From A Tickle To A Roar

This is part of the Bittersweet Book Launch case study, where Dan Blank and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore share the yearlong process of launching her novel. You can view all posts here.

By Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Here’s how a book begins: with a little tickle at the back of my neck, the sense that I have a magnificent, messy, uncontainable secret. It’s quiet and mine. When I walk down the street, I smile to myself like a crazy person because there’s a story growing inside my head, and no one else can see it.

The next phase is getting it down on paper. This sounds like the tap of the keyboard or the scratch of the pen- it’s still private, but it’s not silent anymore. ┬áThe act to get it down is compulsive, and a little overwhelming. Irresistible. This is the phase I’m in with the book I’m working on right now.

Soon, soon, I get to having to mention it to someone. Maybe my husband, maybe my agent, and, I guess these days, my editor. Hopefully they love it. Or, if they don’t hopefully what they say helps to make the tickle stronger, and doesn’t send it fleeing (this metaphor is getting all mixed up, but I can’t stop now).

Then the book becomes a kind of quiet conversation, a long conversation. Me and the page, back and forth, day in, day out. It’s a wrestling match, a game of wits and it lasts and lasts and lasts. Some days I cry, some days I feel triumphant, but it’s still just the two of us.

And then comes the day it heads into the world. Someone else reads it. Someone else tells me what they think. A louder conversation. Hopefully not a bad one.

It’s revision that comes next, and though that may feel loud, it’s still just me and the book and maybe a couple other folks thrown in. The point is, it still feels relatively private.

And then I wake up one day and it isn’t private anymore. The best case scenario is people are talking about my book. Hopefully they are saying nice things. But even if they’re saying nice things, it’s still odd. I’m still in the middle of a metaphorical dinner party with a lot of people talking about something that began as a private tickle that I walked down the street smiling like a lunatic about.

They tell people. They tell people. (Again, this is the ideal, right? But it’s still very strange, even when it happens), and soon enough the dinner party has turned into a wedding reception. There’s this murmur all around the book, and everyone who’s talking is talking about the book. You’re meant to have one topic of conversation: book! And that topic should have salient talking points, and you should keep your eyebrows plucked and wear nice jeans to the grocery store and try not to wear your enormous orange parka to special events because, well, everyone at the wedding reception is looking at you.

If all goes according to plan, the wedding reception becomes a dance party becomes a stadium filled with people, all talking and asking and thinking and wondering and buoying up the book, what began as private little idea, and the conversation in the stadium sounds like a roar. An absolute roar of triumph and terror and oh my god how did my little tiny idea suddenly become so big?

I’m still in the dinner party stage. But man, I’m eyeing that stadium that will, I’m hoping, will be full of people come May 13th. I’m grateful for that stadium. But also for the tickle at the back of my neck that’s keeping my nose to the grindstone.