The first thing you should know is that this isn't my first rodeo writing a book. I've done it a time or two. ;) But I've never had as much trouble/struggle with a book as I have had with the one I'm working on now. (I wrote about it HERE, if you're interested in seeing what it means to be a writer who struggles.) And after I wrote that post I knew that in order to give it that one last go, I had to do something drastic. I needed help. Professional help. I needed a helping hand – and there's no shame in that. If I wanted the best chance for this book's life, I had to fight for it. There's a great quote from Jennie Nash that has stuck with me:
And after rereading the quote, I knew THIS is what she was talking about. This is me fighting for my book's life.
SUBMITTING THE Q&A
The first step in getting a book coach at Author Accelerator is to fill out a Q&A. I've been edited before. Many times. So when I began to prepare the information to submit for the Q&A, I thought it would be a similar process as I've experienced before. But I was incredibly surprised when I actually started to fill out the form. The questions were not things I'd ever been asked by an editor before. These were questions that made me stop and think about my book and my writing in a way I hadn't before. You may be wondering what kind of questions were on the Q&A and why they began to fill me with a bit of dread. Never fear - I'm going to give you sneak peek:
Where are you in the book-writing process?: I've written a few chapters.
What is giving you the most satisfaction in your book-writing process and your writing life?: There hasn't been much satisfaction lately because I haven't been doing it :) I got stuck on this story and then I "gave up" and haven't had much accountability to continue.
What is giving you the most frustration in your book-writing process and your writing life?: I took a long break from writing - the longest I've ever taken - and I paid the price. I'm now feeling very self-conscious about the story and about writing in general. I also haven't had the accountability I used to have in Critique Partners and Beta's - so left to my own devices, I have not put writing as my top priority like I used to. For this book in general - it's been the "story of my heart" for a long time - but I usually get a good 15-20k written and the middle falls flat or I feel like there's not enough stakes or action.
What are your goals and objectives for your book? Why are you writing it?: I'm writing (or rather, have been writing) this book because it's a theme and topic that has kept me up at night. That has brought me to tears when I think about the struggles the characters go through. There are elements to this book that I believe I HAVE to explore as a writer because if I don't, I'm certain that I will regret it.
What is the point of your book?: I suppose the main point of my book is: is love enough to overcome a tragedy and sustain forgiveness? I'd like my readers to ask the same questions the characters are as they move through the novel - can I forgive someone for something so tragic, even though I'm in love with them? Can I forgive myself for something terrible I did, even if it wasn't intentional?
What is your book about in 250 words or less? : Two years after the death of his wife and child, Tanner Lighty is a grieving alcoholic. After another screw-up on the job, Tanner is forced to admit that if he doesn't change - he's going to lose everything.
Michala Kirchner is a writer who doesn't write. It's not that she doesn't want to - it's that she can't. Her creative well dried up the night she did something unspeakable. And she's been paying the price ever since.
When Tanner and Michala meet - they are inextricably drawn to each other and yet repelled by their own baggage. They find themselves falling in love despite their reservations. Just when they think they might have fixed the broken pieces of themselves, a secret threatens to break their love. They have to ask themselves: is love really enough?
Why are you the best person to write this book?: Because this story has been in my head and in different incarnations for about 10 years :) I'm ready. It needs to be fully written at long last.
Share with us an outline or table of contents for your book.: Welllll... that's part of the problem. It's been plotted so many times, it doesn't have much of a coherent outline anymore - which is what I'm hoping I can achieve with coaching.
What genre do you consider your book to be?: Contemporary Romance or Women's Fiction - it really depends on the direction my coach and I think it should be taken.
What are you publishing goals?: I'm interested in independent publishing – self-publishing or hybrid publishing.
Who is your target audience, based on your genre and topic?: My target audience luckily crosses over a lot from Contemp romance and Women's Fiction. Mostly women 25 - 45. That also correlates directly with the data from my current readership/audience via social media platforms and surveys.
If you could fast-forward a year from now, what would your writing life look like?: Honestly, I'd be happy with just reviving the short-lived success I had before. Mostly - output. I'd like to be able to have a new release for my readers with the expectation that more are coming.
What about five years from now? What does wild success look like?: You know - this is not my first rodeo with publishing, ha! So wild success for me, as of late, is having my writing "career" back. I am lucky that I love love love my job - so writing full time right now isn't my goal. It's just being able to give my readers the books they've been asking for. And feeling good about the books I'm writing.
What are you looking for in a book coach?: Accountability, support, and help with this particular book because it's been such a pain in my ass. I've been edited many times over my writing career so I'm not afraid to be edited and coached. I just need a little more love while I get myself back on the writing train.
Have you worked with an editor on this project in particular? What was the feedback you received from them?: Other than working a bit with Lisa on some Story Genius methods (so more of ideas / pre-work) on this book - no. This book hasn't been with an editor before.
Now, you can see that I really put myself out there with the Q&A. I believe in approaching things with vulnerability because that's where the magic happens. But really, with questions like those, is it any wonder that the book coach assigned to you will have good insight into who you are as writer? Where you want to go? What you want to do with your book? But I have to be honest – I felt my confidence start to slip as I filled in those questions. We all want to believe that we know the story in our heart so well, but some of these questions made me wonder if I did really know my story as well as I thought. Is it contemporary fiction or women's fiction? Who IS my audience? What do I want readers to really take away from this story?
And then, of course, came the crippling fear of attaching my first chapter. Much like submitting your work to anyone at any time, there's an element of nervousness, but this felt different. Would the coach secretly think "Wow, she's not a very good writer?" Would my coach be excited to work with me? With my story? Would she or he be able to see the vision for the book?
AFTER THE Q&A
You would think that after submitting the Q&A I'd be ready to rock and roll – but that wasn't necessarily the case. Jennie Nash, Author Accelerator's co-founder and chief creative officer, wrote me back a lovely response, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear. She'd suggested trying out the Story Genius method, a workshop by Lisa Cron that Author Accelerator hosts every few months, but I'd already done some pre-work with the Story Genius method (which helped me focus on the things I'm going to present to my coach) and the timing of the workshop wasn't going to work with my schedule. I really wanted to get to the coaching part!
Throughout my exchange with Jennie, we discovered that what I really needed though was to get back to ground zero. To find the heart of the story and what I was trying to say, before I dove right into writing it and ended up with a bunch of things that happen but don't really tell a story. So in order to do that, I needed to go through Blueprint for a Book, which is the first phase of Accelerator's book-coaching program and is designed to dig into the heart of the story so you can write with confidence. Once I have those exercises completed, then I can start to work with my book coach on writing forward.
Which leads me to the most exciting part that came from the Q&A: my book coach assignment! I anticipated this moment, wondering who I would matched with, and when I found out that my coach is an extremely talented writer who has been published and in one of my favorite genres – I couldn't help but squeal in excitement.
HOW I'M FEELING MOVING FORWARD
I think the biggest thing I'm feeling right now is: relief. Relief that there are people who care that I write this book – that they WANT to see me finish it. They want to help me get the ideas from my head to the paper. I'm relieved that I see a way out of the dark hole I was in. I no longer feel like writing this book is an impossible task I have to shoulder on my own. Just acknowledging that I was stuck was so helpful – but knowing that someone will be there to help me achieve my goals is such a positive light.
I'm nervous. I'm nervous about the work ahead of me. I'm nervous that the Blueprint system will bring out something in my book I'm afraid to admit. I'm scared that I will fail, yet again.
I am hopeful. I know that by having a book coach on my side, I'm more likely to succeed. So I'm going to cling to that hope and bring it with me throughout this journey.