taking the time you need, books to read, how to revise your book, and apple pie!
|Patrice Caldwell||Dec 19, 2019|| 1|
It’s the end of the year! Less than 2 weeks, and it’s 2020. A new year. A new decade. SO MUCH NEW. And it can be frustrating in the midst of ALL THE NEW to find yourself seemingly where you were months, years before. To feel like nothing has really changed and now you’re entering a new decade without accomplishing those big goals you had & expected to reach.
I’ve been having a lot of these conversations with author friends. Talking about what we accomplished in 2019 and how 2020 is going to be our year. But it often feels like this is always what’s said at the end of the year, like next year the training wheels are FINALLY coming off. I feel there’s a danger in that sort of thinking. Not because you shouldn’t have goals, not because you shouldn’t dream big or expect your hard work to manifest results, but because it almost invalidates that hard work.
A couple weeks ago I kept telling my therapist that everything was falling into place just as I’d hoped. She stopped me and was like, “you can’t keep saying that…you come in here every week and we talk about how hard you work, the ways in which you strategize, etc., it’s not like the universe is like oh, let’s give this to Patrice now. You’ve given it to yourself.” Yes, timing is key, (and obvi sometimes privilege is a play too) but also don’t brush aside your part in what you’re doing. And I think part of that “falling into place” mentality is also that I see everything I did this year as just a necessary step to get where I really want to be. Which means that I rarely celebrate the “little” things. It wasn’t until I took a step back that I was like oh this has been my best year. All those “little” things add up. As I’ve come to realize, you can’t keep measuring your life only by BIG MOMENTS. We can’t be Gatsby reaching for that green light, that perfect timing, that day when all your hopes and dreams will come true and then you’ve made it and now you can relax forever. It doesn’t work like that. It won’t happen like that. I mean, look at what happened to Gatsby. Living in the future, constantly reaching for what’s next can be just as dangerous a living in the past.
I’ve been trying to rephrase things in my mind, basically re-wiring myself haha. As cheesy as it sounds, life is about the journey not just the destination, growth and the steps in between are what we should be celebrating instead of/not only the BIG MOMENTS. By doing so, we’re rewarding ourselves. We’re seeing all the “little” things, we’re acknowledging the day-to-day sacrifices we make in order to pursue these creative careers, in order for our art to flourish and thrive. We’re seeing ourselves not just as someone who finally got a book deal thus is a “real writer” thus is deserving of praise but as someone who is deserving of praise, who deserves to call themselves a writer because they woke up every morning to write from 5-9am before work just to finish that first draft, because they took a year off from writing when they were going through a hard time personally and by doing so preserved their creative energy by not overworking themselves and burning out.
You have to take the time you need. You will get there. You craft will get there. If you take the time you need.
It’s not just about the book deal.
When I sold my anthology at this really great auction, I barely celebrated it. I told myself I didn’t want to brag, but there’s a massive line between rubbing it in people’s faces over and over again and being publicly proud of yourself. In my mind, selling the book was just what was supposed to happen. Now you see I had told myself that I would celebrate and slow down. But what I did instead was put even more pressure on myself by quitting my editorial job and telling myself I’d use the money from the on signing payment to write full time for a set amount of time and finish my novel. Surprise surprise, I didn’t finish my novel. I hated writing full time, I utterly failed at it. I became an agent (which I love). I regret none of that, my work environment when I was an editor was toxic, and I think I needed to prove to myself how badly I believed in myself by taking that chance and quitting, if that makes sense. But the thing is, when you have this sort of BIG MOMENT mentality, you’re never actually going to slow down. You’re just gonna hit one goal and then move the bar higher. Which as a concept sounds great, yay you for being a bad bitch, but it’s not because you’re tying your self worth to these BIG MOMENTS and either you’re going to burnout OR you’ll fail to reach one of the next goals and then you’ll label yourself a failure (or both!). But the thing is that failing to hit a goal doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Again, we forget how important growth is. How important it is to take your time.
Journaling has helped me a lot. I think it’s very easy on social media for it to seem like SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS all the time. So I journal to remind myself of all the steps in between. It’s so easy for me, especially with my never-ending to-do lists, to be like oh I didn’t get shit done today why am I tired at 3pm. But when I journal I’m like oh shit, that’s why I’m tired, I did a bunch of stuff. I started to realize that I have a book coming out next year and I wasn’t even excited about it. That’s messed up. I’ve been so caught up with being like why haven’t you finished your novel revision yet, Patrice. When there are like a billion amazing “little” (& big!) things I’ve been doing all year.
