I Propose I Write A Book

One thing that is different about this Some College project for me is that I think I have a story I can approach an agent with, something that could be shopped around and sold. The only thing is, I didn’t know the first thing about that. Luckily, I follow a blogger with an agent who is working on her book proposal to send to said agent to shop around for a publisher (or there is already a publisher interested? I’m very fuzzy on the details). Through the powers of internet research, I find that a book proposal is a great way to get your work into the hands of a publisher. Apparently, agents can shop these around, and book publishers can get a good idea of what your work is about and whether or not they want to advance you money for it.

The first thing that really brought this into focus for me was reading Eat Pray Love. Elizabeth Gilbert publisher purchased Eat Pray Love and advanced her money for travel before she embarked on her travels. I don’t know how involved of a book proposal she wrote, whether she knew that she would use the unique structure she decided to use or if she included statistics and comparison titles in it, but I do know that she was able to secure a LOT of money and, more importantly, time and experiences.

My purpose in writing a book proposal wouldn’t be the same as Ms. Gilbert’s. I don’t need the money to have the experiences to write the book; I had that for free. My purpose in writing a book proposal will be to have something concrete to send to an agent that proves that my little book deserves a chance to sit on a shelf and be picked up and read by someone other than my mother. Aside from the aid in finding a publisher, do the statistical research and evaluating the market is a great way to get thinking about what happens once “butt in chair” has accomplished all it can and it’s time to try and sell this thing.

I’ve taken a look at the methodology for a study that was done regarding the very thing that my book is about, and I have noticed that I am EXTREMELY qualified to write this book. They “disproportionately-stratified” a sample to “over-represent” me. There was a program on American Radio Works specifically targeting this issue. The group of people who fall into this category is growing. The government attention is being drawn to this issue. This is the perfect time to get this book out into the world. That’s why I couldn’t write it any sooner.

All of this is a long way of saying I’ve started working on a book proposal for Some College. Prepare to see many angry posts about how I never should have started this stupid thing, how I’m never going to find an agent, let alone a publisher, and how I’m going to have to lose a ton of weight and get staggeringly beautiful to deflect from my otherwise failure at life status at my 10 year high school reunion in 2013. Please, please, please pray for me and my sanity.

On a totally unrelated note, I have contacted a graphic designer to create a logo for me, which is step one in my journey to self-hosting my own website. I think I may have a domain name and overarching concept for the site (which will not affect this site…for now), I am playing with color schemes and a possible theme for the  look of the site, as well as an updated About me section. I have been looking into a good camera to start adding pictures to my entries, as well as finding a photographer for a professional photo shoot to capture my whole vibe. Next will be trademarking and licensing, etc. This is a long term project, a one step at a time thing. I’ll keep you posted as things progress. Wish me luck!

Eat Pray Love–and Other Things I Meant to Finish

I was reading Eat Pray Love for a while after I bought it for my birthday from the Goodwill for $0.59. I must admit I thought the writing was great, but I’ve since gotten bogged down in India and had to drag myself through some of Indonesia. I am now in the “how many chapters are left in this section?!” stage of reading. I’ve somehow lost the enjoyment for this particular story.

I will give you an actual review of Eat Pray Love at another time, but I wanted to talk about getting bogged down and whether or not I should try and stay with the project I’m bogged down with or switch to a different project and come back to it later.

Of course, that’s not the problem this writing go round. I am forever pouring out observances, actual parts of a chapter, reminding myself of things to research, etc. on this project. I don’t know how much I will have to use, but I do know that I am, dare I say it, PROLIFIC on this project, for me at least.

At this moment, I’m working on the memoir, Some College. I have no idea about the tone, whether or not I’m going to be taking the tact of trying to teach lessons and make it a book for those entering college, or just tell the story as a sometimes insightful (but subtly so) memoir that simply retells life events. I guess it’s the difference between a bullet pointed study guide and reading Autobiography of a Face and making a study guide yourself. I guess that depends on purpose and audience. At this point, I just have a story that’s beginning to be told, a sometime cautionary tale that I just have to write down.

