How a Book Is Born – Part 1

So a publisher comes to me and says, “We need you to write a contemporary romance by December 3. Fifty thousand words. Thanks.”

I look at the calendar; my eyes do not deceive me. It is indeed the last week of October. Giving me … well, not a lot of time. Considering I have a full-time job, and a daughter, and let’s not forget those Kung Fu lessons.

“You bet,” I say, because I have never turned down a chance to make myself crazy in the service of my art, and there’s no reason to start acting like a sane person now.

“I need a synopsis first thing in the morning.”

“Sure,” I say, while my inner critic is screaming WHAT THE FUCK? YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE A STORY IDEA!

“Do you have a story idea?” the publisher asks. She’s a marketing person, so she’s not that familiar with how the creative process works, about hunting down the ideas and kidnapping them in dark alleys and dragging them back to the lair.

“It’s a Cinderella story!” I say because I will say anything when someone wants me to prove that I can do six impossible things before breakfast. I like doing six impossible things before breakfast. It makes life more entertaining than it would otherwise be.

“A Cinderella story?” she says and I’m kicking my brain: Seriously, Brain, this is the best you can do? This?

“With a twist,” I add in a moment of despair. “A twist!”

“What twist?”

“The prince falls for the wrong sister!”

Oh, that’s never been done, I tell Brain, who gives me the raspberry.

“Great,” Publisher says. I can tell she is thinking of marketing angles already. “Synopsis first thing?”

“Of course!” I say. “Piece of cake.”

Then I put the phone down and start to hyperventilate.


I realized that in a strange moment of serendipity, this opportunity (an “opportunity” is what we call “six impossible things before breakfast” in the book biz) happened to coincide almost perfectly with NANOWRIMO, National Novel Writing Month. “Brilliant!” I thought. “That’ll give me something to post about on the blog!”

Also, I thought it might be interesting to show my process in the compressed space of a month, not because I think there’s anything brilliant about my process, but because I think we spend a lot of time saying “I can’t do six impossible things before breakfast” when in fact we can.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “How a Book Is Born.”


  1. Ooooh, love this series–can’t wait for the next installment! (and I love the “six impossible things before breakfast” concept; too often we fall into the trap of thinking things are beyond us when really it’s just our own selves that get in the way.)

  2. O.k. I am in too. I don’t have a book publisher knocking on my door, but I have been working on a thriller type book and I am going to finish it for NANOWRIMO. It might suck (or who knows it might be awesome) but it is going to be finished! So let it be written, so let it be done. Whoa… exhausted now…. time to take a break!

Comments are closed.