to name WIP projects), and I fully ripped off Danny Phantom's ghost-turning idea. Then I threw in a little of what I was reading at that point (Harry Potter) and you've got a messy first draft of my book (where Aetheri were called Spirits, Nethers were Phantoms, and the entire species were called Ghosts, an idea I pay homage to in my sequel).

I wrote my first draft in my broken english on paper with a pen. I had no laptop at that point. I wrote almost every day, while watching TV, while listening to music, while watching cartoons. Hell, I even wrote when I studied vocab (which explains some unorthodox vocabulary mid-way through the first draft).

The book was my child and I have notebooks filled with notes (now part of my personal writing Wiki).

The book took me whole another five years to finish, and two more years to edit.


Pulling the trigger

I've had the book ready for about two years, polished as well as I could muster it, but could not do it. I couldn't submit it, I just felt like it wasn't "good enough". On top of that, I had written the sequel and silently decided to either drop the original or rewrite it completely in my new style.

That is until a week ago, I decided that I could not make excuses anymore. I was close to starting plotting my fourth novel and way behind on any editing. It was at that point that I realized that I had a good book, and one that I'd like to share with others.

I gave myself a week and within that week, I moved my book from Word to Scrivener. I audited the chapters, checked the style, checked the length, and pruned some parts. I also went through several iteration of the front-cover, showing it to designers for quick critique. In the end, I compiled the book, threw the cover together, and put the book up on amazon.

I decided to release it for free, because I want as many people to read it, or at least download it as possible. There should be no barrier to getting it, unfortunately, Amazon doesn't let you do that so it's available for $.99.

Am I Happy With All This?

Oh yeah. Definitely am. My mother is proud of me, my father-in-law is reading through it, I bought myself a copy, and a few strangers have bought it. So far, everyone loves the cover! :)