Jay Slagle knew he had a book inside him that was demanding to get out.
He thought he had a good story for kids, and he wanted to create something for his own children to read.
But he also had the demands of family and his job as CEO of Midwest Eyecare, and there were financial responsibilities he couldn't ignore.
Slagle, like many other would-be writers, couldn't just stop his life to sit down and write a book.
It took him 5½ years to write “Jack and Noah's Big Day.” The first draft went fairly quickly — about 200 hours of work over the first year. Then he found an editor and the real labor began.
He figures there were about 400 hours of pure writing in a thousand hours of reworking. To get writing time in, Slagle sometimes got by on about four hours of sleep a night.
“It takes time away from family.”
Of course, family plays a big part in his book, which is aimed at 7- to 12-year-olds. It's about mischievous kids who cause countless problems during summer vacation — think exploding house, slushie machine, firetrucks and police calls, and an elephant. The characters are based on his children, their friends and other people who live in their Dundee neighborhood — although the story, Slagle said, is totally made up.
Writing the book was not his only challenge. There was the challenge of getting it published, finding an artist to create the cover and eventually marketing the book. He went through CreateSpace to self-publish, so all of this fell to him.
Writing a book and getting it published isn't for the faint-of-heart. It's time-consuming. He sent about 500 emails. He made the rounds of local bookstores.
“I think I've written a good book, and I want people to read it,” he said.
He has ideas to continue the series of adventures with Jack and Noah, but he has a deal with his wife: He can't start another book until he has sold 1,500 copies of the first one. He's not there yet.
Does he feel successful?
“I like to write,” he said. “Money isn't the big goal.”
Jeremy Morong also chose CreateSpace to publish his first novel, a young-adult fantasy adventure titled “On the Backs of Dragons.”
He works full time for Great Western Bank and has a 5-year-old daughter, Maddy, and a 5-month-old son, Callum.
Writing a novel was something he always wanted to do, and he worked on “Dragons” sporadically over several years. “I have lots of ideas bouncing around in my head, and I was naive enough to think I had a story to tell,” he said.
Finding a publisher was difficult. But trying to get people to read the book once it existed was more difficult. Bookstores are reluctant to carry too many books by unknown local authors.
Still, Morong isn't giving up. He has written a sequel to “Dragons” and is working on a third book.
Finding time to write is problematic for him. He wrote the first book at night. Now, he has switched to early morning. “It has gotten a lot tougher with the baby,” he said.
One of the characters in “Dragons” invents a pill that allows people to get by on little or no sleep. “I wish I could take it.”
His measure of success? One of his elementary school teachers purchased his book and sent him a congratulatory note. “It was neat because she fostered my love of reading,” he said.
World-Herald photographer Kent Sievers waited until his children had grown to seriously work on his first novel, “Little Man.”
Once he started writing the book, “I gave in to the need,” he said. “The world I could create with words was greater than the one I could with photographs.”
Sievers found a smaller publisher, The Fiction Works, which provided an editor and which put out the e-reader version of his thriller-mystery several months ago. Then, right before Christmas, he too went to CreateSpace to have a physical book printed, and has gotten it placed in area bookstores.
He is a dedicated author, getting up early to write for two hours before work. He also has used vacation days to write.
“I cherish the time I can devote all day to writing. ... When the words are flowing, I can go six or eight hours straight and wonder where the day went.”
Sievers thinks one of the most difficult parts of the book process is “getting good feedback.” To that end, he joined Nebraska Writers Workshop, which has been most helpful. He recommends writers groups for the feedback, the tips, the encouragement and the constructive criticism.
He urged would-be writers to “forget about your ego. You'll get beat up pretty quick” by rejection letters, critics and readers who don't like your book. “But never stop writing,” Sievers said. “It's the only way to get better.”
Sievers feels a measure of success because “people I respect tell me they like my book. Monetary success would be nice, but you don't write to make money.”
* * * * *
HELP FOR WRITERS
Here are a few of the groups that offer writing workshops:
» Nebraska Writers Workshop, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. on Wednesdays, Baright Library in Ralston, www.nebraskawritersworkshop.info; free
» WriteLife, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. first and third Thursdays, Pizza Shoppe Collective, 6056 Maple St., writelife.com; free
» Nebraska Novelists, 7 p.m. Fridays, Crossroads Barnes & Noble; free
» Word Sowers Christian Writers, 7 p.m. on second Thursdays, Rockbrook Garden Cafe, www.wordsowers.com; free
» Nebraska Writers Guild, www.nebraskawriters.org; $35 a year