Discover more from Kaitlyn’s Stream of Consciousness
"How's the writing going?"
and other things I try not to talk about at parties (an August kinda-newsletter)
Hello, lovely friends! I hope this week + this month are treating you well so far ❤️ I know I was in your inbox not that long ago with a thing I said was a July/August newsletter, but here I am! Back and existential-angstier than ever! Just kidding, kind of, but basically it occurred to me shortly after sending my last post out that I said…very little about writing/books? Even though that’s supposed to be my whole shtick and is probably why a lot of y’all subscribe to these updates, rather than a burning desire to hear all about my travels and home improvement projects. I felt a little silly for this—like Kaitlyn, do you really think your personal life is that interesting?? Where was the “news” in that letter! And then I got to thinking more broadly about what is the meaning of “news,” and do I ever truly have any, what does any of it matter, why are we all here, etc etc, then I ate my breakfast and drank my tea and felt better.
But! I still came away wanting to talk a little more about writing and where I am with it at the moment, in the event that it interests anyone here! Also because it just feels good to ramble about these things sometimes, and this is my substack and no one can stop me.
FYI, if you’re only interested in the Book Newsiest of news, the long and short of it is: no new book news right now! Book 3, Wild About You, is with the page designers getting all typeset and designed! The next stage for me will be reviewing pass pages and making any final changes before the book is off to production. I’ll also hopefully get to share the absolutely GORGEOUS cover soon, along with links to pre-order your copy! It’s set to hit shelves May 2024 😊 My two books that are already out, Love from Scratch and Not Here to Stay Friends, are still doin their thang, in stores + on shelves, being found by new readers all the time! A bunch of people I don’t know, all around the world, out there reading words I wrote—it’s wild how it still feels so surreal if I let myself think about it at all, but also how quickly it just becomes kind of normal?? Hard to explain, or even understand myself. But that’s beginning to exit the TL;DR portion of our proceedings!
So at any given time as a traditionally publishing author, you’re in some part of the book production cycle—stages that repeat in mostly the same way with each book, or at least each book with the same publisher/imprint. Some of these stages are way more intense than others, have tighter deadlines, more pressure, etc, like when you’re revising your book with feedback from your editor, and you have to return it by x date or else its release might get pushed back, and in many cases, this means delaying when you get paid. At other stages, you’re under no official obligation to do anything in particular—your book is turned in, you might have nothing else under contract yet, so it’s up to you (+ usually also decided in conversation with your agent) how you spend your time, what you work on, when you’re ready to send it to your agent and/or editors. No matter what stage you’re in, there is pressure, whether external (e.g. meet those deadlines!), internal (e.g. why can’t you write faster and better, u silly brain!), or a mix of both (e.g. stay relevant! promo promo promo! why aren’t you social media famous yet?! your books will never succeed otherwise!). In theory, so much is in your control—you’re self-employed as a writer, you decide how to spend your time at many of the stages, you choose what you write about. In reality, way more is out of your hands—whether publishers want the same things you want to write about, if they’ll give it any marketing support to get it into readers hands, if your book gets starred reviews or becomes a tiktok sensation or hits bestseller lists. And on and on and on.
As I and many other authors before me have said over and over, all you can control is the writing. But there is so much more than writing going on at all times. Of course, there’s no reason for the average, non-publishing-adjacent person to know this! As an avid reader, I wasn’t remotely aware, not until I was way deep into the process of trying to publish a book. Which is all to say that in my experience as a writer, whenever I’m with someone who knows what I do and is trying to express genuine interest in my life, make polite small talk, or anything in between, the question they usually ask is, “How’s the writing going?”
The answer I give varies by the day, by how well I slept the night before, if I just got tagged in a mean review of my book on instagram, if I recently wasted hours trying to make a short promo video before deciding none of the takes were useable, if another book festival I wasn’t sent to is happening and I’ve fallen into a spiral of “what am I doing wrong?,” if a deadline is approaching and I came to the grocery to buy cheeto puffs and cherry coke for fuel then got stuck in this conversation with the well-meaning mom of my childhood frenemy, a million other possible factors, and, of course, how the writing is actually going at that point in time.
I usually try to stick to, “Oh, pretty good! [Insert whatever benign one-sentence update I can think of off the top of my head about what I am currently working on]!” But at the very least, I try not to leave the question-asker with anything new to discuss in therapy. Catch me at just the
right wrong time, and this is harder than it should be! You might learn more about the inner workings of publishing or about ~my creative process~ than you ever wanted to know! You might get an earful about my petty professional jealousies, or my complicated feelings about putting so much of myself into my book characters! It’s like roulette, in that you never know what you’re gonna get out of a Casual Catch-Up with Kaitlyn, and whatever other parallels someone who actually knows the rules of roulette could draw.
