Inspiration from an Unexpected Place

After a December and January of intensive book marketing and back-to-back paperback releases, I fell back, somewhat exhausted, into my safe, familiar routine of writing and editing. The only downside to being an indie author, as far as I’m concerned, is that unless you hire professionals, you have to be your own marketing team and publisher—and if, like me, you’re not especially good at the publicity and business side of things, your books might not sell a whole lot.

The upsides are worth it, though. I love writing novels on my own terms, and the fact that I have the opportunity to publish for free in a way that makes my books accessible to just about the entire world is incredible. I also love designing book covers, and I’ve come to really enjoy editing and feel like I’m improving a lot. It works for me to go back and forth from marketing/business to authoring/creating at regular-ish intervals.

I’m now about a third of the way through writing my next book, a suspense sequel to the novel I released in January. It’s coming together well, but I’ve also taken breaks for a totally unexpected project I stumbled into, rewriting a work I thought I’d never look at again.

Avalon, California, one of the settings of my first novel and setting of my first suspense, Strangers on This Road.

Eleven or so years ago, I was driven by the idea of Writing a Great Book That Would Be a Bestseller and Win Lots of Awards and Things. In a fevered few weeks, I wrote my first full-length baby novel—an earnest and sentimental romance—coming from that place of Wanting Big Traditional Success. I worked terribly hard on it for more than a year, forcing rewrite after rewrite. I queried agents with it, my first—and last—experience navigating the complex awful world of agent querying. (It wasn’t good enough to sell, no question about that, but I found I hated querying so much that when I eventually gave up the whole bestseller/great American novel concept and just wrote a book for fun, kicking off my 12-book suspense series, I was soured on the query process.)

Every so often, I’ll comb through my folder of old projects, half-written stories or the first chapter of a book which I abandoned when it didn’t go anywhere. Circumstances led me to spend three hours at an Apple Store earlier this year, and I decided to reread my first novel while waiting for the geniuses to work on my phone. I was surprised to find that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Bad, yes. Inconsistent, self-conscious, over-written in places, under-written in others—but there was something there, all the same. Two main characters who I really liked, a romance that I believed in, a story that somehow worked in spite of major flaws.

Instead of tucking it back into the archives, I decided to see what happened when I switched it to first person, rather than third, as first is the perspective I feel most comfortable narrating in. I did some massive, messy finds-and-replaces and ended up with a completely transformed book. One that I didn’t want to abandon again.

Working book cover for The First Time We Met, a new release by Emma W. Ostrom

Working cover—its online debut!

Now on my twentieth or so edit, the characters have real, consistent voices. The sentimentality has shifted (I hope) to authentic emotional connection. The humor has developed as the narrator’s own sense of humor grew and matured, and as I’ve grown and matured. Since I wrote it, I’ve been through divorce and loss and trouble, have rebuilt my life to align with my values. It seems appropriate to rebuild this first book using some of the insights I’ve gained.

Ten years later, I love this story and feel proud of what it’s become. It’s a different genre from my other books, and for that reason I plan to publish it under different authorship, which is kind of cool and challenging in itself. It isolates my author brands and creates an opportunity to experiment, whether or not I ever write another book that isn’t a suspense.

The last decade taught me not to take inspiration for granted. Even as I plug away at a story firmly in my comfort zone, it’s been exciting to pull something out of the past and make it workable, even publishable. It may be months before I release it, but I’m ready to give it a chance—and who knows, maybe it’ll even be an award-winning great American bestseller.

Or, one reader will enjoy it, which is, after all, what really counts.

– Emily

 

 

One thought on “Inspiration from an Unexpected Place

  1. Very cool news, rewriting the first ever! You’re right that it had a solid basis. I look forward to reading it— when it’s ready😊

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