By J. Todd Scott
I’m often asked how I started writing again after a twenty-year hiatus: why now? And why this book?
That’s never an easy question to answer; or rather, there’s no easy answer. But I do know that once I decided to put my shoulder against the wheel again, I promised myself I’d write for the only audience that truly mattered; an audience of exactly one – Me.
Writing a novel is an unbelievable act of faith. It’s a long journey to an uncertain destination, and whatever your process (plotting or “pantsing;” a rigid daily word count or something more flexible) it requires complete commitment not only to the process itself, but more importantly, to yourself. I discovered the only way I could embark on that journey was to travel extremely light: stripping bare every preconceived notion of what sort of book I should write, what type of story might sell, what a “real” author would do, or what an “ideal” audience might enjoy, and simply wrote the story that I wanted to, the only way I knew how to tell it. I left behind the inner critic and the self-doubt and the fear that had always accompanied my earlier “travels” (i.e., attempts) and committed myself to just walking…every single day, 600 to 1100 words at a time. I didn’t use Beta readers or critique partners or even discuss the book with my friends or family (most of whom didn’t know I was writing), and because I have a very demanding full-time career, my writing time was something I had to consciously steal first thing in the morning, before the day caught up to me. Consequently, The Far Empty ended up being all me: it was my solo circumnavigation of a novel. I spent the whole trip naked and alone…and had to start out anew early each and every morning! But it worked, and I enjoyed every step of the journey in a way I hadn’t during any of my earlier failed attempts to get a book done. In fact, it was liberating.
It was my voice, my story.
In some ways this is self-evident; just another version of advice I’m sure you’ve heard before. But writing this way can be surprisingly hard, requiring an easy acceptance of failure – if failure means not getting published. Not every book is saleable, not every story – no matter how personally compelling to you – will find a wider, “professional” audience. It’s daunting to start that journey having already accepted at the outset your book may never see the light of day, and still be completely comfortable with that. But that’s the only way I can do it. I’ve “trunked” several books written in the wake of The Far Empty that I was just as excited to start, and just as satisfied with when I finished, because I told my story to the only audience I really cared about: me.
And that’s what I learned when I started writing again…it’s just the journey, after all.
J. Todd Scott has been a federal agent with the DEA for more than twenty years, working cases investigating international maritime smuggling, domestic meth labs, and Mexican cartels. He has a law degree from George Mason University and is a father of three. A Kentucky native, he now resides in the Southwest, which provided the backdrop for The Far Empty.