GUEST POST: My Hero’s Journey into Being a Writer

20 Jan 2021 Miscellaneous

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Elton, author of the Wolflock series.A personal account from an author who has battled her demons and come out on top.

Introduction to the Protagonist’s World

I was born with a galaxy of libraries in my eyes.

But it took a long time to transform them into the words they needed to be.

Ever since I can remember, I loved telling stories. When I was in first-grade, my teacher drew a picture of an egg  on the black board and asked us to imagine finding this egg, and what might emerge from it.

I was instantly hooked. What if it was a dragon egg? A dinosaur egg? A griffin? My egg story was rewritten time and time again in the back of my school notebooks until there was no space left. I never finished the stories, because I never wanted to leave the world where I had my own pet brontosaurus. I craved so badly for the ability to take that bit of magic back with me into the real world.

Call to Action

I leaned on my writing through my entire schooling. It helped me escape into a world where I could be anything I wanted to be.

I didn’t have to worry about no one sitting next to me in class. I didn’t have to worry that I got the worst grades of the pretentious elite class. I didn’t have to worry that we lived in housing commission while mum worked two jobs and studied. I didn’t have to worry that people walked all over me. I could be whatever I wanted to be if I wrote it. And all that struggle made for even better writing material.

But reality demanded my attention as school progressed.. I had to get good grades if I wanted to do anything with my life. Amidst this already stressful era, I was bullied and ostracised relentlessly. I went to the darkest place I ever had and a few times I nearly didn’t make it back.

I needed something or else I wouldn’t survive.

Crossing the Threshold

My world was decaying around me, all I could do was pick up a pen. At the nib of a pen I found a tiny little glimmer of happiness. I retreated to a world I could love. A world where the people were filled with love, and lived in harmony. A world where people made historical decisions that promoted sustainability, respect, community, and compassion.

This was Puinteyle. A vast land spanning through all manner of landscapes, time periods and events. From deserts to jungles to plains. By exploring the mythologies from as many cultures as I could, magic grew. It was my refuge, where I could be part of the magic. It was peaceful and calm.

But that’s the thing. Without conflict, there is no story.

A Mentor Teaches the Protagonist

That was the trouble with the first Wolflock book. There was no real conflict.

After deciding to publish, I went through a vanity press so I could hold one of my own books in my hands. That was all I really needed. I didn’t need to buy five hundred copies… But that’s what they told me to do. Knowing nothing better, I did.

One of the greatest teachers I’ve known is Failure. She is a strict teacher who wants you to think for yourself. Her lessons sting, but you never make them again if you’re bright.

I’ve spent over $10,000 on lessons, trials, errors and successes. I feel like I’ve spent hours researching, and hundreds of hours trialling. I’ve looked for clues in the successes of those who are where I want to be.

So clearly, I have always had my own personal conflicts, but my protagonist, Wolflock, needed one.

I could happily just follow him wandering around Puinteyle forever, but if I wanted to bring other readers into our world, I knew I needed more.

That’s when one of my friends bounced up to me saying she’d found the best thing ever. The Novel Factory. Finally, I discovered how to plot. As I carefully printed and bound their “Write a Novel in a Year” plan, I knew this was my ticket. This was my new goal.

I’d already finished the first Wolflock book, but from here on out, I was going to be better. I owe them so much and am so thankful for that free document. It gave me the foundation I have been building my dreams on. I learned. I had a plan. I was going to win.

Like the Fool in the deck, my naivety protected me. Then I realised the hard yards that were ahead.

First Challenge

A degree of separation from what you’re selling always makes it easier to spruke?.

My stories are so close to my heart that I still get nervous telling people about them. I want to share them, but I also want to be loved. But you can’t be loved by everyone. Family, friends, loved ones, those are the people least likely to read your book. Other authors too. I had to find out who my “target market” was.

It was a slow and painstaking process. I started off by getting a little bit of traction, which grew. I sold books at Supanova to cover my costs and I was regularly going out into the world to sell books too. I was collecting emails (even though I didn’t have a nurture sequence, or even know what one was), and I was jumping onto all the Facebook groups to sell too. It was a hurdle, but nothing I couldn’t surmount. I didn’t know it was meant to be hard, it was just a challenge. I love a good challenge.

Then I got an offer that gave me what I’d been dreaming of… for a price.

Temptation

My work offered me a fulltime job.

That would give me a house. That would give me security. Not worrying about pulling threads together from all sorts of places. I had a castle to build and writing was going well but was slow. Maybe I could write a bit at work?

Their one stipulation? While I’m working for them, I’m WORKING for them. I show up early, I leave late. I give them my all for the hours I’m there.

Dark Moment

I signed that line. I got the house. I had everything I wanted…Except myself.

