It is my pleasure to introduce you to the face of our very first WU book, Author in Progress! Isn’t it eye-catching and full of energy? I just love it.
I thought doing a cover-reveal post with a little something extra would be nice, so I asked my editor if she’d mind my reprinting the intro I wrote for Author in Progress, which reveals how the idea came to be, and why I believe this book is stuffed full of the very best secrets and fuel for not-yet-published authors. She agreed, and so here we are!
Over the coming months, you’ll learn a little more about Author in Progress, including a run-down of the book’s chapters. I’m ridiculously proud of this book, particularly because the essays created by our full slate of WU contributors are some of the best they’ve written — and you know that’s saying a lot, because when aren’t they fantastic? Author in Progress is already available to pre-order at all of the usual haunts, too, though the cover is slightly different on these sites; have a look at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Indiebound. It has a soft-release date of November 1st, though many will receive pre-ordered books in mid-October. Consider, too, adding it to your ‘want to read’ shelf on Goodreads.
Without further ado: Welcome to the beginning.
After I got my publishing deal, the question I received most often from not-yet-published authors was this: How did you do it?
The pithy answer? You put your butt in a chair and write.
Don’t you want to punch that answer in the face? It’s like hearing someone with great hair say that she simply rolls out of bed in the morning and fluffs it a little. You know she has a cabinet filled with gels and sprays and various anti-frizz products, but she doesn’t want to share her secrets or admit to the mirror time required. She just wants you to admire the final product.
Well, butt in chair is only part of the story, and the least fantastical part at that. So let’s try again.
How did you do it?
I spent several years writing and editing a version of the manuscript that would become my debut novel, but it wouldn’t become my debut until after I gutted all of that polished prose. I tore the story to the ground and then built it back up with a new (more innovative) structure, new (shades-of-gray) characters, new (layered) storylines, and a new (stronger) voice. I finished the manuscript for a second time, and that version is what finally sold. The “formula,” in broad strokes, was this:
- Receive feedback with an open mind.
- Improve myself to improve my story.
These steps contained fine brushstrokes, of course, as well as dozens of additional questions: What do you write? How often should you write? Do you need to take classes, read books, get an MFA? What barriers might you face, and how do you overcome them? How do you receive feedback, and where do you find it? How do you process it all? Which changes do you—and don’t you—make? What if you want to quit? How long must you go on? When is enough enough?
The purpose of Author in Progress is to answer those questions. This book offers guidance for the evolution of your manuscript and for yourself as a writer. We’ll walk you through the stages every novelist must face, whether you want a traditional publishing deal or to self-publish, and we’ll introduce you to the stumbling blocks you might encounter before writing, while writing, when asking for feedback or seeking instruction, through rewriting, and beyond.
That said, this is not a book that will teach you everything you want or need to know about writing. Rather, it will keep you writing by validating your experience. It will help you develop the myriad skills you’ll need to work as a professional novelist and overcome the most challenging hurdles. Because unless you’re a superhero, as you travel the road with your story, you’re going to get weary. You’re going to feel defeated by, even betrayed by, the words. You’re going to wonder if your experience is normal.
I can tell you with 99 percent certainty that it is normal.
It’s our goal with Author in Progress to help you find yourself in the pages, home in on your current struggle, discover a comrade, and persevere. You’ll come to understand that many of us have been, or currently are, on the road with you. And you’ll feel less alone.
Writing a novel is as much a mental exercise as it is a physical and intellectual one. So we suggest that you consider a new rule, a bookend if you will, to butt in chair: author aware.
The author who is aware of the road ahead is much more likely to succeed in an increasingly competitive industry than one who stumbles blindly in the dark.
The author who is aware that other writers travel that same road sees that he is not lost, that she has no reason to feel hopeless, that they are among friends.
The author who is aware begins to see a pattern—how each book takes its writer on a similar journey, whether that book is her first or twenty-first—and gains comfort in those parallels while learning more lucidly from each step.
The team at Writer Unboxed has provided a guiding light on that well-traveled road for more than a decade now, publishing more than 3,500 essays and interviews about the craft of writing and the writing life. It’s our pleasure to shine that same light for you here, and it’s our hope that you’ll join us on our website and our Facebook group (writerunboxed.com/facebook) whenever you need to be reminded that you do not walk the road alone. So often Writer Unboxed community members say they read exactly what they needed to read, exactly when they needed to read it, on our site. We hope you get that sense time and again as you read these pages.
Welcome to the tribe. Write on.
Editorial Director, Writer Unboxed