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  • Holly J

the journey of book #4

It's taken me over a year and a half to reach this point, to where I can finally say I've finished my 4th book. I started this YA horror (currently titled The Way Through) in December 2020, just after going back into the query trenches for book #3, which was my dark adult fantasy. I'd had this idea about an island that disappears and reappears for seemingly no reason, and I decided to set it on Lake Huron, because I'd already written a short story set on Lake Superior. I thought at first it was a contemporary fantasy, but the more I developed the concept and wrote, it turned into horror. I never thought I'd ever write horror! So that was a little nerve-wracking but also very exciting. It's also written in 3rd person present tense, which I'd never done either, but it really worked for this story. So I was feeling GOOD about it, and I wrote like 19,000 words within a month. I was basically a third of the way done.


Then I took some time to write a few short stories for submission in early 2021, and none of them went anywhere. On top of that, I was continuously getting rejections in the query trenches. This was already my 3rd book, and I'd been querying on-and-off since 2019. I was feeling so discouraged, and I couldn't seem to figure out how to make the sample pages work. Bless my friends who read those pages over and over and over again, because it was awful! During these months, I was also editing The Bone Way and getting that ready for publication, but every time I was on deadline, I ended up having to work overtime at my day job! It was so ridiculous, the way the stars aligned, and all the energy I had left was being put into making TBW the best I could. And on top of that, I was being expected to carry my shift at work and I wasn't getting paid for it, and I was so fucking stressed. All the time.


I was also dealing with physical health issues, as well. I no longer had a primary doctor starting in 2021 because my old one had left the practice and I hadn't found a new one yet. But I had a flare-up that didn't seem to have an end in sight, and luckily, I was connected with a doctor who actually took me seriously. She listened, and continues to listen, and she's always done her best to help me. Unfortunately, there still hasn't been a solid answer or solution. It was kind of funny, actually. Because here I was, writing a character like Teagan in The Bone Way, and not realizing how I was writing myself into her, just a little bit. I wasn't poisoned, no, but the fatigue and pain and muscle weakness? Yeah. It took me a long time to actually claim the term chronically ill, because I didn't feel ill enough. But this has been absolutely no joke, and I've missed a lot of work in the last year, and I'm still waiting for an answer.


So, it was a lot of reasons really, why I couldn't finish a book. It felt like one thing after another after another... But to be quite honest? I fell out of love with writing. I really did. I had all of these cool ideas and a list a mile long of concepts that I've put time into developing. I have a front-list and a backburner, and I don't want to just write novels. I have so many ambitions, but finding the motivation was extremely difficult. Every time a new rejection came in, any determination and will I had slowly went away. I was, frankly, exhausted. I was drained. I was struggling to put words on the page, even though I really loved this book I was working on. I completely stopped trying with short stories, because I didn't want to keep putting in time on things that weren't going anywhere. I couldn't even tell you where I was at any point in time before October 2021, because I didn't track my word counts anymore.


As I lost my way with this thing I loved most in the world, I started to devour indie romance books. And I actually became inspired again. I wanted to do something different, challenge myself. I wrote a novella in October and November, and actually completed it. It's 24,000 words of something that might not be published, but I love it. I had fun writing it. There was no pressure, and I didn't write it with trad publishing in mind. And I think that's a bit of the difference there; now that I'm leaning in other directions, I'm feeling more ready to keep going. I'm falling back in love with writing. I've got two secret projects already started, and I've been waiting until this YA horror was finished before I fully committed to them. It's still a struggle sometimes, and it took me longer than I'd hoped. I'd wanted this done months ago, and every time I said I was going to finish it in the past month, I'd add a new chapter, LOL.


I don't think the mental blocks are over, and I know my struggle with my physical health and my day job are always going to drain my energy. But I'm really proud of myself for finding my way through the past year and a half and never actually giving up on writing. I very aptly clawed my way to the finish line, and I love this book. This book about grief and death and how bravery and survival comes in many different forms. I love the golden trio of friends, the found family aspect of it, and the scenes with all the characters in them the most. It's my love letter to Michigan and spending summers with your people, and the lakes. I'm very happy with the horror element, and I hope I did the genre justice. I still have some small revisions to make before I send it off to readers, but they shouldn't take too long. I can't wait to polish it up at some point, but until then, I'm going to keep writing because my heart's in it again.

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