Should I be worrying about the details of story telling yet? Should I be writing to a specific structure, as Elizabeth Gilbert did in Eat Pray Love, or do I just write a crappy first not-quite-draft and figure out the rest later?

In the meantime, I am back to writing on paper, mostly in meetings and at lunch (don’t worry, I’ve permission to not pay strict attention in meetings, LOL). I don’t know what it is about paper that makes the words flow for some projects, but I’ll take productivity where I can find it.

Let’s Talk Books

I’ve been spending so much time lately going over my current projects that I haven’t said a word about books or reading in quite some time. Reading is an essential part of my day, no matter what it is that I’m reading. I read several times a day. In the last few days, three Harlequins have met their match (all very good, by the way ;-)). But I have also been reading other books.

During my lunch break, I’ve been reading One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead (I think; going off memory). This book is all about consumerism and the wedding industry. I still have a little bit of book left, so I can’t give a full review, but I will say that Mead’s reasearch is thorough, and some of her findings are startling, to say the least. She also raises some big questions about why weddings are now so expensive, what we’ve been trained to think about them, and what big, expensive weddings are supposed to replace. I can’t wait to finish and review.

Also sitting on my shelf at the moment: Pledged: another nonfiction, investigative reporting style book investigating sororities. From the cover and introduction, it seems she focused on white sororities (that, and most non-white sororities are less likely to talk to her about their rituals and ways, seeing as though she is Caucasian, a non-member, and a member of the media); a book about a woman’s 40 day & night solo sojourn into the desert after a divorce (this is non-fiction as well); What Frenchwomen Know About Love, Sex and Men–pretty self explanatory, I should think; Faith Evans’ memoir, and; Heather Hunter’s attempt at fiction.

As you can see, their isn’t a lot of fiction; in fact, it leans heavily to investigative reporting style exposés and memoirs. While this is easier to jump back into (I usually read at lunch, while waiting, and in the evenings at home when I can), I can only guess the reason why I focused so heavily on these is because I’m going to be working on an investigative reporting style similar to Mead and others for the Marriage Kit book, and I’m going to be working on  a memoir of my college years. I’m taking a look at what works and doesn’t work in the genres, I guess you could say.

Does what you’re looking to write ever change what you are primarily reading? Are you a writer who stays away from all romance novels while you’re writing romance, or does your readership in the genre you are attempting to write in increase? How do you work reading into your day and not end up crowding out writing?

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!

The Buried Life, Examined

I don’t know if it’s because of the introspection that turning a year older always induces in me, or because the ideas I’m working on for my memoir are causing my brain to divulge all of its secret treasures, but the past couple of weeks have been full of memories coming up that have me going “I completely forgot about that!”

I recently recalled my experiences with Tai Chi, a slight memory of golden apples on a ceiling that spawned a creative non-fiction piece “Creative Visualization.” Just today, I was twice reminded of other memories: one directly related to my memoir, and one of a grade school trip to the state capital. I’ve never had a problem remembering things, and I don’t know why it surprises me that the memories are still in there, somewhere, waiting to be knocked loose by an image or a thought so they can float to the surface. It’s just amazing how the cosmic shifts inside of me caused by my birthday have opened me up to such mundane memories. It’s equally amazing that these memories, upon reexamination, are so rich in meaning and appropriate for the projects I’m working on.

I’ve been sort of dreading this birthday more than most. I will be past the prime publication age I held so dear. I’ll never appear on a Top 40 aged 25 and under list of up and coming literary voices. The year that I was twenty-five will be recorded as one where there weren’t many triumphs. I don’t feel any closer to the goals I’ve had for myself or the things I’d always imagined I’d have by the time I’m 25-26: house, husband, heirs…, yet:

  • I’m writing at a higher level than before.
  • My blog(s) are developing a good following and inspiring discussion.
  • I’ve erased some of the old habits and debts that have kept me back.
  • I’m finally ready to seek publication again.
  • My writing voice is more fully developed than it was last year.

