Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fun Pit Stops on the Road to Publication




So, a couple of years ago I started this blog because I felt like I was on the verge of publication and I thought it would be fun to chronicle that moment of crossing over. I had this vision of my ideal reader as my Self of 15 years ago, when I was just starting out and not knowing very much about the business.

"Hey," I thought, "I can be a kind of mentor to that struggling, na├»ve writer. I’ll give her advice. Throw her some helpful stuff I’ve learned along the way about writing and the publishing world and books in general—stuff I learned the hard way—the slow, painstaking way—by going to conferences and talking to other writers and reading books on writing and working on my own writing, day after day after day." At that point I felt like I was an expert. I’d been writing forever and pursuing publication for what seemed like forever too. It seemed to be only a matter of time before I snagged that dream book deal.

Big shocker: this turned out to be a tad overly confident on my part. One thing I have learned is that struggling writers tend to vacillate (sometimes daily; sometimes hourly) between confidence and potentially crippling self-doubt. I think it’s just one of those things that goes with the territory—I don’t care if you’re Joe Schmo or Stephen King. In the end it’s just You and the Blank Computer Screen. You’re alone. You’re sitting in your (smelly) pajamas. You’re living in your head, listening to voices. That’s your freaking job, whether you’re getting paid for it or not. Sometimes you finish a day’s work feeling elated and pumped up by your own brilliance. Other times—most times, honestly—you’re convinced that what you’ve written is the biggest pile of crap anyone in the history of the universe has ever set to type. You question your talent, the point of writing when you have no audience, your place in the universe, the meaning of life, etc. It’s kind of depressing, to put it mildly.

Anyhoo. The dream book deal took longer than I thought it would to come together.

(Brief digression so I can bring you up to date on what the deal is: The novel is called THIN SPACE. It’s a young adult mystery with a supernatural twist. Note to self: MUST work on cool 10-second elevator pitch.) It’s being published by Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster. Look for it in stores in Fall of 2013!!!)

It’s a long long story how this all came together and what my life’s been like since I signed the contract, and probably not interesting to anyone but me, but I thought in the interest of the original intent of this blog (giving a helping hand to a struggling writer/detailing all aspects of the publishing journey—both bad, and GOOD!) that I’d list some of the highlights:

1. Signing the contract itself was a pretty big highlight. My daughter happened to be home sick from school when the paperwork came in the mail and she made me change out of my pajamas so she could take pictures of me actually signing. (She also made me put on a necklace. A necklace!! Haha. I rarely wear jewelry, rarely even wear clothing besides pajamas. But there I was wearing clothing and a necklace and holding my precious contract. My awesome supportive neighbor drove with me to the post office and took more pics. (I had changed into normal clothes by then, because, really, the nice clothes and jewelry were pushing it.)



(Look how cute the postal worker, Dave, is. He had NO idea why the heck my neighbor was taking pictures of me or why I was grinning like a big doofball.)


2. Ah, the day I got the first installment of the advance check. Fun facts: it was the first money I made off my writing in four years! I opened my own bank account! I bought a laptop to replace my unreliable/broken-keyed one! Woo hoo! Money!! But not that much money…not so much money that it would mess up our son’s college financial aid package. So woo hoo!

3. I’ve been working with an editor. And I must say she is wonderful and amazing and the whole editing experience has exceeded all of my expectations. (I went into this process with a dream editor in mind: Ursula Nordstrom blended with Patti Lee Gauch with a sprinkling of Julie Straus Gabel, in case anyone is wondering.) This is my first real experience with an editor and I can’t imagine it could be better. She knows just how to push me without raising any of my hackles. And I know she loves my book (and gets it) almost as much as I do. We had a little wrinkle at first when I didn’t realize she had written me all of these notes in the comment feature of Word, but once I figured that out, I loved that too. It’s like she’s in my head, guiding me and whispering words of encouragement while at the same time getting me to think hard and change stuff. Example of how this process works: she will write something like, "why is this character angry here?" And I will read it and think, "yeah. Why IS he angry?" And of course what she’s really saying is: "it makes no sense that he is angry and you must do something to expand upon that or take it out, you dingbat." But she is much too nice to say it that way. I am now approaching my final week (I think!) of edits, and the book (that I thought I’d finished three years ago) is SO much better because of this lovely, brilliant woman.

4. Beyond Words set up a focus group of teens around the country to read and fill out a response sheet about my book. I got to see a few of their comments and all I can say is I absolutely love these teen readers. So smart and thoughtful and careful with their answers. (It helps that they were complimentary. Haha. )

5. And last but not least: the other day the art director people sent me THE COVER! It is not finalized yet but it is beautiful and perfect and just what I would’ve designed (if I had any artistic/visual sense at all). They had asked me several months ago if I had any thoughts about it (which is very kind. I don’t think writers typically have any input.) And I told them some random blathery ideas, and their design totally exceeded my vision. Oh, it is so cool and clever and just the type of cover that I think would grab potential readers. I promise I will share it as soon as they give me the go ahead so we can all bask in its glory.

Yes. I know I am over-the-top gushing now. Which means it is probably time to stop. (Also, I probably need to change out of my pajamas.) Thank you, dear blog readers for bearing with me through this bloaty brag fest and for putting up with me through all of those other posts of doubt and depression and questioning and gnashing my teeth at the fickly gods of the publishing universe too. Couldn’t have done it without all of your encouragement and support.

And that’s another nice thing for a beginning writer to know. Yes, you are alone in front of your computer screen, but please do everything in your power to reach out to other writers. I promise there really is a wonderful community out there of pajama-wearing, voices-hearing, self-doubting/brilliant writers just like you.

8 comments:

  1. What a great description of a good editor. I feel the same way about mine!

    Can't wait to see that cover!

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    1. thanks, Tracy! I'm dying to share it too. (In the meantime, it is my screensaver and I can sit alone at my computer and bask in the glow of its glory myself.)

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  2. I'm happy for you! You deserve success!

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    1. Is that you, Mary Jane? Holy Moly! You look great and thanks for the kind words.

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  3. LOVE this post! So happy for you and this exciting time! Can't WAIT to see the final cover and everything. I am so happy for you. Your book is AWESOME, and people will love it. Woo hoo! And for Lord's sake, wash those smelly pajamas...

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    1. Thanks, Donna. And thank you for the birthday gift... new pajamas!

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  4. This is my first visit to your blog. So glad I found it. Loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. Thanks, Ruth. I just checked out your blog. Hmm. We seem to have a lot in common...

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