Much like my characters, I’ve gone on a journey of my own. I thought I’d share a look at my author journey. My main hope is to show that many authors need time to find and use their voice. You’ll get all the time you need to reach your dreams. I know I sure did.
The (Literal) Young Adult Author
My earliest memories of writing were right around middle school. My family and I were stationed in Okinawa, Japan with the military. This was where I fully fell in love with Sailor Moon. I remember playing pretend with my friends—we would act out our own adventures as sailor scouts and fight invisible foes.
Itty bitty me did my best to write down some of our adventures on Word Perfect. Somewhere, I probably have some printed out drafts that describe the adventures of Sailor Io/Nia Niataki. Of course, I wanted to create a unique character (Sailor Io had lava powers that reflect the constantly-erupting volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon, Io) because even then, I assumed that I couldn’t publish anything without getting hit with a copyright infringement.
I didn’t know at the time that there are plenty of acceptable places to post fanfiction without worry. It’s amusing that even then, I was already thinking about publishing my writing. There wasn’t anything interesting about my writing—I just knew the desire was strong.
I’ve always wanted to be a published author. I don’t think I always knew exactly what it would entail but I ultimately wanted to see my book on the shelf.
In high school, I started writing my first serious novel—what is now called the Destiny Seeker series. It all started when I watched The 10th Kingdom on DVD and loved the ways they connected various fairy tales. I also loved reading books from Kristin Cashore and Shannon Hale. Really, I just wanted to write all the books with all the strong female characters.
I can’t remember much but one evening, I just sat down and started drafting a scene. The blinking cursor described a faceless, nameless woman confronting her crush who transformed into a wolf right before her eyes—based on a scene in The 10th Kingdom. Somehow, I crafted an entire duology around that scene. I just wrote without judgment. I wrote scenes as they came to me and strung them along like a pearl necklace. That is how every pantser is born.
All the while, my parents knew I was writing a story but they had no idea what it was about or why. My parents aren’t exactly big readers. I hardly shared my work with anyone even though everyone knew that this was my dream. Back then, I felt very protective of my work; I knew it wasn’t the greatest but I wasn’t ready to open myself up to criticism, either.
Enter Travis McGruder. I met the other half of Wit & Travesty at a church dance in 2004—a few weeks after both of our families moved to Germany (yes, we’re both military brats). Travis was the first person I met who was my age and writing. At the time, he was working on a novel about two teen boys awakening the twelve astrology signs. Not only was he a young writer but he was cute. His version of flirting with me was basing the Gemini twins off my appearance (that’s my sign). I flirted back by including a character in DS that mysteriously looked like him.
Travis was my first editor, beta reader, and fan. I couldn’t have made it this far without his early support. Honestly, I didn’t really grow up reading any books on the craft of writing; I just absorbed the books I enjoyed and took in all of Travis’s encouragement and feedback. Heck, I eventually took his last name!
So throughout high school, I focused on learning whatever I could about writing and editing, using my DS manuscript (and other stories that’ll never see the light of day) as a sandbox to apply what I learned.
Some of you know that I like to draw. Since this was way before Pinterest, I drew my main cast of characters as a way to really envision who they were and what they hoped to accomplish.
I don’t remember how but I did learn that authors typically don’t support themselves on their books alone—unless they’re the big famous ones. And I didn’t expect to ever compete with the greats. I still hoped to be “medium-famous”—which meant that I wanted to earn something from publishing but not garner the attention of the trolls.
I finished high school with my first completed draft, thanks to my wise, dreamy, and carefully-honest best friend.
The NaNoWriMo Queen
When I studied at Brigham Young University, my goal was to major in English and editing. I figured I could edit as my stable career and write on the side—assuming one day I’d land a publishing contract. I also knew this was a sensible plan if I were to ever be a parent. That was really my main focus and I stuck with it.
It was around this time that ebooks were becoming a thing, so I spent my college years learning what I could about the publishing industry. Things were changing so fast. I even heard about people just publishing their own books. When I was ready, I was determined to query literary agents and didn’t give self-publishing much thought.
I hardly did any novel-writing during college. With regular essays and hefty reading assignments, there wasn’t any juice left to read or write for fun.
