Sunday, March 15, 2015

Dream or Idea? by Alison Henderson

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

I’ve never considered myself much of a dreamer—far too practical, I guess—but I am persistent and I get ideas.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she had a friend whose mother warned me before their first play date that her daughter got ideas. I swallowed nervously and kept a close eye on the girls. The child turned out to be brilliant, creative, and no trouble at all. She and my daughter remained close friends through high school. What her mother was really trying to tell me was that her daughter was highly imaginative and apt to act on her ideas. What a perfect friend for my shy, only child! They were both analytical and intelligent enough not to do anything actually dangerous and always had a wonderful time together. (If they’d been boys, they might not have survived until graduation.)

But back to my ideas. My husband would call me stubborn; I consider myself persistent. When I want to do something I find a way to make it happen. I refuse to be thwarted. That attitude will get you farther than you think.

When I was thirty-five, I got the idea I wanted to write a book, so I sat down and wrote one. I had never dreamed of being a writer—I hadn’t written fiction since being forced to do so in grade school—but I was a voracious reader and had recently discovered romance novels. I wanted to try writing one of my own. As soon as I finished the book, I acquired an agent and set off down the road to publication, or so I thought. That book never sold, and with good reason. It was awful. But I’d fallen in love with writing, so I wrote two more and my agent made minor efforts to sell them. Then life intervened, I fired my agent and consigned the manuscripts to a drawer.

A few years later, life had calmed down a bit and I got the itch to write again. Out came the manuscripts. I got help from a critique group and learned lots of important things like story structure and POV. I started entering contests and—shock of shocks—started winning. A big-time New York editor requested a full, and I thought, “Finally. It’s going to happen.” Nope. When she ultimately decided to pass fourteen months later, I learned something important. I don’t like to be dependent on the actions and decisions of other people. Jeez, you’d think I’d have noticed that by then. It was time to take back control. It was time for another idea.

In typical fashion, I refused to give up. I still loved both stories, and the contest judges had loved both stories. I’d heard good things about a small press, so I decided to give them a try. They quickly agreed to publish the first book, then the second. By the time my third book came out, however, I was ready for a change.

Many of my friends were trying independent publishing, and the prospect intrigued me. I loved the idea of not being dependent on anyone else for the cover design, the release date, and the look and quality of the final product (are you sensing a pattern here?). Since I wanted to switch genres, it seemed like the perfect time to try yet another idea. I enjoyed the process so much I plan to indie-publish my next book, too. After that, who knows? I might get a new idea.

Maybe my ideas aren’t that different from dreams, after all.



Donna Michaels said...

I would say your decisions worked out perfectly, Alison. Best of luck with both publishing formats!

Jannine Gallant said...

Wow, Alison, I didn't know about the earlier agent you had. I had one, too, about a million years ago. I also had interest from Harlequin that didn't pan out. Then I followed your exact path for all the exact same reasons. But now I've jumped ahead only to go back to the agent and the bigger pubs... You're like the twin I didn't know I had! LOL

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Donna. I think my writing career is just where it needs to be for right now.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, sometimes I'm tempted to try for that next big step again and look for another agent and a bigger publisher. If I were your age and at your stage of life, I definitely would. However, for me, for now, I think I'm happier staying indie. (Besides, did I mention I'm a control freak?)

Margo Hoornstra said...

I guess one could ask do we make our dreams or do our dreams make us? The point is, you're happy where you're at. One more could one ask? Best of luck, whatever you choose to do.

Alicia Dean said...

I love the story about your daughter's friend. I bet the two of them made an interesting pair. :) Your story sounds like that of many authors. I had an agent, sold a book to Dorchester, and everyone knows how THAT turned out. I published quite a few with Wild Rose Press, and I love being with them. But, I also love that, if a story doesn't fit, I can go a different route. Isn't it wonderful that Indie Publishing is here so that writers are not only free to dream their dreams, but also to realize them?

Diane Burton said...

How wonderful that you're making your dreams come true.