Yes, there will be setbacks
I had a little set back in my journey to becoming a published author. Let me tell you why my first written book won't be my first published book.
When my first story idea came to me, it was ten years ago. The story I wrote was written from my heart. I created it out of my passion for writing and my love for the movie A Christmas Carol, based on the writings of Charles Dickens. More specifically, I love the version with Patrick Stewart. Its one of my favorite movies during the holidays. (I was a Next-Gen Trekkie when I was younger!)
As a kid the story of old Ebenezer Scrooge fascinated me. I still love it to this day, however it leaves me wondering what happened to Jacob Marley?, Scrooge's business partner. As I grew older, every time I watched the movie this question haunted me. That's why when I decided to write my first book, I knew I wanted to write a story that answered that very question: what happened to Jacob Marley?
While my story is different than A Christmas Carol, there are a few familiar characters, as you can imagine, and it runs parallel to the story of A Christmas Carol. This worried me and got me wondering if I needed permission to publish it, but I was honestly unsure where to start. Do I call a copyright lawyer? Do I contact the original publisher of A Christmas Carol? I really had no clue.
I decided to post my question to a writer's group I belong to on Facebook. Here's my question: If I wrote a story that is essentially a prequel to someone else's story, how do I get permission to publish it? First, I should have put more thought into how I phrased my question because I left myself open to blow back. The truth was I know other's have written and published stories about Jacob Marley, most recently as November of 2020, so I know its possible. But second, I should remember to take every post with a grain of salt.
I posed my question and within 10 minutes of being approved for posting, I got four comments. The first comment was fairly neutral as the person took the time to educate me that this type of story is what is called fan fiction. The next three comments weren't as kind, and went more like 'from a writer's perspective, I'd be pretty pissed off at you for stealing my characters.' and the last one ended with them telling me I'd be labeled a thief in the writer's community and I'd ruin my career. :(
I instantly thanked them all for their comments and quickly deleted the post. It wasn't that I didn't want to hear more people call me a thief, although I admit I wasn't totally prepared for that, and leaving that door open could impact my brand. I deleted my post because I felt like I had gotten the feedback I needed. So... what is fan fiction?
Fan Fiction is a story written by a fan based on the characters from someone else's story. Its exactly what I did. I also learned that theses types of stories are faced with mixed reviews. In addition, they are not typically professionally published due to the potential copyright issues. But from the responses in my Facebook post, I already knew that its frowned upon by other author's who would possibly shun me as a fellow writer.
So, my first written book won't be my first published book. I won't abandon my story because it is my answer to what happened to Jacob Marley?. And when I read it, I feel proud of my work. I feel happy in my ending, and at peace knowing I did right by Jacob Marley, even if only a handful of people will be able to read my story in its original form.
Writing my story taught me so much and none of it feels like a wasted effort. I am a fan of Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol, and I'm not ashamed that I was drawn to his character Jacob Marley.
Every writer knows, sometimes there will be set backs and sometimes you must start over. Its times like these that we must learn to roll with the punches. So...onto the next story. :)