3 Things I Learned About Writing and Publishing
Having just had my first book released in August, I’m still pretty wet behind the ears when it comes to this whole published author business. I don’t have a ton of sage advice to share, but I did learn a few things that I’m trying to remember as I embark on the second book journey (which is a completely different journey and that would probably be item number four if this were a list of four things I learned).
I like to show this photo at my school visits. It’s the “before” picture of THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK. The stack includes the earliest drafts, going back to February 2015, and is topped by the final print out of the book that I took a pen to, the first pass pages from March 2017. It isn’t a complete picture, of course. It doesn’t take into account that the book had been cooking before February 2015. It only shows the writing part, the part I had control over. There’s time spent that you can’t capture as easily--like all the time you spend waiting for someone to respond to an email. Or time spent fuming because the publishing world doesn’t work full days on Fridays in the summer. You know, little things like that. Does knowing that the whole process moves at a snail’s pace make it easier? No.
2. You will cycle through feelings. Get used to the cycle.
Here, I even wrote the whole thing out for you. This cycle will likely become very familiar. I wrote this down before I’d even gone out on submission with THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK and was revising with my agent. Just swap out the word “agent” for “editor” and it’s the only thing that changed in the cycle once the manuscript was acquired. I wrote it down to remind myself that whatever I’m feeling at any given moment will change, that there’s a pattern, and something about that makes me feel, I don’t know, a little more reassured. When you’re in the part of the cycle where you feel like you’ve been kicked in the gut and nothing you write will ever be any good (and you’ll be there, trust me), you’re there with the knowledge that, yes, this too shall pass. Right now, I’m in the “Ignore the whole thing for a few days” part of the cycle and so ready to move on.
3. Your process doesn’t have to be like anyone else’s.
I follow authors on social media who seem to spend about twenty-four hours a day writing in lovely rented writing space or swanky retreats away from home. They use tools like Scrivner to stay organized. Sometimes I look at their videos and images with the same envy with which I look at Instagram photos of Martha Stewart’s even, perfectly frosted cakes. Why is my cake always lopsided?
I have a full-time job (and a kid, so let’s say two full time jobs) in addition to writing. I write where I can and when I can. I don’t have a special space reserved for writing. I don’t even have a desk. Sometimes it’s hard to find the time to write, much less the time to tango with Scrivner. My process consists of cutting and pasting with a scissors and tape on the living room floor.
And sometimes, my process includes having to coax a dog off my manuscript pages.
I realize that knowing these things likely doesn’t make anyone in the thick of this process for the very first time feel a whole lot better, but perhaps less alone? Yes, it takes a long time. No, your emails will not be responded to as quickly as you wish. Yes, you will be drowning in paper. It’s okay that you’re writing at your unglamorous, sticker-covered dining room table. Take deep breaths, embrace the cycle, and know that in the end it will all be worth it.
There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school--you can't fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School's queen bee, violates the school's dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.
The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!
Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.
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