How I Lost My Story and Found It Again

by Dani Abernathy
published in Community

In the fall of 2016, after I had been living abroad for five years, my second child was born. My husband, two daughters, and I were living with my mom. I had no friends. I was exhausted, lonely, bewildered, and often angry. The world had shifted around me, and I no longer understood it.

Motherhood, while something I’d desperately wanted for years, seemed to be sucking away everything I thought myself to be. Was this all I was—a feeder of children, a changer of diapers, a cleaner-upper?

One Saturday afternoon, my husband handed me our iPad and a portable keyboard and sent me to the tiny library in the country town where we lived. In the hush of that space, surrounded by worlds on paper, and deliciously alone, I began writing a fantasy novel. I worked on it every weekend, getting space from my children, using my brain, having adult conversations with the characters in my head. In those quiet hours, I found precious pieces of myself. No, writing didn’t solve any of my problems, but it helped me feel like a person again and reminded me that I was more than my ability to care for a tiny human.

I embraced my desire to build a writing life

I desperately wanted to write engaging, resonant stories. I wanted my books to be too good to put down and to connect with readers on an emotional level. But three years and two novels later, I still had no idea what I was doing.

After getting beta reader feedback on my second novel (the first being abandoned in a dark hole on my laptop), I realized the story was episodic with no narrative drive, and that my characters had no agency or arcs of change. Even worse, I didn’t know what most of those words meant or have any idea how to fix them.

I didn’t want to spend another year of my children’s precious naptime working on the book if I wasn’t going to make it any better. I felt lost, hopeless, and ready to quit. While I enjoyed writing and benefited from it in so many ways, I didn’t want to write stories only for myself; I wanted to write stories for other people too.

I started looking for help from experienced writers

So in a fit of writerly despair, I scoured the internet for someone who could guide me through fixing my book. After weeks of research, I contacted Ashly Hilst, an Author Accelerator certified book coach, and begged her to please, please, help me tell a story that works. (I don’t recommend this, by the way. I could have saved myself a lot of time by using Author Accelerator’s free matching service.) And help me, she did.

Over eight weeks, we reworked my novel’s outline, and let me tell you, the story lightbulbs came on.

Flash—narrative drive.

Flash—character arc.

Flash—a surprising, yet inevitable ending.

When I made that final piece of narrative scaffolding fit (the one I’d been struggling with for weeks), I felt the rightness of it in my body. My story worked. My story worked!

At that moment, I knew—I would never again write a book without a coach. Having Ashly walk with me week after week, helping me dig deep into my characters, pointing out holes in logic and story, filling in the gaps of my knowledge—it was worth more than all the books, podcasts, and editorial assessments I’d consumed in three years. For me, the writing journey is so much better when taken with a person who knows Story, knows my story, and knows me.

Author Accelerator changed everything

So of course, after experiencing the life-changing magic of book coaching, I needed to be part of it.

I took a break from rewriting my oh-so-resonant novel, signed up for Author Accelerator’s book coach training, and devoured the course material. And guess what? More story lightbulbs.

Flash—the importance of a book’s point.

Flash—what “show, don’t tell” really means.

Flash—systems and processes to support the writing journey.

I learned how to help other writers shape their books, but I also learned how to better shape my own. A few months later, when I came back to my novel and submitted a chapter to my writing group, they said my writing had leveled up. Through Author Accelerator’s training course, my writing had reached a level of emotional depth it never had before.

It wasn’t just the course material that made Author Accelerator’s training so good, it was also the community. I became friends with other writers-turned-coaches from all across the world. From them, I learned about genre, and pitching, and contracts, and valuing my own abilities. This group of supportive, generous, intelligent people were rooting for me to succeed just as much as I was rooting for them.

I built up my confidence as a writer and coach

But the most valuable thing that’s come from my experience with Author Accelerator, both as a writer and a coach, is the confidence I’ve found in myself. I believe now in my storytelling. I believe in my ability to help others find and hone their stories. I’ve learned that my goals are worth pursuing, even if I must try, and struggle, and fail, and try again in order to achieve them. I know now that I am not only the Folder of Clothes and Wiper of Noses; I have something to offer, to myself and the world.

Author Accelerator didn’t hand me the answers I was looking for. It wasn’t Week Seven of working with my coach or the lesson “How to Nurture a Writer Through the Creative Process” that made me see my own value. But through Author Accelerator’s invested coaches, excellent courses, and welcoming community, I found the space to learn, grow, and trust myself in my post-baby world.

It’s been four years since that blurry, sleep-deprived autumn of my second daughter’s birth. 2020 has brought a new set of challenges, sleepless nights, and world-altering shifts, but it’s also brought a new sense of purpose and confidence. Today, I’m an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach with a full coaching schedule, I’m connected to a community of supportive peers, and in a few weeks, I’ll send that revamped novel to a book coach for the next step in its writing evolution. And for those things, the me of four years ago is forever grateful.


Dani Abernathy

Dani Abernathy is an Author Accelerator Certified Book Coach. You can learn more about her at daniabernathy.com. For details on the Author Accelerator Book Coach Certification program, visit bookcoaches.com/diymfa, and join us for a webinar with Gabriela and Author Accelerator founder Jennie Nash on Monday, Nov. 9. For details and to register, go to bookcoaches.com/diymfa.

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