Doing my own thing – Dana Wilkerson

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By Dana Wilkerson

A few weeks ago I took a quick shopping trip to find some new sweatshirts to wear in my chilly office / back porch. I found two whose sayings were made for me: “Doing My Own Thing” and “Allergic to Mornings.” Ask anyone who knows me well, and they will tell you those are the two main reasons I love being self-employed. ♥

For the past eleven years I’ve been a full-time freelance writer and editor. While freelancing has allowed me to do my own thing in some ways, in other ways I have found myself doing nothing but what other people tell me to do. On the plus side, consistent editing work has paid the bills, and book collaborations have put my name at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. On the other hand, I’ve often felt trapped when I’ve been caught in a cycle of editing and writing the same types of things over and over again.

Last fall, I was stuck in a rut of editing when a former client asked me to do a small writing project. I hadn’t written anything in awhile, and the experience reminded me how much I enjoy it. So I digitally dusted off an old manuscript, and a few months later I finished it.

I sent it to a friend in publishing who is brutally honest. If it was terrible, she would tell me in no uncertain terms. She read it in one sitting and said, “Don’t change a thing. Go find an agent.” I was encouraged by her response, but there was a problem. I didn’t know if I wanted an agent. I needed to decide whether to take the long road of trying to get the book traditionally published or to go the indie publishing route. For many reasons, and partly due to my doing-my-own-thing nature, indie publishing won out.

One of those reasons was I had a brand new idea that I wanted to try out, but I wasn’t sure a traditional publishing company would go for it because the concept would be complicated to implement. There was also the chance someone would love my idea and then ask someone else to carry it out instead of me.

The concept: to write a novel for 8-11-year old kids that would correspond to the novel I had written for women. The pair of books would have the same characters, setting, and timeline, but they would be written from two different perspectives. In addition, the books would focus on a value or character trait, and they would emphasize community service.

That’s a lot of moving parts, and it was a daunting task, but I knew I had to go for it. I began to write the kids’ novel, which was an interesting exercise. There were things that needed to be added to the women’s book in order for the kids’ book to make sense. And then the kid characters did things I didn’t expect (as characters tend to do), so I would then have to make the corresponding additions or changes in the novel for women.

While finishing up the books, I decided to create a business around the entire concept, because I don’t intend for this to just be a one-time thing. I plan to write a series of books, and I’m providing discussion questions, information and tips about community service, and other related resources via the website and email list.

The most important and tricky part of business creation was coming up with a name and a tagline that encapsulated and explained the idea in the best possible way. With the help of some branding experts, I settled on A Novel Companion: Inspiring readers to live well and serve others.

The first pair of companion novels, Mustang Macy and Mustang Jessie, released this past week, and the response has been overwhelming. In some ways, the process thus far has been better and easier than expected, and in other ways it has been much more difficult. But overall, it has brought me a great sense of satisfaction. I can hold the books in my hand, think of all the adults and kids that will connect over them, and know that I’m the one who made it happen. I did my own thing, and I’m proud of it.

Do you like to do your own thing? If so, take a chance on the idea that’s been brewing in your head for weeks, months, or years, and go for it! You’ll be glad you did.

Dana Wilkerson is a #1 New York Times bestselling author who recently transitioned from collaborative non-fiction writing to writing her own novels. Her new business, A Novel Companion, is based on the concept of writing books for women and children that they can read together. Her first two companion novels, Mustang Macy (for kids) and Mustang Jessie (for women), released in November 2017.

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