So what does any of this have to do with my current writing situation? I don’t know, I’ve kind of lost the plot along the way here, a metaphor for “how the writing’s going” if I’ve ever seen one, am I rite ladies?? But really, I think all of this has been on my mind more than normal this summer, as we’ve done a lot of traveling and have spent time with different friends, family, and acquaintances, and many have done the nice, normal human thing of inquiring about my work. And every time, I go through these rapid-fire calculations in my head of what level of honest to be this time, with this person, with whatever I’ve got stewing internally. It’s weird! It’s probably not necessary! It might be my anxiety that makes it feel so fraught, or my overdramatic tortured artist soul, or my inner people-pleaser who always accounts for what others want to hear and has to cage fight the ADHD impulse to air my unfiltered thoughts. From talking to writer friends, I know I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to talk about their own work without being the buzzkill of the family barbecue. Maybe we’re just all freaks who spend too much time with the people we made up in our heads? Please still be our friends, though. We need contact with people outside the publishing world to save us from ourselves.
It also has to do with why I might occasionally send out a whole newsletter in which I barely mention writing. “How’s the writing going?” I’ll ask myself as I’m composing my lil monthly updates, and myself will sometimes go, “nope! Let’s talk about our last vacation instead.” I find it more difficult to talk about writing at some times than others, and I think it can be especially weird for me when I’m in one of the lulls in the book production cycle. A.K.A. now!
Ever since NHTSF came out in April, or since things settled down from the few weeks of events and post-book-release chaos, I’ve been going at a slower pace. My only work under a fast turnaround was the Wild About You copy edit, which did take some time and attention to detail, but in a ~2 week span. Besides that and excluding the pass pages that I’ll get sometime soon, essentially the rest of my 2023 is devoted to working on my fourth YA novel under contract with Delacorte. My editor approved my pitch/outline for it last month and I am working on a loose deadline near the end of the year to get a draft to her. In theory—and okay, in some ways, in reality—this is the dream! 6ish months to crank out a book on my own schedule with nothing else I have to be doing, except for the underlying obligation at all times to promote my books already out and my book soon to be out. I am super super privileged to be able to do the author thing full-time for now, to not have kids to care for, to have a husband and family who support and root for me, let alone to have four books bought by a big 4 publisher, something I literally dreamed of just a few years ago.
But all that space and freedom also gives me a lot of time to get in my own head, which, if you haven’t gathered from the rest of this mess already, is not always the most fun place to be! While getting to live what I and many others have dreamed of and few get to do, I feel a lot of pressure to be able to keep it going and not take anything for granted. I don’t make much of a living and often think about how if I produced faster, could crank out books more frequently, I could (pending a lot of other variables) be earning more. Strangely, bullying myself doesn’t seem to be making me a faster writer? Still working on other strategies.
Every time I start a wide open work day, I feel so much potential for getting so many beautiful magical words onto pages. Then many of those days, I blink and find I’ve spent hours sending emails, making a canva graphic, falling down some oddly specific research rabbit hole that may or may not end up being useful to the book I’m working on, and it’s somehow 3 p.m. and I never ate lunch. Other days, I do better! I sit down in the morning and get right to work, the words are flowing, life is GOOD, and maybe I even remember to eat lunch. Either way, it can feel icky to talk about how very challenging and high-pressure and up and down my life is as a full-time writer of my favorite thing, love stories. Especially when the person listening to/reading about my woes is, like, performing heart surgeries on a regular basis. (I don’t know all of your lives, but I assume many of you have more objectively stressful jobs!) So it’s easier to not talk about it at all! Or keep it at “it’s going pretty well!” *changes subject* And naturally, that in turn makes it all feel more isolating and lonely and does no good for anyone’s already fragile mental state.
If I was an english student trying to analyze this whole thing for a theme or moral, I would be at a loss! But I suppose this was my attempt to open up about the complicated mental/emotional journey that publishing books has taken me on, and why I’m not always great at talking about it. It always means a lot to me to read other authors getting real about the highs and lows of this career in their newsletters or social media, so maybe I can show somebody else who shares any of these feelings that you’re not alone. Or maybe I am in fact an alien from outer space and my real family will read this and finally decide to come beam me up. Make sure the news stations use my new headshots!
It’s also my long and meandering way of updating you on what I’m working on for the rest of this year—my fourth YA romance, and! Trying my hardest to finally finish a draft of my first adult romance! I could write a whole other essay on the complicated feels around that one, like how I want so badly to make it good that I end up stalling out and running away scared for a while because I’m afraid it can’t live up to my own expectations, etc. But I can’t make a blank page better, so I need to finally fill up all those blank pages and get to the Actually Making It Good part in revisions. Cross your fingers, think romantic thoughts, say a prayer that I can stop thinking about my family ever reading it, will take whatever support I can get 🙏
If reading all this was really not your jam, that’s okay! I don’t expect to regularly share such long-form ramblings, mainly because this took me way too long to write, hours that might’ve been more productively spent on making my fictional characters kiss already. But I appreciate you being here in any capacity, always being one of the very best parts of the wacky author life, and caring enough to ask how my writing is going, despite whatever unhinged answer I might give. If I was signing your yearbook, I would write “you rock, never change” and actually mean it. 💘
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