Since I’ve stop pushing back memories of my life, stopped thinking my life is uninteresting and uninspiring, I’ve come to see so many jewels of wisdom and insight. I’ve realized I have something to say, not just as a fiction writer, but as a non-fiction writer. I’m realizing I’ve accomplished a lot, much more than I give myself credit for, and I still have a lot of life left (hopefully) to accomplish over and exceeding everything I’ve ever imagined. I’ll get there in my own time, when the time is right. I just have to trust that I’m going to get there, and keep walking.

Rusty Water

Habitat For Humanity volunteers constructing a...

I'm Building Me a Home... Image via Wikipedia

During my lunch hour yesterday, I pulled out a couple sheets of lined paper. I wanted to write something during my lunch hour, so I pulled out the digital recorder and played the first thing that came up.I listened to a recording of possible chapters for the memoir I’m finally beginning to work on. While nothing really stood out to me, I decided to make some notes, then try to recall details about that particular time. For some reason I decided to write part of the “Building a House” chapter.

I began detailing the fact that when I moved back to Michigan, Habitat for Humanity was building a house across the street from me, next door to my half-great uncle (another long story). I meandered into my previous experiences with Habitat for Humanity, and ended up at my aborted Spring Break trip to Slidell, Louisiana to rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina my junior year.

All of a sudden, I had a flood of images to work with and all of these different directions to go in. My pen was moving faster and my mind had found a groove. The various lunchtime noises around me–a microwave running, another microwave beeping, Contessa on MSNBC, chatter amongst my coworkers–began to fade as I fell deeper and deeper into the writing. When I looked up, I was alone except for a co-worker checking Facebook on her phone with a bored expression.

This is what I learned about writing: you could say writing is like riding a bicycle or starting your car on a cold morning. You never really forget how to ride a bike. If you let your car warm up a bit, it runs the same as always. But what I would say is that writing is like a faucet that hasn’t been turned on in a long time in an old home. There’s still good water there, warmed and ready to be used, you just have to turn the tap on. When you do, some of the water will come out brown from rust and unusable, but if you let it run long enough, it will clear.

I’ve been writing nothing but blog posts (and plenty of them) for weeks, and I must admit my other writing skills are still a bit rusty. The goal is to continue to let it flow until it’s clear again. Some of what I write will be disjointed, littered with sloppy transitions and poor word choices. Some of it will be so bad I’ll question if there’s anything usuable in me. But the point is to continue until the writing is fluid and life giving again.

I keep seeing this quote on my twitter feed exhorting me  not to worry about writing well; just write. I’ve always had a problem with crappy first drafts, but I’m trying to take that advice. The longer I keep writing, the cleaner the writing will be. I can clean up the mess later.

I have no idea how I’m going to get back from Slidell to Michigan, nor from Christian college students building homes on Spring Break to college students building Habitat homes into the bitter cold of late autumn. I have no idea how I’m going to “build” this literary “house” either. But what I do know is that I’ll try to enjoy the journey, and that brick by brick I’ll build the literary powerhouse I want to be.

How do you get back in the creative swing of things? How do/did you come back to writing after a hiatus? Any tips or suggestions?

Taking Up the Gauntlet, or I’m Going to Do It!

Cordelia Chase

My second favorite Cordelia inspired this post...Image via Wikipedia

I recently read how one of my favorite bloggers, the awe-inspiring Cordelia of Cordelia Calls It Quits was challenging herself to write the first draft of her novel this year. After all, when are you ever going to be “ready” to do it? When are you going to have “time”? Carpe Diem, and all that jazz.

