If you are wondering if this is a joke, I assure you on my grandmother's grave, it is one-hundred percent the God honest truth - I set fire to my first manuscript.
Here's the deal...
I wrote my first manuscript in 2007. The book was a non-fiction called How to Succeed in the Handyman Business. It was excellent. It covered all details one would need to start and operate a successful handyman/home maintenance business. It had charts and graphs and details that helped me win 75% of my bids, among many other critical points to craft and customer service.
The book was great as far as the content was concerned.
I wrote the book by hand, because I had a job at the time that allowed a little time to write but I couldn't have a computer at my bench. I later typed it into a doc file. So unlike any of my other works, I actually had both a digital and hand written copy.
I was very proud of it. But then, I threw it in the fire and deleted the digital copy… forever.
Why? Long story short; I ran a home maintenance business called Home Pro Handyman for over four years. We did everything right, had top-notch service, and a professional, clean look. We even had up to seven employees at one point. I loved my job. I loved being the boss. And I loved the freedom, if you want to call it that.
So why burn my baby?
As I said, we ran a tight business… only problem, we had a few jobs where things went wrong and that caused some animosity between my wife and I. One job in particular caused so much stress financially that we never recovered. This was a BIG job we did for an apartment complex. We had several guys working, by the hour, for over a month. I kept paying them, but when it came time to bill the apartment complex, they told me that there home office in San Francisco had put a hold on all their payables across the country. The didn't pay any of their contractors! Me included.
We received some of the money over time, but from that point forward things sort of went down hill and my wife was left with a bad taste in her mouth in terms of that business. Only thing good that came from that job is that we mastered the art of writing contracts.
All to say, I found a great job a couple years later and when I had time to reflect on those years, I wrote the book, How to Succeed in the Handyman Business. Sounds funny compared to where I am now. I've written a bestselling novel for crying out loud! But the truth is, I knew my shit, and I watched many handymen screw up. All I did was watch what the other guys did wrong, and did it right. It was a pretty simple business plan.
Anyway… back to the burning.
After presenting my masterpiece to my wife, I watched her eyes fill up with tears. She didn't say much but I knew that the book brought back memories, and hurt, and I just didn't want to see her cry. Seriously. Although the book had tons of good information, tips, etc, it just stirred up a bunch of old doo doo. So, being the "fix-it-man" that I am, I stood up, threw my hand-written manuscript in the fire. I handed her my memory stick and asked her to delete it. She took it, reluctantly, but I insisted. I didn't want to write something that would be at all hurtful to her… so I canned it.
No big deal now. I've moved on. That was before the indie author movement kicked in anyway. And the point isn't that I wrote a book and burned it, poor me, blah, blah, blah. The point is, we all have a story about what led us to start writing. Some of you, fortunately, have broken out with a bestseller. Others have not been so lucky. But we all have a story. And we all have a trail that led us to where we are. Mine started by burning my manuscript. And it burned so well. It kept us warm for a few minutes actually.
But what about you? You started somewhere. You may have burned a few query letters, or penned ten novels before you published one. I've got a feeling you didn't set your first book ablaze, but you might have a story just as interesting.
Jeff Bennington is the best-selling author of Reunion, Twisted Vengeance, and The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe. If you'd like to hire me, see my Author Services Page.