So, you finished your NaNoWriMo novel and two of your friends are revising and (seem) to be doing well, but the holidays are coming and you need a break AND you’re realizing that your novel is a hot mess and to make it the book you want it to be it might take a year. It might take two. I’ve been working on my novel since 2017. It’s changed a lot. I talked about this in last month’s newsletter, my craft wasn’t where it needed to be when I started writing this book. So really it’s only been this year that I’m working on the version of the novel that is truly the book I want it to be. It helps me to remind myself this, I save old drafts and read pages from time to time when I start mentally beating myself up. I go, Patrice, you see this garbage from 2017, that is not your book—that is another book, there are two POVs and a whole ass plot missing from that other book…it’s not your book. So again at some point this year I realized that I was working on the book I truly wanted it to be and I realized it wasn’t going get done this year. I thought we’d go on submission this fall. But I refuse to rush my work, and my agents don’t want me to rush my book. I’m not the same person I was then in 2017, I’m not even the same person I was this past January. Then, I cared a lot more about the bullshit status selling your novel brings. *eyeroll* whatever haha. I’ve literally seen people rush books to hit a trend that totally flopped (because you shouldn’t write to catch a trend!) and then disappear from the face of the book world and never come back.
There will always be a market for great books. You have to take the time YOU need. Yes, of course, there’s a point where you’ve been revising too long and a thing isn’t improving and either you’re gonna query it, etc. or trunk it. And yes, of course, not all books sell on submission. What I’m talking about is craft. YOU have to take the time YOU need to get YOUR book where YOU want it to be. Nobody else (+ their opinions) matters. The only people who matter to me when it comes to my craft are my agents, I trust them entirely. Now my friends also matter, but not when it comes to my craft. They’ve been like when are we gonna get to read it, and they will get to read it when it’s ready and they know I love them and really appreciate how much they care. But when it comes to writing MY book, it’s on me. My agents matter because they’re invested in me telling the story I want to tell. Side note: if you agent isn’t invested in that, part ways with that agent (after having a conversation first) and get a new one. I did it, no regrets.
2020 for me isn’t about selling my novel. 2020 is about me owning all the things I realized this year, which is basically boils down to I have to do what I need to do for me. That includes taking the time I need to take as well as not listening to people I don’t need to listen to. That’s the growth I want to celebrate and that I want you to celebrate. Because that kind of growth is infectious, you will begin to realize your friends vs. fake ones, you will realize the type of career you want, you might not know the exact steps on how to get there, but you will trust yourself more, you will stop comparing yourself to others because they’re on a different path/only you can be on yours, you will believe that (in time) you’ll get there. I’ve felt less anxious this year than I have my entire life. My whole energy is different and my friends have noticed it. I want you to grow in 2020, to celebrate that growth, to let that growth open up doors you didn’t even know existed.
Take the time you need. Celebrate that.
Morgan Harper Nichols is a must-follow on Instagram.
Okay also!!! 2020 is the year that some of the last books I worked on as an editor are coming out. Claribel Ortega’s GHOST SQUAD, Tara Sim’s SCAVENGE THE STARS (I actually got to edit the sequel to this book as well and they’re both FANTASTIC), and Mara Fitzgerald’s BEYOND THE RUBY VEIL. And then I had two client books come out in 2019: CRIER’S WAR by Nina Varela (it got featured by the Washington Post!) and TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY by Kwame Mbalia (it’s still on the NYT best-sellers list!!). And then George M. Johnson’s ALL BOY’S AREN’T BLUE is out next April! Send them much love, they’re all amazing and full of queer &/or poc characters.
My anthology, A PHOENIX FIRST MUST BURN comes out March 10, 2020 in the US, Canada, UK…I AM SO EXCITED. Please tell everybody you know about it, (especially those librarians and booksellers!) and if you pre-order it save your receipts. None of the following things are publicly announced but… I’ll be going on tour for PHOENIX, meeting up with contributors at various cities, and more on that in the new year as well! I’ll also be announcing a new book (haha obvi not the aforementioned novel I’m revising) sometime early next year, can’t wait. Also, PHOENIX got its first trade review and it’s STAR. Again, I’m finally feeling more relaxed and able to celebrate all the things, and I’m just so happy and proud.
Read Tessa Dare’s Girl Meets Duke series, and start with The Duchess Deal. They’re SO GOOD. Many thanks to Sil for the recommendation (she has the best romance recs, follow her!!). Also, new Jasmine Guillory that’s Olivia’s story out in 2020!! I’m so hype.
Speaking of taking the time you need and celebrating growth, my friend Julie C. Dao did an AMAZING revision series on Publishing Crawl. All five parts are up now (start here) and she walks you through how she revises, step-by-step! Read this, when you’re ready to query agents. And if you have thoughts/questions abut book promo, check out this ongoing discussion on Twitter!
I’m going to leave you with the picture of the pies me and my 16yo sister made for Thanksgiving (using, of course, the salted caramel sauce recipe from November’s newsletter for the one on the right)—our family LOVED them. I’ve made so many apple pies that it’s all from memory at this point, but I do like this recipe.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! Have fun, be safe, take care of yourselves, celebrate all the things <3