I’ve had a lot of people ask me how to write and publish a book. I always find it funny that people ask me this because I’m only self-published. I don’t have an agent or a huge publishing house backing me up–I’m still struggling to make it like them. Regardless, I’m always excited to share my experiences with them and help them along their writing and publishing journey. For this reason, I’ll be blogging about my experiences in writing and, of course, Space Dog. These will be a series of blogs called “Writing a Book” and will be written in about nine or ten parts.
My “writing journey” basically started when I was in the fourth-grade. It was early in the school year when our teacher introduced us to something she called “Writer’s Workshop.” We took time every day (or every other day or every week or every other hour–I don’t remember!) to write. The fun part about Writer’s Workshop was that at the end of every week, we would get in front of the class and read what we had written.
But there was a problem. Our teacher had us writing personal narratives. And we all know that writing about experiences from our past is incredibly boring and pointless.
You see, unless my past involved fighting intergalactic ninjas, attending wizarding schools and leading a revolution to overthrow the government of Genovia, I didn’t want to write about it. And unfortunately for me, my life just wasn’t that exciting.
So I decided to write something fictional. I don’t know where the inspiration came from (it might have been Spongebob Squarepants… or Powerpuff Girls…), but my amazingly original mind came up with the idea to write about a bubble. Yes, I said a bubble. And this bubble’s name was Bubbles.
And so I did it. The story was called Bubbles Vacation (I suppose it would be correctly written as “Bubbles’ Vacation.”) In the book, Bubbles lives at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean in Bubblesville (I was sooo original) amongst other bubbles in their happy underwater society. He, along with his ultra-intelligent best friend, Albert Fishcakes, embarks on a trip to Dream World–the coolest theme park in all the ocean. On their way to Dream World, they expose an evil sea needle who is obsessed with popping bubbles. There’s a car chase and a rock star grandma and maybe an explosion too.
If I remember correctly, it took me about a month to write. It was nine notebook pages filled front and back. Each page was a chapter which made the book nine chapters long.
The time came when it was finally my turn to share with the class what I had written. I had no idea how they were going to react to the story which was at least eight pages longer than everyone else’ s. But I sat on the stool in front of the class and read the story. Everyone was shocked by its length. We had to have an intermission for recess. And yet the reaction was GREAT. Everyone loved it and I felt on top of the world.
There was no stopping me after that. I had to write more. So I did. I wrote a sequel called Bubbles Next Move (Bubbles’ Next Move.) I introduced new characters and expanded upon the world that I had only just touched on in the first book. It was my first experience with world building. I knew where in the ocean places like Bubblesville and Dream World were located (Bubblesville is off the coast of Huntington Beach, California; Dream World is off the coast of Hawaii.) Like the first book, this was a huge hit with my fellow classmates. I noticed that after sharing these first two books, a lot of my friends began writing fictional stories as well.
The year continued and Bubbles’ story kept expanding, each book larger than the last. I wasn’t writing just in class anymore. I was taking my story home to finish it there too. I came back from Winter Break with a third Bubbles book to present to the class: Bubbles to Paris. After the third book, I had the idea to split the fourth book into four parts. As a collection, these four new books would continue into Bubbles’ fifth-grade year. They would be linked together with a tight-knit story arc and set the stage up for my planned final Bubbles book. I got through the first two parts of the fourth book (Bubbles’ Cool Vacation) before the school year ended. I never wrote the final two parts or the fifth and final book (Bubbles’ Big Adventure.)
Although I never got around to completing the Bubbles Series (I still hope to do so in the future), I at least had a finished and written product. Naturally, the next step was publication.
I didn’t know anything about publishing. So I had to go to the expert when it came to books. I approached my school librarian asking how to publish a book.
“Well, Saul, publishing a book is a really hard thing to do. ‘So-and-so’ has been trying to publish a book for years and hasn’t had any luck.”
She sent me off suggesting that I write a short story. She gave me the names of a few magazines that publish short stories written by younger kids: Highlights for Children, Stone Soup and Merlyn’s Pen.
But I didn’t want to publish a story in a magazine. I wanted to publish a book. I wanted to see it on bookshelves and in the book fairs that I loved going to.
So I took matters into my own hands. I wrote Scholastic. Surely my heroes at Scholastic, the people who brought Harry Potter to America, would want to publish Bubbles. I had no idea where to send anything to or how to really contact them, so I opened up to the copyright page on my copy of Captain Underpants and wrote a letter to the copyright office.
Two months had gone by when I received a letter from Scholastic.
“Thank you for submitting your query to Scholastic. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, we cannot accept any unsolicited manuscripts, whether from young writers or adults.”
They did suggest, however, that I take a look into publishing my stuff through Highlights for Children, Stone Soup and Merlyn’s Pen. My inital reaction: *Head to desk* AAARGGGHHHHGHHH!!!!!!
Looking at this years later, my respect for Scholastic is even greater than it had been back then. The fact that they took time to write back a ten-year-old with a silly dream truly means something to me.
The letter closed with a fantastic piece of advice–something that I couldn’t have understood ten years ago.
“Finally, remember that getting your work published can be very difficult, no matter how old you are. The most important thing for every young author to remember is that practicing writing will make you a better writer. Keep a diary or a journal, or go back to your story and revise it – try to make it even better.”
Little Saul didn’t care. I was sad but moved on.
Instead, my life would become consumed with a new hobby–one that would eventually lead me back to my beginning.
I wanted to make comic books.
To be continued…