Today we have a guest post from B. K. Greenwood, who was kind enough to share his story of why he took 23 years to write his debut novel, and what motivated him to finally publish this year.
It might have taken me even longer to finish my debut novel, but I know for sure it was at least twenty-three years. I finally published my book, The Last Roman: Exile, on May 15 th , 2021. The earliest memories I have of writing my manuscript date back to the spring of 1998.
There have been significant changes over the two-plus decades. The oldest version of the manuscript that I can find is nearly 120,000 words. My published novel came in at 77,000. In between, I had a dozen significant rewrites and maybe a hundred drafts. Over the years, my writing style changed. I moved from a rambling, over descriptive author, to a concise, streamlined storyteller. That style worked much better for me and helped me produce a fast-paced, action-packed novel.
Why did it take me 23 years to publish? Inertia, or more accurately, the lack thereof. Over the first ten years, I was faithful to the process. I wrote almost daily, edited and engaged beta readers. I hired a professional editor and solicited agents. A bunch of agents. I still have dozens of rejection letters stored in my MSN email folder. I had several agents request chapters and one the entire novel. But I never made it past that stage. I think that was my first real speedbump in the process. Self- publishing was not a viable option, and I was lucky never to get caught up in a vanity press.
Over the years, I re-engaged and disengaged. Life always seemed to take priority, and my writing was always something I had done previously and would do again someday. But it never had a specific date attached. That was my second speedbump, life. Kids. Work. Television. Movies. And dozen other things that stole my time.
Then COVID hit.
I didn’t have any more hours in the day, but I certainly spent more hours in my home office, in front of my computer, and with fewer external distractions. And perhaps mortality made an appearance. Reality set in; I needed to commit to my book, or it would never get finished.
After doing one more editing pass, I engaged a friend of the family as a content editor. He pointed out some basic things, but he thought the story was terrific. I moved on to copy edit while starting to research the publishing aspect.
I almost immediately decided to self-publish. My internal rationale was two-fold; timing and control. I wanted to publish in 2021, and going the traditional route made that impossible. I also wanted total
But there is another reason. I still harbored a fear of rejection, as I think we all do. That was reinforced when an author friend recommended an agent, and I queried them. They said they loved the work, but they were not “passionate” enough about the manuscript to represent it. I figured I would have to provide all the passion and thus went full steam ahead on the self-publishing route.
Next, I needed a cover. I had several aborted attempts before another family friend found my current designer (out of Serbia, found on Upwork). As for the aborted attempts, let’s just say that you need to ensure your artists have procured imagery that is not copyrighted. In addition, you must have a clear vision of what you want before you engage the designer. In the end, I was delighted with the result.
Last touches included proofread and interior design (a different resource, also from Upwork). Then I was ready to launch.
But this is about how and why I took so long, not about what I did. So let’s delve a little into why it came together now and not five, ten years ago.
First, I would say I was more passionate now about my craft. I felt I had a story to tell, and I was committed to telling it. Second, I had more time and resources to dedicate to the project. Finally, the world has changed for self-publishers. That means more competition, and it’s super easy to get lost in the crowds of books published every day. But if you are persistent and have a quality product, you can rise above and be successful.
Engage the community. Nurture readers to secure reviews. Build a connection with your audience. Foster a social media presence (that is super hard for me). But most of all, write. Put more work out there for people to read and enjoy. Success will come your way.
So that’s it. That’s how to write a book in 23 years. I hope my second will take just a bit less time.
B.K. Greenwood lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and wolf pack of 4 rescue dogs. He loves to travel and enjoys works of fiction and nonfiction, with a heavy emphasis on history, adventure, and classics. His passion for history is on display in his debut novel, The Last Roman: Exile.