I’ve been fairly quiet on the blog over the last twelve months or so. Life has been somewhat strange over the course of the pandemic. We have thrown ourselves into work, keeping the kids on the straight and narrow and making the weekends and evenings a time to relax. Frankly, I also haven’t had much to say.
Having space from blogging is probably a natural progression from those early days of isolation in motherhood as a stay at home parent. Whilst I will probably always leave this door open to use my voice, I’ve learnt that it’s okay to step back and open up time for other hobbies, or binge watching Netflix.
Which is exactly what I’ve been doing; as well as keeping active with running and home workouts, I’ve picked up my guitar which I started to learn over a decade ago, and, I finished my book.
I remember hearing a panel discussing book writing at a blogging conference in 2015 and one of the comments truly struck a chord and stayed with me…
“The difference between someone who wrote a book and someone who didn’t, is that one of them wrote the book”
I knew then that writing a book was something I wanted to do. As the panel moved on to talk about writing courses and literary agents I started to think about all the blockers. After all, what would I even write a book about anyway?
Years rolled by, happily writing short memoirs in blog form, and in 2018 I embarked on a personal journey having hit my rock bottom and facing up to my unhealthy relationship with alcohol.
I wrote the book
Of course I blogged it, and writing the words was carthartic, but in parrallel I wrote a month by month journal capturing the highs and lows of that first 12 months as they happenned – the first party, the first christmas, the first holiday, all alcohol free. I captured how I was feeling – the challenges with my mental health as I realised now I had no escape from my own thoughts and emotions, recognising the parts of my life which also needed to change, and how I navigated that process.
I later included the pre-history of that point. My growing up years, how I developed such a closely woven bond with alcohol and where it had perhaps gone wrong. Using alcohol as an escape from Mum life and linking it with my pre-children identitiy which I was desperately looking for in all the wrong places.
The book of course also shares plenty of scrapes I got myself into over the years.
Editing, Editing, Editing
If I spent the first 12 months writing, plus another 6 months or so tinkering, I spent at least another 12 months editing.
I shared my manuscript with a few carefully selected friends; ones I knew would be astute, honest and fair. Plus my Mum, who I knew would love it regardless.
Each reader picked out points I had failed to see and areas I needed to go deeper into, which I did, feeling nervous but trusting in their good judgement.
Of course, the editing phase could go on forever, so eventually I decided to submit the manuscript to some literary agents.
I read up on the process and essentially, the first step to publishing is securing a literary agent to work on your behalf.
I paid the annual subscription for the Writers & Artists Literary list and made a start in preparing the various submission packages each one wanted. I managed just a few at a time and decided that I’d just keep going.
As the knock backs first came in I felt disheartened and defeated. I took a break of a few months and wasn’t sure I had it in me to keep going. But, on a whim as the seasons changed, I picked up again and made a promise I would keep going as long as it took. I even found some publishers who accepted direct submissions and sent my work to a few of them too.
I couldn’t believe my luck when I receieved an acceptance letter offering me a publication deal. Believing all my dreams had come true, I excitedly phoned my husband and imagined I’d finally done it.
Unfortunately, this deal required me to contribute several thousand pounds towards the arrangement, and alarm bells rang. After a lot of research and reading, I decided that this ‘hybrid publishing’ arrangement wasn’t for me – especially when I could self publish for free.
So that’s what I did – embarked on a mission to learn about self publishing. I designed a cover and downloaded a format template. I spent months editing and reformatting my manuscript into a 6×9 template, I was assigned and ISBN through the amazon kindle direct publishing platform, and I received my first proof copy through the post.
Holding the book in my hands
Despite having had my manuscript printed and spiral bound in the early edit days, seeing and feeling your book in your hands, with a cover and your name on the front, is quite a moment.
It’s also a really good way to spot errors and formatting issues!
Thankfully, through the self publishing platform you can edit, tweak, reversion and obtain proof copies along the way. I’m currently up to number 5 and am starting to wonder if I’ll ever feel the book is ‘perfect’. In fact, I woke up this morning with a couple of other things I might add…
Clearly, I could go on another three years procrastinating and perfecting. What I have realised is that my career in science is unlikely to be thrown aside as I become the next J. K. Rowling.
That said, the reason I started turning my story into a book, was for one clear reason – to reach and help other people to change their life for good if they have found their drinking to become a negative influence in their wellbeing.
So I’ve decided. The publication day is set, and ready or not, here I come.