7 Drafts. 4 Beta Readers. 1 Book Coach. 3 Editors. 1 Illustrator = Until They Burn
For someone who prides herself on writing quickly -- this book has been several years in the making. I want you to know why.
About two years ago, I sat down on November 1st (first day of NaNoWriMo) and set out to write a novel for a different reason than I ever have before. I'd just found out that my uncle had abused yet another family member and I needed a way to deal with my feelings. I needed a therapeutic outlet for all the things I couldn't and wouldn't say aloud. It seemed as if it was exactly what I needed at the time because two weeks later, I had the first draft of Until They Burn sitting on my hard drive. But it was a complete and utter mess. I'd be surprised if anything from that original draft is in the published version.
I knew it was going to need a lot of work done to it. But then, something weird happened. I got scared. I knew, deep down, that in order to fix what was wrong with the book, I'd have to dig deeper into my own feelings, emotions and thoughts. I had to face the reality that who my character needed to be was not exactly the type of heroine people "love."
So I pushed it off. I said I'd come back to it when I was ready but weeks turned into months. Then months turned into a year. It's not that I forgot about it... quite the opposite actually. In fact, I thought about it so much that I convinced myself that there was absolutely no way I could write this story well enough to give justice to the characters, the overall message and theme of the story and stay true to what I envisioned for the book.
Naturally, this meant I not only let the book linger in a folder, sad and alone, I also convinced myself I was a shitty writer that would never be able to tackle a book of this caliber.
Fast forward to a little over a year ago when I sat in the first row at my uncle's sentencing for my cousin's abuse case. As I was denied the chance to read my victim impact statement, I looked over and saw the hardened faces on the people supporting him. I listened as he gave clipped one word answers to the judge and said absolutely nothing when my aunt read her victim impact statement.
That was the day that something snapped inside of me. it was the day everything changed.
Not only did I feel the need to speak out about the injustice of it all, including my personal story, I knew I needed to get back to this book. That it would be one of the most important books I'd ever write.
The next day, I opened up the document and started to dig in. It was painful... especially considering how much of a mess it was. As I started to self-edit and revise, I started to get a stronger hold on the character and the story that had so feverishly poured out of me. Then it was time to send it to one of my beta readers who knew all along that it was such an important book.
After getting her notes, I went back to work and ended up with yet another draft. This one was better... but not quite there.
More revision. More pain. More tears.
Then, off it went to 3 other beta readers.
Just as I was about to dig in for another round of revisions -- something happened.
Another victim came forward.
And all the hard work I'd done up to that point seemed pointless. I felt emotionally bankrupt. If there was EVER a time to believe in the character and message of this book - it would have been then, but I just couldn't. I had no desire to work on it. And so, once again, it lingered in a folder in the jungle of Dropbox folders.
Out of sight, out of mind.
But the truth was that I couldn't stop thinking about it even as emotionally worn down as I was. When I decided to start training as a Trauma Recovery Coach, I didn't realize that I was in for another life changing experience (that's another post for another day!). But hearing everyone's stories of pain and resilience, hopelessness and hopefulness broke another dam inside of me. And this time, I wasn't going to stop. Just like my character, Izzy.
I also had the knowledge of knowing what a good book coach can do for a story. So I got the help of Author Accelerator book coach, Michelle Hazen and we set to work. It was through this tough, deep, back and forth work that shaped the story into something I'm proud of. It's not an easy story. It's not a pretty story. It's raw and gritty and some people will hate it. They'll hate Izzy. But that's okay because she's strong and resilient and a manifestation of all the trauma survivors in the world who need her story.
As you can see, there's a lot of emotional causality to why this book has taken so long to get to almost-publication status. But because I'm me, and I like to push boundaries, there was another element to this book that became just as important as the story itself. When you commission other people to help you bring something to life -- you have to be willing to work on their schedule. They're providing their talents and sometimes, it's better not to rush them. When I commissioned a graphic novelist and illustrator to help me bring parts of Until They Burn to life - I had no idea the hits and misses I'd face. But he stuck with me. And I'm going to stick with him.
Which is to say that his work on bringing Until They Burn alive is the last piece left. I don't know how long it will take. I don't know when I will release it. I just know that it will be worth the wait.
Projects with this much love and pain always are.
I hope you're as excited as I am.
While this book was inspired by real events and emotions - this book isn't a story about sexual abuse. It's about a girl who has to decide how far she's willing to go to avenge the people who tore apart her life and took away everything she loves.