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The two-decade path to a writer’s first novel

This blog post was originally featured on Kentucky Arts Council's blog, written for their month-long celebration of Kentucky authors. Click HERE to see the original post.


The writing bug hit me early in life. First I wrote for fun, then I wrote to win. I wrote stories for a contest that was open to entries nationwide, taking home several prizes and copies of my work in the magazine that sponsored the contest. After seeing my work in print, I knew then that I wanted to be a writer.

That was more than 20 years ago.

My first book came out this month. You’re probably thinking that 20-plus years is a pretty big gap. And you’d be correct. Two decades is a long time to wait to see your dream come true.

But the fact that it did is nothing short of amazing for me.

You see, I started writing when I was in middle school. I dabbled in short stories and poetry. Going into high school, my mother and I sat down to create a plan for my classes. Writing classes, honors English, journalism…all classes to get me where I wanted to go. But by now, I wasn’t writing as much for me as I was for school. After graduation, I joined the Army, hoping to get college money and a coveted job in the journalism field. Only to be told that there were no available slots open in training for journalism, and being told to choose another field to pursue.

That’s when my writing was completely pushed aside.

Years later, I’m a civilian again, married and raising kids. But something kept telling me I needed to get back to writing, to sit down and put pen to paper, to record the stories that are forever floating around in my head. After about a year of the same story pushing at me, I finally gave in. I sat down, and began to write. And write. And write some more.

The result, after another year of editing, revising and rewriting, is my very first book.

I tell you all of this for a very simple reason. It’s never too late to start going for your dream, no matter how old that dream is. If your dream is to write, then write. Push and kick the obstacles aside and go for it. I say this from experience. I submitted my book to more than two dozen publishers and agents, and every single one of them rejected my book. So, I decided to self-publish.

I’ve spent the last two months promoting my book ahead of its release. Reaching out to bloggers, reviewers, interviewers, local media…anyone who would listen to what I had to say and help me spread the word. I’ve worked social media, day and night, with quotes and pictures and teasers. All tasks that may have been handled by a publisher or agent, had someone picked up my book.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s a lot of work. And yes, it’s worth every minute of it all.

It’s worth it for the moment when you open the box and hold the first print copy of your very first novel for the very first time, knowing you made it happen. There is no feeling like it in the world, because you put your heart and soul into the pages you’re holding, and it’s real. You are literally holding your dream.

If you want to be a writer, go for it. Sit down with pen and paper, or at your computer, and write. Don’t try to control the flow, don’t stop to correct the spelling or grammar or punctuation. Worry about that stuff later. Ride that creative wave as long as you can and then dig into making it more polished. Decide from there where you want to go with your work. Don’t let anyone make you take a detour once you know where you want to go.

This is your journey. You choose the path. Follow it and get your dream.

H.C. Bentley is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Her life is filled with books. She not only writes but is an avid reader, surrounded by books in her job at her local library. She is writing her second novel, and resides in Kentucky with her husband and two daughters.

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