As many of you may or may not know, I began writing my very first (well, first for adult-me) fiction novel last summer, but I haven't released many details since then. Sure, a few snippets here and there, but I've failed to shout it from the rooftops. To declare to the world "Here is my novel! Will you please take a look? I hope you like it!"
Doing so seems too... scary and real and vulnerable. Ever since I started this journey, I have been plagued with insecurity, feeling unsure whether embarking on such a task would be worth it. Would my book turn out any good? Would my words get lost in a jumble inside my head and fail to make sense on the page? Could I honestly take such a big chance on myself and dive into this brand new world?
Because let's be honest, self-publishing is a LOT of work and it isn't necessarily cheap. It requires an almost unwavering amount of support for myself (something I am already terrible at) and my dreams upfront without knowing for a very long time whether that investment will ever be returned.
On my bookstagram account (@AuthorBrittaniBee), I often see a meme that says something along the lines of,
"An author's two biggest fears: 1) No one will read your book or 2) Someone will read your book."
I can tell you I relate so much to this meme. Both options are terrifying.
So, I figured the best way out of my fear is to travel with it. Much like Elizabeth Gilbert says in her book Big Magic:
"Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I undersand you'll be joining us, because you always do... but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way."
For me, this looks like diving in and sharing with you all this new blog series. I wanted a space where I could share this very scary road-trip I have decided to take through not only writing a novel but also through self-publishing. I'm treating this series like a diary of sorts so that I may look back on them in the future (when I have forgotten the steps I've taken or how far I have come) and so that it may help others out there who are looking to publish their own books. I have seen lots of general guides for self-publishing, but very few (if any) from the POV of the author in a succinct format.
Today, I wanted to start by simply sharing just how far I've come since I began writing last summer. Then, I will share with you a brief synopsis of my story as it currently stands as well as the title to my novel (I anguished over the title for quite sometime, but thankfully a fellow budding author @StarryEyedAuthor came to my rescue!)
I began writing at the height of my depression and mounting anxiety, back when my whole world felt unsteady. I was working through budding familial issues as well as my relentless, undiagnosed pain. I was in a personal wintering of sorts and spent much of my time indoors watching my garden from the bedroom window, waiting for the time I could curl into myself and the safety of my home.
I wrote about 36K words of my manuscript before stopping. I felt the narrative was unrealistic and being forced to conform to something it just didn't want to be, so I put my manuscript away for several weeks.
I decided to print out the first draft of my manuscript (all 36K words of it) and literally tore it apart with highlighter and scissors at the ready. I extracted only my most favorite bits before turning to the drawing board to outline the rest of the story so that it didn't veer off track. Thankfully, I already had a catalyst and conclusion written out. Basically, the second half of my book was solid, but the first half needed guidance. I needed to figure out how to get things from the beginning to the middle smoothly.
Once almost everything was fleshed out, I began writing again.
January 22, 2023
I finished writing my second draft (first full draft). Eeeep! I felt weightless at having accomplished such a major goal and celebrated by jumping up and down a bunch. My total word count was at 104,700 words which I knew I wanted to shave down a tad.
I began self-editing my WIP, slashing through superfluous descriptions as well as my "crutch" words. I cannot tell you how many just's I deleted.
I also began reaching out to professional editors to check availability/ cost while simultaneously putting together the everything I would need for my beta readers. Beta readers are those amazing humans who read your novel before it's all polished and perfected and they tell you all the ways in which you might be able to improve. You can send your work off to an editor or beta readers first, but I chose to send it to beta readers so that they could help me find any blaring issues (of which there were several at this point).
March 2, 2023
Now self-edited, my manuscript was standing at 97K words and ready to be sent of to my lovely beta readers. I spent three weeks taking a bit of a break from my novel and the world I had built, but not entirely. My husband had volunteered to beta read/ edit grammar as well, so every night, he'd sit next to me in bed and tell me everything he liked / didn't like. It was difficult taking feedback at that time because I still didn't have much space from my story, but we managed to iron out some of the major issues in those nightly chats.
April 3, 2023
After a week or so of turning the beta feedback over in my head, I finally began incorporating their suggestions into the manuscript. I had a tight turnaround time if I was going to hand off everything to my editor by our soft deadline of April 17th. There was a lot to change and my word count crept back up to 103K words.
April 17th, 2023
Sent my manuscript off to Maria (my editor) after a very big push to meet our *flexible* deadline. But I was ready to get it in her hands and take another break. Re-reading a manuscript - even one you wrote - can be very draining when done so close together.
While I awaited my manuscript evaluation, I met with my book cover illustrator (Jordan) and photographer (Michael), both of whom happen to be really amazing friends! Jordan shared her ideas for my cover at a bakery in Atlanta that gave her all the same vibes my story had (she read it in the beta stage to help solidify her own ideas). All of her ideas made me cry, they were so beautiful. On the same day, I met up with Michael to have my author headshots taken and we were able to catch up as we hadn't seen one another since he photographed our wedding back in 2020.
And now, we are at the present once more. I've recently received my manuscript evaluation from Maria, and I'm working to incorporate changes to the novel before I pass it back to her on June 5th. Jordan is working on sketching the cover art, and I have picked a handful of headshots that Michael is editing.
Being fully in this process has given me a greater appreciation for all the work that goes into producing a single book. I chose to self-publish for many reasons, one of which was because I wanted full control over every aspect of this process. I wanted to see all the inner workings so that I understood the full picture, much like Emiliana's mother has her do when she starts working for her company. It gives Em the resources she doesn't realize she will need in the near future.
Speaking of Emiliana, now is the time to share the *very rough* synopsis of her story as well as the title reveal to the book. I hope you like both!
Emiliana has always loved two things above all else: baking and her home town of Lily’s Valley. After being diagnosed with coeliac disease at a tender age, she has had to learn to redefine her relationship with baking, especially since she currently works at a bakery under the watchful—and sometimes oppressive—eye of her mother, Geraldine. With the help of her long time friend Leandra and the mysterious stranger across the hall known only as A, Emiliana slowly gathers the courage to reimagine what it is she wants from life. And who she most wishes to become.