Three weeks

Until I press Send.

In my first newsletter (which I wrote before actually telling anyone about this newsletter, which was very smart, so you might not have read it), I whined about how I’m bad at talking about my writing but I want to use this space to do better.

So *deep breath* here goes!

I have three weeks before I press my final Submit button to my Pitch Wars mentors on this book. And the more that sets in, the more my brain runs around in circles until it gets dizzy and faints. I’m in the midst of my second round of edits, and they are totally, completely doable, but wowzers, they were hard to start.

I worked really, really hard on my first round of edits. I was proud of them. But I knew, of course, there was still work to do. To get a book published, the number one rule after, like, actually writing the thing, is that you have to really, really like your own book. Because you will have to read your book many, many times.

In an ideal world, I will get an agent! An agent who loves my amazing book! ….and will probably have more edits for me to make on my book before they do anything with it! In an even more ideal world, after I make these edits, the agent will send my book to editors, and an editor will love my amazing book! …and will have even more edits for me!

You get the picture! I get the picture! But I’m in this thing for the long haul, I swear. Plus, I had a REALLY great break between edits to celebrate the holidays and relax and let my brain get re-energized!

And then I opened up my manuscript for Round Two of Pitch Wars edits last week. It was my last full day of winter break; Kiddo was at daycare. I was set up at a coffee shop and had hours ahead of me to WORK, BITCH and I was JAZZED!

I opened my laptop and took one look at the first page and thought…

I fucking hate this book.

It was a shock, y’all. When it comes down to the quality of my writing, please, I’m full of self-doubt and loathing on the daily. But I had never hated these characters. I had never hated their story. And then I was just…bored with these people! Like, who even cares what they do with their lives!!

This was especially dumb because my mentors had said so many nice things about my book. I was very glad that they liked it! It was just unsettling that I suddenly didn’t.

I did some editing on another mentee’s book that day in the coffeeshop and then I went home and sat on my ass and read another book, by an actual published person who knows what they’re doing, and guess what, it was great.

I allowed myself that one day of wallowing and the next day I started Mission: Fall in Love With My Book Again.

I listened to the songs I listened to while I wrote it. I thought on the final plot points I have to change and figured some things out. (Truth I’ve learned: the most crucial part of writing a book is often just sitting around and thinking about stuff.) I commissioned an artist to draw a sketch of my characters as a present to myself. And I actually started editing again.

And it’s working, slowly. Which is good. Because the second reason you have to really, really like your book is that you have to fight for that stupid thing. You have to love it so much that you can convince other people (like agents and editors and readers) that they will love it, too! You have to be your book’s publicist, your book’s biggest fan, the person it calls in the middle of the night when it’s feeling down on itself for no good reason.

Which means…I literally have to talk about my book.

So I’m going to continue my Mission: Fall in Love With My Book Again by telling you, as I edit through it, the parts I’m falling back in love with.

I can tell you it’s about Dahlia and London, who meet on a cooking competition show. They’re in their late 20s, and figuring their shit out, and they fall in love.

Dahlia is recently divorced after figuring out that she doesn’t want kids, that she wants to live a big, independent life full of passion, if she can only figure out what those passions are. Her moods really swing all over the place, and when she’s down, Dahlia breaks my heart. But when she’s on, she’s the best.

Like during the show’s first Elimination Challenge, three days into filming on set, when she gets assigned swordfish. Dahlia grew up in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and currently lives in suburban Maryland, so she knows seafood.

Dahlia ended up with swordfish, which she was happy with. Such a funny and badass little creature. She leaned down and tapped its intimidating bill.

“I’m sorry I’m going to slice through your anus and tear out your guts through your throat,” she whispered. She could practically feel Jacob’s eye roll next to her, and she didn’t care. She felt good today. “I appreciate you. Thank you for your sustenance,” she concluded, with one more loving tap, and then she stood back up. Jacob was staring at her.

Oh! She could use some of those peppercorns she’d seen yesterday in the pantry. They were so pretty, a dazzling mixture of black, grey, burgundy, hunter green. Dahlia could already hear them popping in her pan, the sizzle of the swordfish in butter. Lemon peel, parsley, garlic. Something simple for a side. She started stacking the building blocks in her head, and excitement buzzed in her toes.

(I watched a ridiculous number of videos about gutting fish for this chapter, so lord, I hope that description is accurate.)

London Parker, on the other hand, is a bit grumpier overall, although they have things to be grumpy about. They’re out as non-binary on the show, which is a lot of pressure to put on themselves—they have to deal with transphobic trolls when the episodes start airing, in addition to their dad, who has never once used their correct pronouns.

London is all about routine, knowing what comes next, and they are entirely thrown by the fact—which they realize on this same third day of filming, the fish day—that they are super duper, adorably into Dahlia.

On the fourth day of filming, the contestants go off-set for a Real World Challenge.

London did not body slam Jacob out of the way, exactly. It just happened that Jacob was slow and lazy and London was impatient to get on the bus. It just happened that pushing past Jacob ensured that London’s butt ended up in the empty seat next to Dahlia Woodson.

Complete coincidence.

“Oh, hey,” she smiled over at them, and London cursed themselves. They had spent all of last night texting everyone they knew in Nashville, followed by reading Twitter for hours, to distract themselves from any thoughts of blinding smiles or shoulders exposed by yellow tank tops or fingers wrapped around their thumb. And then one glance of that hair this morning, and they were back on their bullshit already.

And then other things happen.

I’ll tell you about them, maybe, if I can without too many spoilers, as I keep falling back in love and inching closer to that Submit button.