What Makes A Book

Once upon a time—way back before I was published, probably before I even began writing my first book—I had a very real belief that there were exactly three steps to writing a book. One, the author writes. Two, the editor edits. Three, the publisher (the very long list of publishers begging for the opportunity to publish your masterpiece, all throwing money at you in a war to see who might win—that in itself is laughable) published. And viola, a book was born. Three easy steps that really shouldn’t take more than six months or so and would surely garner the author millions of dollars in a day or two. Maybe three. No sense in getting too greedy.

I was wrong. I was wrong and dumb and stupid and naïve. I was probably more wrong about this than about anything else ever in my entire life—except maybe the time I believed that wearing red Keds, sliver parachute pants, and orange lipstick (all at once) was a fashion trend that would stand the test of time.

It didn’t.

I’m still stunned.

Anyway, there is so much more that goes into making a book. The process varies a bit from project to project, but for me—for The Thirteenth Chance specifically—the process came down to a long list of people. People as important…maybe even more important…than me.

There was the agent who tirelessly shopped my initial idea to a handful of publishers and came back with the one I really wanted.

There was the publisher who signed me on the idea alone and told me to write what I wanted, the only requirement being that I finish within four months.

There were the two friends who helped me brainstorm and brainstorm to unstick my plot every time the story wasn’t going anywhere.

There was the third friend who listened to me say, “I need a quirk for my main character, something really really stupid. Maybe something to do with a dog?” and came back with an idea so ridiculous that I fell off the bed laughing. And put her idea in my book.

There was the neighborhood friend who saw me crying one night while walking and caught up to walk with me. And then she made me dinner. And then she took me to breakfast. And then she kept doing that for four straight months—listening…walking…talking….listening through more tears without ever telling me I was driving her crazy. Without ever criticizing or complaining. Without ever making me feel anything but welcome in her world.

There was the friend who read and read for baseball mistakes, then read and read again even though romance wasn’t his typical thing. There were many mistakes. So many mistakes. More mistakes than I’ve ever had in a book, hands down.

There were the editors who fixed my mistakes and re-checked factual errors without changing my intent for the book. They gave me the freedom to do my own thing, yet helped me to not look like an idiot in the process.

There was the family who didn’t get upset when the only day I could afford to take off work was Christmas Day, even though the break from school lasted so much longer and most of it found me hiding in my bedroom.

There were the sisters who made fun of me, who harassed me on the phone, who told me to pull my head out of my computer and join the real world every once in a while.

There were the parents who cooked me dinner, brought me lunch, let me steal Cokes from their house because I don’t keep them at mine, brought me Starbucks and Snickers bars and Taco Bell when I asked. And let me camp out in their bonus room when I needed an all-nighter and didn’t feel like going to a hotel.

There was more. So much more. Several things that I’m sure I’m forgetting. The process is never just about me. The process is never just about the finished product. The process is about the people involved, and there’s no way an author could ever make a book without them.

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