Research is the New Black

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of research and only a little writing on my Marriage Kit project. The research is interesting and fun, and finding things that validate my argument are essential to making the book a success, but I miss the writing part. For the past week, I’ve been organizing myself, making a makeshift outline (something I never do as I’m a pantser), deciding what I really want to focus on and say. So far, I’ve identified the areas I most want to discuss, started pulling out scriptures I may want to use and researching them, writing down any insights that strike me while studying this, and trying to find further resources.

The one thing I’m worried about with the research is hitting a wall. For this project, there are a lot of people I want to talk to–counselors, matchmakers, ministers, married couples, singles ministers, singles. For the more professional people, if I can’t get information from them, it could halt my progress.

But I’m not thinking about that. I’m pushing on…and I’m focusing only on this project, whether I’m writing or researching, I’m putting my focus on one thing at a time and one project at a time…finally.

So, that’s why I’ve been a little silent here. I will try to update more as I navigate my way through this process.

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New Books: Optimism & Disappointment

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Bal...

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Image via Wikipedia

I’m nearing the end of the editing process on my dad’s book, after many exchanges of emails, drafts, corrections and etc. In celebration, I went out and bought a few books, even though I have a quite a few books in the to be read pile already. I walked away with some that called for optimism, and one that turned out to be a disappointment.

First, the disappointment. I bought a book of intimate letters between lovers. What I was hoping to find were actually the letters between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre, and I did find a few in this book. However, I was also hoping to find other love letters that I had heard of and perhaps find some passages I may like to quote for the marriage kit book. The problem is, this book was totally wrong for that. Most of the letters weren’t from the nineteen hundreds. Secondly, many of the letters were to mistresses and extramarital lovers, not between actual spouses, and I don’t want to promote extramarital affairs in a book about what it takes to stay married! Not only were they letters between lovers, but there was one woman who was in there writing letters to three different lovers, both male and female! She really spread the love around. Another set of lovers met because they both loved the same woman, whom one of them was married to. It is not at all suitable for the work I’m trying to create, and the letters between Simone and Jean-Paul are skimpy. *Sigh*

The second book is one I think will come in handy. It’s called Woe is I. It’s a grammar book for a grammarphobe. I’m not a grammar phobe, but I’d like to keep my editing skills sharp, and I’m one of those geeky English people who gets excited reading about subject-verb agreement and when to use that or which. I also want to acquire Eats Shoots and Leaves (this was an independent book reseller, and I didn’t see it there), which I hear is phenomenal.

The third and final book was a book that I’ve heard praised from the rafters and is being made into a movie. No, not Water for Elephants (someone already gave me a copy of that one…and it’s in the to be read  pile). This one is a little debut novel called The Help. I want this type of buzz for my debut, and I can’t wait to read it.

Even though I had to leave a copy of The Known World behind, as well as some other books I would like to own, I’m proud of my restraint, and think 2/3 I chose were really good picks. I have to find the friends of the library bookseller here. I need cheaper Harlequin’s at a good price, and I love supporting the libraries!

What’s on your to be read list? Has your writing taken presidence over reading lately? Are you researching? If so, what are you reading? Just don’t make it sound too good; I just may have to add it to an already full list of my own!

Get Out of There, Me!*

*Please excuse the horrible grammar of this post title–there is a reason for it. Thanks, Management.

So, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between projects again. After writing a post that seemed to indicate I was back on the college memoir “for real,” I’ve actually been working on the marriage kit book. I know, I know: I’m such a tease. 😉 Here’s the thing I’m already having trouble with: I can’t seem to keep a neutral voice.

Anyone who knows me, or follows my relationship blog or personal blog, knows how I feel about marriage. It’s not hard to tell that I take it seriously and feel the institution is still important, even though I’m not yet married. I don’t think that my stance is wrong; far from it. The problem is that what this book is about is about exploring marriage, what makes it work, what doesn’t work, how and why are people still marrying in an age rife with divorce and discussions on whether or not marriage is obsolete. I want to write this as more of an investigation of marriage, an impartial telling of what I find, not a passionate defense of what I believe–at least in these initial phases. At this point, I’m trying to damp down my incurable romantic self and get “just the facts, ma’am.”

I recently finished reading One Pefect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. Despite the provoking title, it’s actually an investigation of the bridal industry from top to bottom, as well as the origins of “traditions” we associate with getting married and what weddings/marriage signify from an anthropological and sociological standpoint. The author doesn’t give much of her opinion, except in sarcastic asides, until the epilogue. I think this style would fit perfectly with what I want for the marriage kit project. Although, I’ve kept the interviews neutral, I’m finding it difficult to keep other areas impartial.

Does anyone else have this struggle with non-fiction, or does anyone struggle with voice in general? What could I do to strike the right tone with this? What do you do to establish the voice or tone of your work?

Cheating in the Next Room…

BLACK SOUL SINGER JOHNNY TAYLOR PERFORMS AT TH...

I'm hoping my WIPs don't listen to this guy (Johnny Taylor) Image via Wikipedia

…is a blues song by Johnny Taylor. “Cheating in the Next Room” is about a woman talking on the phone to a man she is cheating with, making plans to meet up with him. Johnny is letting her know that he knows she has been faking lovemaking with him and has been meeting this other man. He tells her “that’s alright; I’ll soon be gone.” He is fed up and won’t take it anymore.

My writing can say the same thing about me. I’ve been “cheating” on some projects with other projects. I am supposed to be working on the short story project that I had the breakthrough on. Before I had that breakthrough, I was working on my memoir about college. Now I put the college memoir on the back burner, because I think the program I’m preparing for the high school students at church on Saturday would be the perfect place to begin the memoir (as it involves my college journey). Since the event hasn’t happened, I don’t have the opening. That’s understandable. I’m at a natural stopping point.

However, after talking to a real-life and blogging friend, I began to get really excited about another project that’s been on the backburner: possibly turning the marriage kits into a book. The thing is, making the marriage kits into a book will involve more than just compiling the interviews (and conducting more): I’ve noticed the book on weddings I’m reading has things to say about marriage. I have several other books, podcasts, and TV shows that speak to marriage that I frequently mine for information. I want to expand my interview pool. I want to research. I want to put away the short story project and work on this one, even though I know I’m supposed to return to the memoir after Saturday. I also know I will be doing more researching than writing working on the marriage kit project.

Does anyone else suffer from the lure of research over actual writing? I get so excited about some of the research I put into projects that I never get around to writing it until much later. How do you balance research with writing?

The greater question is how do you decide which project gets your time when your time is limited? I work full time, have an occasional second job, a boyfriend, a church I’m active in, my Dad’s book to format for Smashwords publication, and I want to have a little me time, so my writing time isn’t as extensive as I would like. When you don’t have time to do it all, what do you do? How do you keep a project on the backburner from burning up? This is my dilemma of the past few weeks. I’ve just went with it and done writing wherever my fancy has taken me, but I’ve not made much progress on ANYTHING. Help!