The LIMELIGHT Timeline: Piece of cake? Not exactly.

Question: So you’ve published your first novel, SMALL ADMISSIONS. I hear you’re working on a second. Has it been easier this time around? I hear the second book is a piece of cake.

Answer: A piece of cake? Seriously? Ha.


April 2015: Sign contract for SMALL ADMISSIONS! Yay! Celebrate.

May 2015: Time to start thinking about that new book! Do that, meaning… sit and think. Gaze off into space. Fall asleep.

Summer 2015: Open laptop, stare at blank screen. What would be a good setting? Who are the characters? What’s the premise going to be? What kind of cover illustration do I want? What is a book anyway? Close laptop and spend the summer reading in my genre.

Fall 2015: Get an idea for the new book. It isn’t much, just a vague thought really. It involves a family moving to New York. Spend time contemplating moving. Spend time contemplating New York. Allow Panic to rent a decent-size space in my heart.

January 2016: Write a kick-ass first paragraph for new book which has the working title SINK OR SWIM. There’s a dead mother in the book who has a major role. Feel very good about this dead character. Feel very good about this opening. Feel very good.

February 2016: Feel very bad. Finish a lousy opening section of SINK OR SWIM, which is now called ACTING UP. And speaking of acting up, the dead mother character is becoming problematic. Her name is Dorothy.  Insist on making her work in spite of many red flags, like my free-lance editor saying, “She doesn’t work.”

Spring 2016: Get about half-way through book #2, which is now called ACTING OUT, for no particular reason. The dead mother Dorothy is a flash-back gone horribly wrong. Try to fix it. There’s a play in the book now, a remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, being staged on fictional Broadway. The dead mother has nothing to do with anything. There is no coherent through-line. There are no likable characters, and the unlikeable ones aren’t very interesting. Ask myself: What the fuck am I doing? 

Summer 2016: Remember that whole opening section? Delete it all, about 150 pages. Remember the dead mother Dorothy? Kill her off. She sucks. Change the name of the book to POWER PLAY. Realize that I don’t know how to write. Despair. Look in the mirror and whisper: You are a fraud. Basically start over, keeping a few short passages. Go to a ton of Broadway musicals and plays for research. Ask myself why I didn’t start with an outline.

Fall 2016: Reincarnate the dead mother Dorothy as a living aunt named Trudy. Trudy is over-the-top quirky and not in a good way. She owns a lingerie company, and is very rich and eccentric, and yet she adds nothing to the story. Meanwhile, IRL, Trump wins the election; as a result, scrap all material relating to Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and go to bed for two weeks.

December 2016: SMALL ADMISSIONS is released. Celebrate. Discover that a book launch is really time consuming; who knew? Lose about three months of writing due to planning and attending events, traveling, and social media-ing. No complaints: This is fun.

March 2017: Kill off the reincarnated, quirky, rich aunt Trudy, which means deleting/rewriting another 100 pages. Replace her with an alive, less-quirky mother and wonder if I’m spinning in circles. The book is now called LIMELIGHT, thanks to my wonderful free-lance editor. Feel overwhelmed. There’s a shape now, but the writing is so damn sloppy and bad.

April and May 2017: Do nothing, and I mean nothing, but write LIMELIGHT. Stay in pajamas at all times. Feel bad when the dog pees on the carpet, but keep working. Write, edit, repeat.

June 2017: Edit, edit, edit, edit, edit. Go back to the beginning and edit again.

July 2017: Polish. Submit LIMELIGHT to Emily Bestler Books! Piece of cake? No, not exactly.

Author: Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.

4 Replies to “The LIMELIGHT Timeline: Piece of cake? Not exactly.”

  1. I LOVE this, Amy! Laughed and felt your pain all the way through your timeline! I churned out my first draft of my second book so much faster, I thought I had it figured out, (yeah, right!) and now I’m doing major revisions after agent feedback and struggling to fit things back together – or together in a new way – it’s like an unsolvable puzzle! AGH! Thanks for the encouragement by way of sharing your path to book two – it makes me feel less bad about doing this thing we do! 🙂 xo

    1. It was NOT easy for me to get this manuscript finished! – And of course, I’m still at the beginning of the process. Now the editing begins … again. Can’t wait to read your latest, Leah!!!

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