I’ve been thinking about my writing goals for this year, and a few things stick out. I have some great short stories and the beginnings of novels and memoirs laying everywhere, as well as the marriage kits interviews that I want to turn into a free eBook someday (I’m still debating free, but love is free, so why not teaching to love, right?). All of these wonderful things, but nothing finished, or even fully realized.

 I don’t know where I’m going with many of the projects and haven’t made any plans. I’ve been telling myself I want to build up my blog following first. I want to pull all of my blogs together on one self-hosted website. I want to procrastinate take my time and play around build my following. But the following isn’t developing fast enough. But whatever happened to “build it and they will come?”

So, I’m building. Piece by piece, throughout this year. I’m joining Cordelia in writing. Only, I have so many projects, what to focus on? I don’t want to end up with just a first draft, needing revisions, proofing, and a coat of spackle before I can begin the long, arduous process to publication. Yet, I want to set some hard and fast, no wiggle room writing goals for this year. So where do I start?

Here’s a list of the projects and what I plan on doing:

  • Candy Apples–the only story I’m giving the real name of. This is the close to being finished, as it was for a class that required me to do a major revision. It just needs some spiffing up and can be sent out.
  • The Art Story–very good portrait of an (sometimes) unapologetic promiscuous artist that needs major revisions to the end. I sent it out to a contest and was politely dismissed. Promising but needs work.
  • The Boots Story–seriously has little to do with boots. I just lost steam on this, but I have a few ideas I want to play around with. This is the last short story I will work on, because I just don’t have an idea what will happen.
  • The Vandalism story–I had to rework a major hinge point of the action. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and had an “epiphany” that turned out to be 3am delirium.
  • The College Memoir–I had this brilliant idea to write about my year between my junior and senior year. It was supposed to be a very inspiring memoir about overcoming fear of failure and obstacles, and learning to learn in the real world (real world as classroom was very big in my head that year…a survival mechanism, I think). I got as far as coming up with a snazzy list of chapters and subjects, including one about how David Boreanaz saved my life (no, I’m not telling; you’ll have to read the book!). I have some notes from then as well. Really want to do this, but haven’t much to work with yet. Need to plan it.
  • There’s another memoir idea floating in the darkness. I just can’t remember it right this second…(darn it; stalling didn’t work…grr)
  • 1st novel in progress (Southern Gothic Novel, for now)–I started this in college; had a professor who really liked it and really encouraged me to finish it. He told me I wrote like Toni Morrison (not the first time I’ve heard that; not sure is compliment or joke, as he knew I didn’t really like her work). I have 40 pages, at lest 30 of which are absolutely perfect. I’ve tried to take it in several directions, but other projects intervened. Am going to write this novel. Will be best of present works.
  • 2nd novel attempt (A Blues for Zora, for now)–was supposed to be a short story but is shaping up to be jazz and friendship centered novel of great importance. Has the best name I’ve ever come up with for a club, the best club owner in history, a strong narrative voice…and threatened to go all Harlem Nights on me, so I stopped while it was still good. Have to plan this one more.
  • 3rd novel attempt (Class Reunion, for now)–NaNoWriMo chick lit attempt. Strong characters and panic inducing subject (more so as my own class reunion keeps approaching faster and faster). I feel comfortable putting this one off the longest, as the characters are solid and jump right back into action the minute I focus on it.

So, the plan is to finish the short stories, plan out the memoirs further, get serious writing done on 1st novel attempt (using newly acquired crappy first drafts are OK as long as I get the bare bones on paper mentality), plan 2nd novel attempt, and temporarily shelve 3rd novel attempt. As for the marriage kit interviews, they will continue as soon as I pick up my digital recorder tomorrow (yay!). I will meet with minister to help me flesh out idea for free eBook to save the institution of marriage.

This is what I came up with yesterday instead of actually doing any of this. I’m hoping to do better today. Check back for updates on my progress, sprinkled into my writing rants, book reviews, and all things writing and reading!