Someone once said that being creative isn’t just about having ideas. There are billions of ideas out there. The creative person has to choose one of the ideas and bring it into the world. As a writer, I have tens of ideas for books and series, and hundreds of ideas for articles. (This year alone, I’ve written over 275 articles on my website and more at my day job.) So, how did I come to choose to publish “My Life in the Projects” as my first book? Here’s a peek at the creative process of writing that book.
The Impetus for Writing
“My Life in the Projects” came about because I wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and a lot of people in power, and their minions on social media, were talking about what it was like to live in the projects, or HUD housing, and how those who lived there wanted to live there. It’s B.S. No one who lives in the projects wants to live there, and it incensed me to think there were people out there, who had never been to the projects, who talked about it as if they knew what living there was like. I lived in the projects. I knew what it was like. I wanted to set the record straight. It was kind of like my attempt at an Upton Sinclair “The Jungle” (affiliate link) book, but without all of the industry change that book inspired.
A couple of days before NaNoWriMo, I sat down and outlined the stories that I remembered from my childhood. I vaguely remembered moving to the projects, mostly because I had to leave my dog behind. I remembered much more how we were finally able to leave HUD housing, and it wasn’t because my mom was able to pull herself up by her bootstraps. We had help; we had a lot of help, and we had a crisis. Mom did the work she could do, but it took more to get out of the projects than she could do by herself.
I took the stories I could remember, and I set them up in a plot outline. The result was I had a way to stay on track and get through November with the required word count. The stories are fictionalized. I changed names to protect the innocent, and my sister says I added a cat where there wasn’t one. (Mom agreed, so it must’ve been a fault in my memory.)
Publishing the Book
I finished writing the book and didn’t take it too seriously for about a month. Then, I lost one of my most important sources of income. (It was probably when YouTube announced their policies for monetization were changing.) I had to do something, but I wasn’t in a position where I could get a job. I decided I needed to publish this book. Since I needed the money quickly, the self-publishing route was the only way to go. Querying alone can take a year or longer per query for a traditional publisher or agent, and I didn’t have the connections to speed things up. I drew the cover because hiring a cover artist is expensive, and I put the book on Amazon. It’s one of my best sellers, which isn’t saying much.
Creating a Stable Income
One book isn’t going to make a fortune. In fact, wisdom on the Internet says that an author needs to have 15 to 20 published works before he or she can make a credible living from writing. This backlog brings in repeat customers. The thing is, in order for it to be successful, it has to feature books that are in the same genre. Someone, who reads your sci-fi book and loves it, isn’t likely to buy your western, but that person will buy more sci-fi, especially if it’s in a series.
I do have a sequel of sorts for this book. The outline is filed somewhere at my mom’s house. I even have a cover design in mind. “My Life in the Peace Corps” would be the fictionalized, but mostly true, account of serving 27 months and 27 days in Guinea, West Africa. As for a third in the series, it’s a little vague in my mind. “My Life as a Disney Fan” might be a little more fiction than true but could include scenes from going to EuroDisneyland before it opened and other stories. I just need to find those notes, too.
For More Books
As it stands, neither of those books is close to becoming a reality because there are so many books to write. Even more importantly, it’s difficult to write when you’re worried about where you’re going to live at the beginning of September, what’s going on with the pandemic and racism, and how you’re going to pay the bills. I spend more time on writing for the paycheck than I can on writing my next book, especially since, by the time I’m done with the paycheck work, my eyes, hands, and mind have had enough. There’s just no creative energy left for new stories or research.
However, if you’d like more books, you can help. If you’ve read and loved something I’ve written, leave a review. (Do this for every author, especially the Indie authors.) Join our Patreon and for a small monthly fee of your choosing, you get creativity videos and ideas, penguin of the month photos and more. You can also like comment and share my blog posts. Every little action helps, and it tells me what you want more of.