In the meantime, I volunteered at LTUE (Life the Universe and Everything), a symposium dedicated to writing and enjoying fantasy/sci-fi books. Oh man, imagine me volunteering at an event that hosted Brandon Sanderson as the keynote speaker and I had no clue who he was at the time. (Travis and I have since met Shannon Hale and Brandon Sanderson at book signings.)
If I did any writing, it was through NaNoWriMo. I think I’ve been going strong since 2013. It gave me the push to write something. I spent most years rewriting huge swaths of DS or crafting new stores. Rewrites are sort of the curse of pantsing. Travis and I worked through our goals together despite how stressful Novembers are. I worked on Speechless, my first fairy tale retelling. Hopefully, you’ll get to read it soon.
I took an even longer break from writing when I went on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There were some moments where I’d add to a running list of ideas or dialogue snippets to implement to my Word doc once I returned.
I graduated and married Travis in April 2014. At that point, my goal was to query, start my full-time editing job, get Travis to finish his manuscripts (he leaves you at the cliffiest of hangers), and start crafting my author platform.
Now: Your Author Bestie
2014 was the start of many things. I was newly married, newly graduated, and newly hired. After a week of summer vacation, I started working as an editor for Boostability, an SEO company for small businesses.
As an employee, I got a sandbox website where I could apply all the marketing stuff I was learning on the job. Cue the Wit & Travesty platform! I started this author platform by sharing fun blog posts about writing and editing. We also used this platform to pick up freelance editing gigs here and there.
A few months later, I created my Instagram account. It started out as a modest place to share selfies with heavy filters. But again, I knew that I’d look good to literary agents if I could show that I knew how to self-market.
I knew that I needed to stop keeping my writing goals to myself and really put myself out there. I started befriending authors from all over the world—most of them were self-published. Again, I was aware this was possible but I was curious as to how they really did it all. At this point, I was querying for a little over a year, taking my book to local workshops, and feeling weighed down by all the things I needed to do to perfect my Destiny Seeker manuscript. I feel like I’ve combed over that story hundreds of times.
With encouragement from friendly authors, I decided I would self-publish Destiny Seeker. It felt like my dream could finally become reality because I could control when and how to release it. No more waiting for a “yes.” I was telling myself yes.
At that point, my manuscript was truly too long. I split the manuscript, began the final polishing stages, and released Destiny Seeker: The Messenger in 2018. I remember not really having any financial goals, I just wanted to publish! And I did! After 10 years of learning, rewriting, and more rewriting, I published my debut novel.
I was also genuinely touched and overwhelmed by the support I received from family and friends who, again, had no idea what I was writing about. But they bought copies and a few really enjoyed my work!
And as many of you know, I just published the second half of my duology, Destiny Seeker: The Defender at the end of 2020. All the while, I learned a lot about my author goals, how to contribute to the publishing industry, and how to manage all the business aspects of publishing a book.
My journey from fanfic to self-published took a really long time. But I learned bits and pieces of how to streamline the process and how to carve out my definition of success.
Future Author Goals
Luckily for me, my author journey is far from over. After all, I already have a fairy tale retelling, two other fantasy novels, an author branding guide, and a collection of essays that I’d like to publish.
But right now, I have a delightful, thriving Instagram community that shares my love for stories, inclusion, #realtalk, and community over competition. As a teen author, I totally thought that I needed to compete against other writers to succeed. As it turns out, a huge portion of my success is due to the friendship and support from other authors. We answer questions, share each other’s posts, review all the books, and otherwise rise together.
So what are my future goals? From here, I just want to keep writing and publishing until I’ve got nothing left to share. I don’t think that I’ll ever be super famous or go viral but if I still have my fanbase and they keep enjoying my work, then I’d be a happy author. I do want to learn from my experience with Destiny Seeker to streamline the writing, editing, marketing, and publishing process. Ten years is much too long to dwell on a project.
One day, I hope to create book merch—the only thing I love more than being an author is being my own #1 fan. I also plan to eventually freelance edit part-time and keep building on what I have to reach more people. I’m the happiest when my posts or messages encourage my friends to stick with their writing goals.
I think I’ll leave it there—that’s already a lot to read. Hopefully, something about my story resonated with you. I’d love to hear about your author journey! Please hare them with me in the comments or over on social media.