The Story of my Story

I’ve been struggling to think of what to say about this whole publishing business. I’m a complete newb to the industry, so it’s not like I can offer tips or wisdom. I also don’t necessarily want to be placed in a position of teacher. I’d much rather learn alongside my readers (and from them, too!)–we’re all peers here, figuring out life as we go.

But I figured a good place to start might be to lay out the story of this novel and how it came to be (without revealing any of the actual plot, cause that is FORBIDDEN according to my publisher).

I wrote this novel back in November of 2017. It was a tough time for me–my mom had just been diagnosed with fronto temporal dementia, and I’d just found out that my first, very wished-for pregnancy wasn’t viable, and I was waiting for my body to realize it and miscarry. (You can read the full story here).

I tend to be a pretty lighthearted person, but that winter was hard and dark.

What my life felt like at the time when I wrote my novel^

We were living in Mississippi, in a little house with a tin roof, and each night acorns from the giant oaks that towered over our house rained down on the tin roof in a cacophony, louder than thunder.

I loved the sound. I can’t quite explain why–maybe it was the feeling of being part of the seasons as they turned toward winter, or simply the sheer noise of it in our silent, childless house, with its chilly cement floors.

But for whatever the reason, each night as I curled up against Jordan’s warm body, the thunder of acorns gave me hope. So I set out to write a novel that captured the feeling that the acorns gave me: one of wildness and coziness all twined together into a story.

I took refuge in wild places during this time, getting up at the crack of dawn each morning to go for runs with Chara and Wren

A story about what happens when your grand life plans fall apart and you’re forced to find comfort in the smallest places: wildflowers and knitted garments and meals with friends.

It clicked right from the start. Usually my characters start as cardboard cut outs, and I have to take personality quizzes while pretending to be them and write little vignettes about their lives outside of the story (like what their bedroom looks like, or what their first memory is) before I finally begin to know who they are.

But this time, the setting, plot and characters came to me already alive, and that winter I wrote my fingers off and watched as my story bloomed.

Before I knew it, I had a completed manuscript.

My process after I finish a first draft is to let the story sit for a few months so that I can look at it with fresh eyes. This time, I let it rest (through a move to Georgia and the beginning of the pregnancy that brought me Linden) until the following summer, when I started reworking and workshopping in writing groups.

Since then, the story has been living in a Google Doc, getting dusted off every year or so to be read by a friend or family member (or reread by myself, when I need something cozy and bright in my life).

And then, last month, one of the participants of the writing group where I first workshopped it approached me about publishing it! She’d gone and gotten her Master’s in publishing, and had opened a small publishing house, and she hadn’t forgotten about my story.

Since then, it’s been a whirlwind of all things publishing–meetings with my publisher, learning about the process, long discussions with my husband about whether it was something I wanted to pursue, reviewing the contract, and then, finally, signing the contract and committing!

It’s been incredibly exciting and a bit overwhelming. I’ve filled out questionnaires titled things like “Author Toolkit” where I lay out my willingness to participate in book signings and tours and tabling events. I’ve had folks from the publishing team begin fact checking my story, while others create mood boards on Pinterest devoted to the world and write up draft text for the back of the book.

Story mood^

Right now our tentative publication date is late fall of 2023.

In the intervening time, we’ll work through each chapter one at a time to perfect it. After that, it’ll go to a copy editor. In the meantime, the publisher will also develop several cover options and will do A/B testing (so polling audiences on two options) to figure out which folks prefer. We’ll also do the same kind of testing on the title and summary.

Finally, when all that has been settled, we’ll do a kickstarter (this is a small, new publisher, so a kickstarter will help support initial print costs), to figure out what our first print run will look like.

And then, come fall of 2023, we’ll have a launch party and will release the book!

I’m excited to share this process with everyone as I go through it–and you can help me by telling me what interests you! Do you want to know more about the publishing industry? The process? What editing a chapter looks like? What writing the actual book looked like?

Or are you more interested in random other things, like how I balance working full time with publishing a novel and parenting, or what my morning routine looks like? Just lemme know what you’re most excited to hear about, and I’ll do a post on it!

Note: the top photo was snapped the summer before I wrote that novel, back when I was just excited about being newly married and adopting a new dog and spending the summer with my sister and running. That version of myself had no idea what was coming, and I’d feel sorry for her, except ultimately I think it was a good and necessary transition. I no longer believe in constructs like karma, and it’s helped me to be much more empathetic to hardship. You can read more about my shift in mindset in this blog post, On Luck and Loss.

2 thoughts on “The Story of my Story

  1. I cannot wait to get to know your characters!! Do you people-watch to get ideas or are your characters all from your head?

    1. A little bit of both! I used to do a ton of sitting in cafes and taking notes on people’s conversations and behaviors, and I’ll still sometimes jot down phrasings or things I overhear that strike me as particularly “real” feeling. The characters in this book are mostly from my head, but I also have to admit that (because I wasn’t planning on publishing this book) several of them are going to seem veryyyyy familiar to you 🙈

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