behind the scenes of writing a book
In July, I shared the news: I’m writing a book! And SO much has happened since then. Namely, the birth of our second child but also, uh, the entire book writing process, which I found fascinating. I wanted to write a quick update regarding these details for anyone interested, and also to record for myself how everything has been going.
Working with an editorial team.
For my book, most of the initial work was managed by the same acquisitions editor who reached out from the beginning. She’s the one who handled all the deadlines, contract negotiations and timeline details, and I’m grateful for her diligence. I’m not sure if it’s handled the same way at other publishing companies and/or for other types of books, but that’s what I experienced. That being said, I quickly learned that my book would be handled by a development editor (like it sounds - someone who helps further develop the content itself), a copyeditor (who truly edits the book start to finish once it’s been through development), a design team (people who manage layout and creative, both inside and outside), and then publicity (promotion, getting it in bookstores, etc.) down the road.
In my professional life, I’ve primarily been on the other side of this coin (obviously not for books, either), where I was either the one doing the editing/development or working with just one editor for copy only. It’s been very cool and humbling to get feedback from so many different sources to help make the book the best it can be, and serve its intended audience/market.
Landing on a cover.
I had no idea how the cover process would go, but this part was actually pretty seamless. Their team handled the entire thing; I had a little say in the title and subtitle, but not necessarily the creative look and feel. I had no problem with this, considering it is my first book (hopefully of many!) and they’re the experts on this sort of thing. Seeing the final cover was such a cool moment, and made everything seem more real.
Writing the manuscript.
As mentioned, I spent the entirety of July and early August writing 60K words for the manuscript. It technically wasn’t due until September, but with a baby due date looming, I wanted to push hard to get it done because I knew editing or rewriting post-baby would be much easier than starting from scratch. I’m VERY GLAD I took this approach. Even though it was tiring and challenging to write so much in six weeks’ time, it stretched me creatively for all the right reasons. I knew I had a word count to meet and the team was fairly prescriptive regarding each section of the book, so it wasn’t hard for me to basically pace out everything that needed to be written.
One of my friends joked that freelance had “trained” me for this - writing a lot in a short period of time - and it’s true. I was already used to waking up early, writing on the weekends and sacrificing free time to get assignments done, so I just transferred that same work ethic to a different project. Every day, I would look at my schedule and think: “Okay, I need to get 1200 words down today and three chapters done.” And then I just did it; I didn’t worry about whether or not it was “good” because I knew the editing part would happen later and it’d get there. If that mentality sounds like I’m a really low-key writer, lol, no. I’ve just learned from other writers, particularly Anne Lamott, that the actual writing part is the hardest to tackle and if you get stuck in the mode of editing or evaluating AS you’re writing, you won’t get anything done. Shitty first drafts 4 life. So, for all the people who were/are like, OMG, I can’t believe you wrote that much in six weeks - yes, I’m definitely proud of myself, but I also had been writing long enough to know how to discipline myself to get the work done.
And now I have no excuse for not getting other writing projects done, because I wrote a book in six weeks. Meaning, if you want something bad enough, you’ll find the time!
Editing the manuscript.
Once I turned in the draft manuscript, I didn’t hear back from the team until early October. That worked out perfectly, in my case, because my son arrived in late August and I ended up having a nice stretch of time in the newborn haze to soak him in, deal with the crazy adjustment of one kid to two, and enjoy family time without worrying about the book. I have to say that my editor was AMAZING about the whole “having a baby in the middle of writing a book” thing - she was so flexible, encouraging, patient, and kind and I am beyond grateful.
I worked with a development editor assigned to my book for the first part of the editorial process. I didn’t think about this part prior to writing a book, but it makes sense: whereas a copyeditor will focus on line edits and consistency and style, the development editor is the one to be like, “We need more copy here” or “This doesn’t make sense, can you rewrite?” or “I’m not sure what you’re saying here” or “Love this line.” (All of which happened to me!) All in all, we worked through just over 200 pages of copy and hundreds of edits. Some of the early ways we envisioned laying out the copy changed, too, and for the better. I really liked this part because I got so much feedback and it pushed my writing in the sense of learning to refine copy for specific purposes. And noticing my own writing patterns and habits, like using the same adjectives over and over or getting a little lazy in certain instances. Some of our edits were fairly straightforward, and with others, I had to completely start over my thought process and rethink what I was trying to say.
Being on maternity leave for this portion was . . . interesting. On one hand, I liked that I obviously had the downtime of simply being at home and not worrying about my full-time job, and our other son was at daycare so I really just had our newborn to focus on. On the other hand, any new parent who stays home with a newborn at the beginning knows it’s not exactly downtime. If you’re picturing me writing thoughtfully at my desk for hours with a snoozing baby at my side, let’s be real: I mostly wrote in 15-30 minute increments between babywearing and breastfeeding. Again, it pushed me to stay focused and do the work; I didn’t have the luxury of being like, “Hmmmm, what should I say here?” It was more like, “He’s asleep and I have to get the next 10 pages edited, GO GO GO.” For someone who leans toward perfectionism and overthinking things, this was helpful!
Getting from manuscript to finished product.
I had about two and a half weeks to finish all edits. After I turned them in, there’s another whole process: the book goes to a copyeditor for a few weeks, comes back to the development editor who reviews, and then I approve. Then it goes to layout, comes back to me and I approve but can’t necessarily edit or change or add the copy; it’s just small tweaks. From there, it’s essentially out of my hands until publication, and the primary focus shifts to promotion.
Book released for pre-order!
The best news: Get Your Life Together(ish) is now available for pre-order, in paperback and as an e-book! It officially comes out April 9, 2019, but in the meantime, you can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and a couple other retailers. A lot of people have asked me if I’ll do a book tour, and the answer is, for a book like this, not really. I’ll instead do some local events around town closer to the book launch, as well as get the word out through digital mediums and social media, so stay tuned :)