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
My mom and my sister and I have had a loose tradition for the past five years or so of coming up to Lake Champlain for a week of intense, creative retreat. Lest you think it is all nose to the grindstone, let it be shouted from the rooftops that last night we watched four episodes of Homeland. Wine and chocolate is consumed, and we watch amusing animal videos on our iphones (no internet here—I’m posting this from a café), but most of our days are spent digging into our work. On the drive up from Connecticut, we each talked about our goals for the week, our fears for our work, and our hopes for each other, which is very helpful and exciting. This week, my mom is working on her YA fantasy series, my sis is aligning her hard drives and working on animations for her autobiographical documentary, and I’m trying to figure out what the hell my next book is going to be about.
Well, it’s not quite as dire as that. Here’s the scoop: I thought I knew what my next book was going to be about, and I think it’s still going to be about that, but now that BITTERSWEET is actually forthcoming on the horizon, the powers that be have let me know that they think my next book isn’t exactly, 100% right, that maybe the vehicle by which its aboutness is delivered is off. It’s a funny thing, to go from writing in relative obscurity for years, to suddenly having people—professional people, like not my loving and supportive husband, for example—care what is coming next. A younger version of my self might have resisted such suggestions, but I’m older and wiser, and dammit, I want my publisher to be as in love with this next book as they are with BITTERSWEET, so I’m taking this week to reflect on the essence of this book, what feels absolutely necessary about it, and what I can dispense with in favor of making it more of a one-two punch follow-up to BITTERSWEET.
These are the challenges that come with good fortune—it simply hadn’t occurred to me that the book I’ve been dreaming about for the last six months wouldn’t have a zip and drive to those who are helping shape my career. It seems to have zip and drive for me, but GAH, now I’m a brand, which means I’ve got to be smart about delivering on that promise.
When I think about it that way, delivering on a promise to my readers, it feels actually quite doable and exciting and lovely. When I think about it they way I was thinking about it when I woke up this morning (HOLYSHITHOWTHEHELLAMIGOINGTOFIXTHISBOOK), it’s pretty much the opposite of that. Oh, also a word of advice if you’re trying to get a fix on your next book project: DON’T SPEND THE MORNING READING DONNA TARTT’S THE GOLDFINCH. Because you will pretty much convince yourself that there’s no point in writing anything about anything, because there’s just no way you’ll ever write anything half as good as she does.
But I took a shower, made and ate a delicious omelet, came into town, I’m in a gorgeous place with people and minds I love, there is no four-year-old whining at my door (butohmygodImissthatkiddosomethingawful), and you know what, there are worse things than getting to sit with your mom and sis in a beautiful house overlooking a lake freaking out about what your next book is going to be because you have set the bar high for yourself!
So I’m grinning and bearing it, folks. And believing that I’m going to find my way through the forest. In the meantime, I scribbled this mantra for myself and taped it up over my workspace:
-It’s an idea you love. But the vehicle isn’t quite right. So you can fix that!
And I’m believing myself.
And for today’s bonus material, check out the log that was across our path when we arrived in the rain two nights ago:
And my lumberjack sister’s handiwork the next morning:
She’s pretty great. For lots of reasons.