No, it’s not erotica.
Here’s the truth: we care about what people think of us. We care if they like us and we care when they don’t. Rare is the person that is completely unfettered and unbothered by the opinions of others.
This is not to say that negative remarks disable us from getting a task done. We shouldn’t get caught up when the words somersaulting off the lips of those around us are in our favor, either. But when it’s the latter, doesn’t it just feel damn good?
Yeah. It totally does.
A couple of months ago, I took a class at Gotham Writers’ Workshop. This particular course was focused on how to get your book published. That’s right: I am writing a book.
I decided that in 2018, I would complete at least the first draft of my debut novel. I’ve had my blog for close to a decade and am proud of it so my writing has never been a secret. Even still, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share this ambition here or on social media. I was concerned with how it would be received. I’m not “known” for my writing and, outside of my own platforms, have only had a handful of articles published.
The good news is that by the end of the aforementioned course, I was able to dropkick my insecurities surrounding the idea of broadcasting my exciting news. Walking to the train, I posted my announcement via Instagram Stories and the response was almost immediate. People sent me direct messages saying how excited they were, some said they couldn’t wait to read it, and Preston, probably the cheekiest man I’ve ever met, said he couldn’t wait for me to read it to him. From the sincere to the comical, getting positive feedback from people in my life was as fulfilling as a hearty serving of bolognese.
When I was around 11 or 12 years old, I created this fictional island on the country’s East Coast where a group of high school seniors were murdered by a psycho killer. As I watched my mom read my short, I interpreted her slack jaw and concerned, furrowed brow as a sign to make any subsequent death scenes even crazier.
My parents probably had so much anxiety back then.
I couldn’t help it, though! Horror is what I love. R. L. Stine’s Fear Street series was the seed; the work of Wes Craven (he’s from Ohio!) and Kevin Williamson (he’s openly gay!) was total nourishment. These three men continue to inspire all of the writing that I do today which brings me back to the topic of my book because, well, I’m writing one!
The Gotham Writers’ Workshop instructor told the class that we should do ourselves a favor by being brutally honest with what we were writing. I knew heading into this course that I would be writing a very commercial Young Adult novel. It would serve as an homage to the brilliant creators previously mentioned. It would be my “thank you” to those who have driven me to create my own characters and the worlds they live in.
This book, tentatively titled Like Me to Death, is not meant to be some groundbreaking masterpiece. I don’t believe it will change the world or provide a glaring commentary on society. After finding a publisher who offers an acceptable advance, Like Me to Death (or LMTD) will fly off of the shelves once released and make everyone involved in bringing it to life, especially myself, a hefty chunk of money.
I won’t get into the details of what LMTD is about but what I will say is I am excited. The book flashed before my eyes from start-to-finish. The characters, chunks of dialogue, the location (insider’s tip: it’s the island I created as a kid)! It was like I had just watched one of those “Here’s What You Missed” recap videos of your favorite show.
During the course, we were asked by the instructor, a literary agent, to write a synopsis for our book. In a clockwise rotation, each writer read aloud what they had scribbled down, the agent/instructor giving each a critique on how to make it better. I was the penultimate writer to share and was able to tweak my synopsis along the way. When it was my turn to share, I was not prepared for the instructor’s response.
“Damn. Can you read that again?” she asked. So I did with a bag full of bricks suddenly in my stomach. The second time around, she still had nothing to say. Her blank face was brief but to me it felt like forever. Then, a smile came to her face and she nodded her approval. In that moment, she was Pharrell and I was Maggie Rogers.
Considering I only had a general outline and four pages written, she found my synopsis to be quite impressive. Other writers in the room had 300,000 words (not an exaggeration) and projects that were ten years in the making. They all received critiques but my book, which I had only started working on a few months prior, seemed to have a solid foundation.
The course, in addition to becoming obsessed with Tomi Adeyemi, has helped me see things much more clearly. R. L. Stine, who just recently did a MasterClass, shared that he likes to start his books at the end so he can then figure out how to trick readers along the way. I chewed on that for a moment and tried to apply it to my YA novel. I know how I want the killer’s big reveal to play out, so I drafted an intro to help set up the rest of the book.
Writing LMTD will be the most intense project I have ever worked on but I have a feeling that it is going to be incredibly rewarding. I’m no professional and there’s a lot about writing a book that I don’t know but I’m going to stumble through the darkness until I find the light at the end of the tunnel.
And then I’m gonna make a lot of money. Just saying.