By Natasha Sinel
Today is July 23rd. My birthday. I know exactly what you’re thinking: Hey! Happy birthday, hope it’s a great year! Also, You’re aging quite gracefully!
This is what I’m thinking: Thanks! Also, Thanks!
A year ago today, I was celebrating. Big time.
The day before, I'd gotten the call from my agent. The editor who’d shown interest in my manuscript had managed to jump through all the hoops on her end, and made an offer for THE FIX. Honestly, the first thought I had was: Tomorrow, I actually get to celebrate. For real. The last four birthdays had been bittersweet—happy to have another birthday, a chance to eat cake, get cards and presents and such, but mixed with that other thought, too—another year without a book deal. It would've been my fifth birthday wishing for that one thing.
But on July 23, 2014, there was much to celebrate. There was cake, cards, presents, hugs from the kids, and champagne for the book deal.
And then everything happened so fast.
Contract, announcement, joining a debut group and getting up to speed on what it meant to be a debut author—all the things I’d have to do. There were the things I’d expected: edits, cover, blurbs, bio, etc. But also so much more: social media, blog posts, self-promotion, postcards to libraries, bookmarks. ARCs. Planning launch parties. Media. Bookstores. So. Much. To. Do. I got sucked into it all.
On June 23, 2015, exactly one month ago and nearly a year after the offer, my agent asked me, “So, how’s writing going?”
I laughed. “Um, it’s okay. I’ve been side-tracked with all the promotion stuff for THE FIX, so I haven’t written a ton, but I will. I mean, I’m writing, don’t worry…but…” Cue nervous laughter. Was I making excuses? About writing?
A tough love speech followed (emphasis on the love). It included a much-needed reality check that went a bit like this, “You need to prioritize your writing. This is your job. You are a writer. You write books. So, write another book.” And then the follow-up question, “When can you get a first draft to me?”
As authors (debut authors, at least), we do the bulk of our own marketing and promotion. More than you can even imagine, actually. And while I’ve been having a great time on social media, ordering bookmarks, designing cute stickers, and planning launch parties, those aren’t the things I’d signed up for. Somehow, I found myself working nonstop all day, yet not adding a word to my new manuscript.
Along the way, I’d lost focus.
This focus—I write stories about teenagers. That’s what I love to do. I’m a writer, and writers must write. Right?
My agent waited quietly while I thought. I made quick calculations in my head.
“August 15th,” I said, as my heart started to pound.
“Great,” she said. “That’s great.”
So, I’ve been writing. After I make my word count goal for the day, I work on the other stuff, which is also important, but the writing has to come first.
A year ago today, I was celebrating my first book deal. Today, I’m anticipating the release of my debut novel in less than six weeks. And I’m confident, thanks to my agent, that in less than four weeks, I’ll be sending the first draft of my new manuscript to her.
Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her debut YA novel THE FIX will be out from Sky Pony Press on September 1, 2015.