I had no time to do anything but work and sleep. My health fell into a chasm. I became so depressed I would lie on my office floor sobbing most nights. But the worst part was that I couldn’t write. My creativity had been starved by the stress and it had nothing to feed off. I needed to escape. I needed to be free.

And I asked the wrong people for help on how to do that.

Final Conflict

I have an amazing business coach. He’s the one who inspired me to pursue writing as a career. He’s the one who lifted me out of hobbyist and into authordom. He is like a warm hug of sunshine and radiance.

He has one rule: Don’t see other coaches while you’re seeing me.

A monogamous coaching relationship is fine. You don’t want six doctors giving you different advice. You want a primary carer. He’s my primary coacher.

My darkness hit when I broke his one rule.

I didn’t realise I was even breaking it until it was too late. I was filled with more determination than ever to get paid to write fiction fulltime.

When I was gifted a membership to an intensive mastermind workshop  I thought it was a dream come true.

But halfway through, the people leading it pulled me aside. They demanded that I don’t speak about my writing in the sessions. They demanded I sit down and shut up. They tore shreds off me by saying it was wrong of me to try to be “famous”. That my writing was just a hobby and would likely never take off. That I should just focus on my current job and starting a whole new version of it closer to home.

They wouldn’t stop until I was in tears. Only then was I “authentic” enough for them. I left that meeting believing them. I left shaking, crying and tormented by their words for weeks.

All book sales stopped when my Foolish self, stepped off the cliff. I let them get to me. They brought me to that cliff of self doubt and worthlessness, but I’m the one who stepped off it. My naivety was no longer, and I had fallen off my tower into a dark abyss below. I stopped thinking that this was like any other business. I stopped thinking that this would just take a bit of networking and some hustle. I started thinking that I couldn’t do it after all.

It hurt beyond measure.

I withdrew again, but this time I couldn’t reach Puinteyle. I was already hanging onto it by very thin threads from all the stress of my day job, my deteriorating health, and the pressures of my home life. It was the first time in ten years I’d gone to such a dark place that even Puinteyle couldn’t lift me out of it.

I pleaded with the universe to let me be an author. To prove them wrong. To prove to everyone that what those people had said wasn’t true.

It was so much harder to step out again after the fall.

So what helped me pick myself up, climb back out of the chasm?

Writing is who I am. It is what is left of me when everything is stripped away. At rock bottom my solace was writing. I didn’t pick myself up. Writing did. It’s woven into the fabric of my being and what picked me up was admitting that. Understanding that. By being who I was born to be, I was given the strength I needed to rise again.

It took me months to recover from that experience. To this day, nearly two years later, I am still recovering.

Every day is new and every step counts. I kept writing. It didn’t matter that I lost my schedule. All that mattered was that the next point got written. The next scene was imagined. As long as I got words on pages I would climb back up that damn cliff of self doubt. It became harder with the baggage I’d picked up, and sometimes I thought I would fall. Sometimes I thought I would give up again and “get a real job”.

But I was born to write with galaxies of libraries in my eyes.

I have stories to tell and come crashing towers, thunderous waves or roaring fires, I will tell them.

And I did.

I’m now five books in and there is no sign of me stopping.

After a long, long time, I managed to stand again. I continued working through everything. I worked on everything that didn’t matter. That wouldn’t make me progress.

Then the world went to pot. Australia was set on fire and then the pandemic struck.

It may have been the best thing that ever happened to me. Through all the pain, all the hardship, all the suffering, my work couldn’t afford to have me on fulltime anymore.

It was like a rebirth.

The universe was showing me that it could be done. That it wanted me to do it. The universe took away all the obstacles so I could write. I couldn’t stop myself. I picked up the proverbial pen and wrote.

Return Home

And so, I sit here, writing this blog, hearing the whispers of Puinteyle calling me. I am two- and a-bit years into my writing career with around five hundred book sales total, feeding my writing with my beautiful part time job. I am planning and conducting amazing things, applying for grants, preparing trainees, putting together email nurture sequences, and following the structures those who have written before me. All so I can write full time.

And I am writing because I was born with a galaxy of libraries in my eyes.

 

Rhiannon is a twenty-something lady who always dreamed the world could be a better place. Raised by a fairy, taught by wizards and bullied by goblins and trolls, she soon learned that magic was everywhere in life and all you needed to do to find it was simply look. Within those lessons, she also learned that magic created the power to achieve your greatest dreams if you only practiced wielding it.

From her earliest years she remembers writing stories with her friends and dreaming of having her work published. As she grew older she realised that she had the power to do so at the end of her wand (aka: keyboard).

She dreams today of eventually developing Puinteyle, Lencial and Cuerul into various forms of games, be it Roleplay, Computer or Board games, as well as publishing as many works as she can before the last story leaves her dreaming mind. All she wants to do with her stories is to show that goodness, kindness and love always win… even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

You can get a free copy of the Case of the Captains Hair here and find out more about Rhiannon and her books here.