My debut was a publishing fairy tale. It was my first attempt at a book, and it was pure joy to write. I outlined in Scrivener, daydreamed about it all the time, and drafted during my son’s naptimes. Five days after I started querying, I found my agent. Four days after I signed with him, he sold my book to HarperCollins. My edits were manageable. Everything moved forward with barely a hiccup. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda came out two months ago.
But that book deal was a two-book deal. Which meant I had to write a second book.
As it turns out, there’s no foolproof formula for writing books. It’s a little like parenting. What works for your first gets turned upside-down for your second. In my case, Simon was the obedient kid. His little sister? Not so much.
It started with about a half dozen Scrivener outlines, followed by a half dozen rewrites of the first five thousand words. Except nothing was clicking. I wasn’t nailing the voice. The plot wasn’t moving.
Then I got pregnant, which scared me into finishing a draft. I started to look at my due date as a deadline – which it sort of was. I sent the book to my editor, and my son was born two days later.
For the next few weeks, it was all diapers and boobs.
Then my edit letter came in. The bad news: it was brutal. The worse news: it was spot-on. My editor didn’t ask me to rewrite the book, but it was obvious that I’d have to. I opened my laptop and got to work. My son was six weeks old.
Honestly? I barely remember those few months. I know I fell asleep at my keyboard every day. I learned to type over a baby sleeping in my lap. I blew my deadline. I got an extension. I’m not even sure if the draft I turned contained actual words.
When my next round of editorial notes came in. I spent an entire day crying. I texted my author friends to announce my retirement from writing. And then a week later, I started outlining again. And again. I think I outlined this monster thirty times.
Then I got to work completely changing the main plot of my story.
Two months later? I’m doing it all over again. Another extension. Another new plot. More outlines. On Scrivener. On notecards. In cryptic emails sent to myself at four in the morning.
But about two weeks ago, something happened. I started waking up excited to write. Not super excited – but a little excited. And I’d find myself thinking about the book before falling asleep. Which is exactly the way it was when I was writing Simon.
I think it’s a good sign. I think I’m falling in love with my problem child of a book.
Becky Albertalli is a licensed clinical psychologist. She currently lives in Roswell, Georgia with her husband and two sons. She spends her days writing about teenagers and reading board books about trucks.
Simon VS The Homo Sapiens Agenda is her debut novel.