The blog to book pipeline has become a gateway for success for many independent authors. Through building online platforms first, writers have the opportunity to release their books independently to a ready and waiting audience. Tyece Wilkins did just that with her award-winning blog, Twenties Unscripted.
There are writers and then there are writer’s writers. That’s where Tyece comes in. Her way with words, her urgency, transparency, and grit, has captivated her blog audience for the last five years through personal essays and compelling storytelling. Her work has garnered much praise including multiple Black Weblog Awards and generated opportunities to speak at blog conferences including Blogalicious 8, Blogger Week, and Blog U.
Releasing her first book Twenties Unscripted: A Journey in Womanhood, Writing and Relativity in 2015, Tyece lets us into the book writing process from curating blog posts with her first effort to the mindset shift for working on book number two.
WLD: About how long has your book process taken from concept to completion?
TW: It’s interesting to compare and contrast the process for writing my first book to the current creative process I’m in for the second book. The first book process, which took about three months, was a lesson in curation. It entailed combing through three years’ worth of previously published blog posts, selecting essays for the book, editing them, adding new material, and stitching together a narrative based on stories I had already told. My current process for book 2–an essay collection that will exclusively include previously unpublished work–will definitely take much longer than three months.
What were the keys to actually finishing it?
There isn’t ever a formula to crossing the finish line. While there is a lot of rhetoric out in the world right now about how to do things, there isn’t anything that can tell you how to harness your own willpower and get something done. I definitely was a recluse during my book process, foregoing a lot of social outings to focus on getting the book out the door. Having that tunnel vision definitely helped.
What do you feel has been your biggest challenge in the actual writing process of your book?
I’ll shift gears here again and talk about the current book. By and large, the biggest challenge has been carving out time and mindshare to write the essays. Because book 1 was more about curating content, I didn’t have to spend a great deal of time creating new work. Giving my creative attention first and foremost to book writing is tough, especially as someone who has spent five years blogging–a medium that allows you to publish something instantly and quickly experience the fruits of your labor.
As an independent author, what’s the one thing you would want to grab from the wish list of a major publishing company? I.e. A content editor, publicist, design?
Editor, editor, editor. Phew, an editor. I can’t tell you how much I painstakingly read through the book multiple times, only to cry at the eleventh hour when we had gone to print and I still caught mistakes. After spending so much time with the words, I became blind to the errors. I still feel pretty confident about what I’ve put out into the world, but I will definitely make an investment in an editor the second time around so I can sleep easy at night.
Why did you make the decision to self-publish? Did you try the traditional route?
As a blogger, I have been fortunate to share my words exactly how I want to for the past five years. Because of that, self-publishing felt natural. I didn’t ever try the traditional route, although I know there are so many benefits to doing so. However, I didn’t want to ask someone else for permission to put my words in print. I thought that’s where they should be, and so I made it happen.
What about the biggest challenge in the efforts to spread the word about your book? In marketing and promo?
It’s easy and exciting to promote something you just created; it’s much harder to promote something that reaches further back in your creative history. That’s been the hardest part about spreading the word about my book. I feel like so much has transpired since I published it in 2015 and there are so many other things I have shared or want to share now. It’s easy to forget that the book’s marketing and promotion lifecycle is continuous; it is an anchor in my journey that I can speak to, share, and sell at any time.
What do you think is unique if anything about writers of color and their perspective?
As a writer of color, you are in a unique and precious position to disrupt. You can reshape, retell, and reverse the stories the world tells about us. You can observe the world around you and then distil and rearrange that world through your words. Perhaps that is the unique and precious position of any artist of color, but I think it’s especially true for writers.
CLICK TO TWEET /// As a writer of color, you are in a unique and precious position to disrupt. - Tyece Wilkins
What surprised you in your book writing journey?
A pleasant surprise in my book 1 writing journey was how many people instantly bought the book once it was released. That kind of support–the kind that moves beyond words and into people’s pockets–is on a different level. I remember announcing the presale on Twitter and seeing a bunch of PayPal notifications that morning. It was incredible to have my work supported and valued in that way.
Tell me about your favorite passage from your book?
One of my favorite passages from the book is from an essay I penned in 2013 entitled “Not Quite Over You.” I like to think this essay represents my true writing style beginning to break through; it shows how I was unafraid to dig for vulnerability as well as mix prose with poetry.
You can listen to a recording of the passage here.
Any advice you would give to aspiring writers looking to complete their first manuscript?
I have to quote my favorite writer Cheryl Strayed here: “When I was done writing [my memoir], I understood that things happened just as they were meant to. That I couldn’t have written my book before I did. I simply wasn’t capable of doing so, either as a writer or a person.” The adage “Writers write” is prevalent. And, yes, writers absolutely do write. But, writers also live. What Cheryl’s quote says to me is that you can’t force a book. I thought I was ready to start penning book 2 last year, and then I realized I needed to live some more. I needed the life to catch up to the words. If you are looking to complete your first manuscript, work to strike that balance between letting the work breathe so it can blossom while also remaining disciplined to get something on the page.