I’m on my ninth month of working on a poetry book and now I’m finally at publishing’s doorstep. I’ve always dreamed of writing a book, since I was in elementary school. I really started working towards this dream when I joined a program and class I found through a friend and LinkedIn connection last summer. Some of the poems in my book have been in progress from last year but most of them I wrote over the course of the last five months. Writing a book doesn’t take nearly as long as people think when you have a class keeping you on schedule and fellow authors and an editor holding you accountable. Here I want to discuss the life-changing adventure writing a book is and talk about all the things I’ve learned along the way!
1. I learned a lot about myself.
I learned what kind of writer I am. There are three types of writers:
Habitual: the people who write every day
Deadline: the people who right on deadline
In-between: The people who write in chunks inconsistently
I’m a habitual writer. I will write every day or every other day when I have something to work on. The great thing about writing about something that enjoyable is that I always want to be working on it. That’s why when you decide to write a book you have to set aside anything anyone might think. Many of the best books got rejected several times before they became what they are today. Lord of the Flies was rejected twenty times. Stephen King’s Carrie got rejected thirty times. So when people tell you your idea is stupid, you have to listen to yourself. Because you are the only audience that matters. Thinking about a book you’ve always wanted to read but it doesn’t exist? Well that’s how you start!
I believe poetry has an important place in the world. With poets like Rupi Kaur becoming famous, who says there isn’t room for me? That’s what I told myself when I decided I wanted to write a poetry book. I had doubts at first, wondering if anyone would like or want to read my book. But once I started falling in love with my writing, those fears stopped in their tracks.
2. I learned about others.
I learned the team that I needed and that it would only grow. Things that surprised me:
The value of a developmental editor
It takes a village
The first to read the poems in my book was a poetry teacher’s assistant who encouraged me. Next I began sharing with professors and getting their approval fueled me even more. I soon started sharing with classmates, friends, family anyone who was interested. It’s true that most first drafts should be written with a locked door. But this was a special case. With the intention of publishing quickly I needed feedback and I needed support.
The people who first encouraged me began my journey and now my book’s support comes from over eighty campaign-backers who are willing to pre-order my book or donate to help pay for my publishing. I’ve also begun talking weekly with a marketing and revision editor who has also helped a ton. Having someone to check in weekly helped me get closer and closer to paying for publishing. Now she’s helped me build a beta reader community which I will start sharing my work in soon. It’s an exciting time to be right on the cusp of a dream coming true. That’s why it’s important that I continue to be grateful for the people who are making it possible.
3. I learned the art of writing and rewriting.
My developmental editor noticed with every poem I wrote, I improved. When I started working with my editor with our digital calls we’d mark up entire poems. By the end of our sessions together she had one or no comments per poem. This was incredibly exciting. I was able to read poems from months or even only a week ago and see that while my book grew, so did I.
Rewriting and revision are an art. The incredible ability to say, yes, it’s good, but it could be better–is needed to make progress. Believing in improvement and changing is a life skill. I committed to Eric Koester and his book writing class so there was no going back. Plus when you go for a dream you really want there’s little room for any persistent doubt. There were times I completely reworked poems only to find I hated the old version and the new version. Then other times, guided by my developmental editor, I rewrote or added to poems until they sang to me. I soon discovered the rush revision can actually be. The idea that you can make something better should be exciting, not discouraging. When you break it down and take it one page, or in my case, one poem at a time–it’s actually liberating!
4. I learned dreams change.
I also learned that dreams never stay the way they started out.
When I decided to write a book I still thought I was going to write fiction. But my heart strings got pulled so strong by poetry that I gave. I decided to combine my two loves: fantasy and poetry. But then about halfway through the book I realized I wanted to try realism poetry. So then I started writing that. And my incredible developmental editor told me to go with it. I started with a fantastical title (Dragon Bones) with the assumption that I only wanted to write about princesses, dragons and ogres.
I soon realized that books don’t belong in boxes. No more than music belongs in a single genre. So I wrote what my heart wanted, including Renaissance painting inspired pieces, Greek mythological poems, and Catholic symbolism poems all on top of my fantastical poems. I also delved deeper into confessional poetry. I also started writing about sexuality, loneliness, doubts, and depression. At first the flood gates came open and all I could write about was strife. Then I discovered what I really wanted my book to be: a story of growth. Because of that realization, I changed my title to be after a different poem, “Into the Orange Grove.” When I began assembling my first draft for acquiring editor submission I organized it into three parts: an introduction section, a dark section, and then finally, the section where I came into the light. The final section was by far the most fun to write. I wrote about all the people I love and how they’ve added to my life. I didn’t know the story I was writing until I started writing the final poems and realized what I really wanted to show people: a happy ending.
5. I learned it’s not nearly as hard as I thought it was.
With a team of editors, fellow writers, marketers, friends, family and more I was set up for success.
Writing a book was fun and rewarding. Writing is what I love and it was amazing watching the book come closer and closer to being made a reality. Now I’m four months from publishing and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I am so glad I decided to take on this journey, to join Mr. Koester and his class and to become a published poet and author at the age of twenty. I think writing a book sounds scary to people but I enjoyed all the steps of the process though at times I had to stifle my doubt. It’s overall been immensely educational and has changed the way I think about myself and my life. Achieving dreams seems less impossible now, and I feel like I’ve learned so much about how important it is to stay close to those who believe in you. And of course, that it is essential that you believe in yourself. That’s what my book, Into the Orange Grove, is about.
You can pre-order Into the Orange Grove or donate to help my campaign: