Val-i-date To mark with an indication of official sanction.
I've been writing for years. For most of those years I kept it a a closely guarded secret to those outside my home. There's something intimidating, almost frightening, about declaring to the world that you are a writer. Suppose the world laughs? Or tells you you're being foolish? Or, worst of all, simply doesn't care?
It's no different than setting out to do anything else, I suppose. Declare your intention to succeed at something and you leave yourself no wiggle room for not succeeding. To not succeed is to fail.
When you tell your family and friends you intend to be a writer, they start expecting progress. They see you sitting in front of your keyboard day in and day out, month after month, sometimes for years, without anything to show for it.
Have you finished that book yet? No? You set it aside and started another one?
They won't say it, of course, but we know they think it. Or is it more because we think it?
All of my life I've been led to believe the only way to be validated as a writer is to be picked up by a publishing house that pays you for the right to publish your manuscript. By design it is a long, grueling process. A process which involves agents and editors and query letters and changes to your story because they know what sells.
Amazon changed that.
Writing is still hard work. There are no shortcuts to a good novel. But now, thanks to Amazon, writers can present their work to the reading public without the permission of the Big Six. Does this flood the market with poorly written books? Perhaps, but readers won't tolerate bad books. No one in their right mind is going to read a book they don't like just because they got it cheap on Amazon.
My contention is the Big Six have been flooding the shelves with poorly written books for decades, perhaps longer, but I digress.
Self-publishing a good novel is very hard work. It takes talent to write a good story. It takes years of practice. Years of writing crap that you'd be ashamed for anyone to see. The trick is not to let them see it. Keep the bad ones to yourself. Learn from them. Polish your craft and then, when you are ready, present it to the reading public and promote it until you are ready to drop. If you are lucky, and the book is good enough, you just might sell a few.
I set my sights on self-publishing my first novel with hopes of landing a traditional publisher with the next one. After all, there is no validation in self-publishing. Right?
I published The Night Train in February of 2012 with KDP, then published the paperback two months later. Since then I've sold a few. Sales have steadily increased. I've sold copies in the UK, France, and Denmark. The response from readers has been amazing. Did that make me feel validated as a writer? No.
Finishing the novel was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. But I didn't feel validated as a writer. What if the readers mocked it? Suppose it got terrible reviews? Imagine if people laughed at it?
A week passed. A few downloads. No reviews. Self-doubt ramped into the red. I decided to load it to my Kindle and read it from start to finish as a reader. Starting that first sentence was hard to do, because there was no turning back. My biggest fear was that I would read it and realize it wasn't the finished product I had thought just a week before.
Validation came slowly, one sentence at a time, chapter after chapter. It came not from a publishing house, or a reviewer, or from some entity with a big rubber stamp that says writer. Validation came from within, when I realized The Night Train was what I had set out to make it. My novel was finally what I had thought myself capable of producing all those nights when I lay awake searching my soul for that missing something.
Whether or not The Night Train becomes a commercial success is yet to be determined, but it was written, not by an aspiring writer, but by a writer. Now and for always. Validated.