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  • Writer's pictureS. E. Shinault

Navigating the Path to Becoming a Debut Fiction Author: A Writer's Journey

When most people envision a successful author, I probably don't fit that quintessential model of “success.” When I started down this road, I had no hint of fame to my name. I had some college under my belt, but no degree. I never held a prestigious job title—or even one that related in any way to what I write. I’m no prodigy, nor a charismatic extrovert—quite the opposite, actually. And I’m certainly not the kind of person who buys into the “hustle.” More often than not, I yearn to be left alone with my thoughts, with space to breathe, live slowly, and focus on things that bring joy and fulfillment. All I am is a quiet, stand-in-the-background, not particularly smart or accomplished person. I’m just trying to survive daily life while making room to work on my passions.

I say all of that merely to get to this point: if I can do it, so can you. Sharing stories is for everyone. It's a vital part of how we, as humans, communicate and connect.

When I began my self-publishing journey at the start of 2022, I was living paycheck to paycheck. Throughout the year, various expenses hit our household, and I wondered if I could afford to pay my editor, let alone follow through with getting “The Rending” published and out in the light of day for readers to enjoy. But I was determined to keep going. For years, I had made excuses to myself as to why I couldn’t get any of my manuscripts published.

“They’re not polished enough. I’m not a good enough writer. No one will care about my work. Hiring an editor and book cover designer is too expensive. Traditional publishing is expensive. Self-publishing is expensive.”

You get the idea. It goes without saying that cost constraints and crippling self-doubt were my biggest obstacles to overcome. And, to be frank, they will likely still be my biggest obstacles going forward. But for me, that was the key all along: to keep going forward. I wrote, I self-edited, I researched, I found the cheapest resources and services that I could afford while trying not to sacrifice quality. It's harder when you have less time and money, but it can be done. I'm living proof of it.

It’s been a roller coaster ride of insanely productive days to weeks where I accomplished nothing because other things demanded so much time and energy. But, because I made the active decision to keep going, keep working, I published my first book, and I’m writing this post to be shared on my official author website. It’s surreal. When you’ve dreamed a dream for so long, sometimes you wonder if it could ever become a reality. Some things aren’t always meant to be. But how would we know if we don't try?

That's not to say it's easy. What comes naturally to one person may not for another. You may have to work a full-time job you hate, or barely tolerate at least (raises hand). Maybe you have a computer that's a piece of garbage, have a house and family to keep up with, and maybe only have a small semblance of a social life (raises hand again). All of these things were or still are the case for me personally. I didn't let it stop me.

I'm here to tell you it's possible. It'll be hard. There will be times you'll want to give up. I had to figure out this entire publishing process on my own. It was a lot of trial and error. Sometimes, it got kind of lonely. I've probably made mistakes I'll regret. Yet, I’ve put myself out there, in all my flawed glory, to see how I fare. And that in itself is a great accomplishment in my book (pun intended).

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