On Writing That Book


A couple of wonderful women I know via my traveling Twitter are going through some tough times. They are both writers. One recently suffered a Lupus related TIA and the other has sadly suffered another setback with cancer. Despite the difficulties, they write on. The latter, a NASA physicist, has a book in progress. Her latest scans show more cancer. It’s in the bone now. I, unfortunately, know what that means for her, and she made the comment in her last blog entry that it was time for her to quit procrastinating and finish her book.

Procrastination and writing are almost synonyms. I know some folks who write to the exclusion of all but breathing, but I have never been blessed with such nose-grinding attributes. However, I have been thinking. A lot. About going back to book writing full-time.

With the yoga studio closing at the end of June and my growing disaffection for cause and current event blogging making it difficult for me to muster interest in my paying gig, thoughts turned back toward the memoir and writing “that book”. Or rather, finishing it.

I am still stymied by theme. You don’t just write a book about a section of your life for no reason even if it seems like that is precisely what memoirists do. As more than one literary agent, author and indie publisher has pointed out – an author should have a point.

What’s my point?

A happy ending is not good enough.

Well, okay, it’s pretty darn good from the personal perspective but why should anyone other than my children or Rob really care about what got he and I from A to B?

More than once, it’s been observed that ours is a compelling story and that I have, on occasion, represented it well in words.

That I can write isn’t at issue, nor is the fact that people love a good happily ever after love story. What I am still searching for is an angle. The hook. What’s my hook?

Widowers, let’s face it, are hot these days. Can’t throw a stone without hitting one in film, books, or television. There is something more compelling about a man who’s lost his spouse than there is about a woman in the same predicament. Probably because  a single woman/mom is considered so dime a dozen in North America that they practically wallpaper daily life.

And men make tragic figures whereas women are just victims. Who loves a victim?

No one.

But, getting back to my pondering. I have been. I even have the makings of a plan. The universe knows I have a book.

I don’t want to look back and wonder what it would have been like had I just gone ahead and done it. Published. I don’t want to regret it from a standpoint of having run out of time. The image of poor old Ulysses S. Grant banging out his memories in the last cancer ravaged months of his life to save his family from poverty has always struck me as the saddest way to leave life, desperate and down-trodden and in despair.

I’ve spent the last four years learning to write. Well. It’s time to do something with all the free words I’ve given away in the pursuit of my voice.

11 thoughts on “On Writing That Book

  1. You know, I worked on the memoir non-stop when my husband was out as sea. For 4 months straight I rolled out of bed to the table and stayed there until 2 in the morning only taking bathroom and meal breaks. I was on fire at the keyboard.

    And then I burned out. I didn’t type another word for 10 months. I was overwhelmed just thinking about it. But that’s because, I started writing one book and ended up with two.

    So, I split them in half and am now doing one at a time. I shoot for 2 chapters a week and will finish the “second” draft this month. I have 4 more chapters to go! I couldn’t believe it went so fast. It’s only been 6 months.
    I didn’t wirte 8 to 12 hours a day like I did the first time and don’t feel as burned out.

    2 chapters a week left me plenty of time for other things like tap-dancing and yoga, cleaning and cooking meals, spending weekends with the hubby. I probably worked on it 3 to 4 hours a day.

    Find a pace that works for you. And then stick to it. You’ll knock it out long before you die (unlike Grant!) Besides, you sound like you already have it started. You just need to finish it. I think it’s fabulous that you’re taking out the time to DO it. So many people talk about writing a book, and all these wonderful stories never get written and shared.

    I love a good love story. Let’s hear it!

    1. I have it started and I have a plan – mostly. I would like to try micro-publishing a bit of it in the new year. I know a woman who teaches online classes in honing message, building platforms and e-publishing. Going to take those in the fall while working on the book and see what options are once 2012 rolls around.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing. I appreciate it.

  2. Ann, I have been having some of the same chats with myself. In my case, a book that seems to want to come out of my head is on parenting a special-needs child. In some ways I feel unqualified because our SN child is not quite five, so it is not like the finish line is anywhere in sight even if there were one. But the battle to get him properly diagnosed, all the red tape involved, simply not knowing where to even START when you have nothing more concrete to go on than “something is just not eight here” … I feel like maybe the experiences I have already had just to get from “there is something wrong” to three specific current diagnoses could be helpful to other parents who are still at stage one.

    Like you, though, I wonder, what is my hook? What is special about me and/or our experience that someone needs my particular input, out of the thousands of parents who have had to advocate for a SN child?

    What I have decided to do is simply get back to the writing, and see if the hook makes itself apparent long the way. Maybe for me, it will be the fact that I am STEPmother to my SN child, and that has had a significant impact on every aspect along the way, from having very little credibility with some family members when I first said I thought there was a problem, to practicalities like simply being able to take him to the doctor or enroll him in his Early Learning Programs. With more and more families becoming blended, I am certainly part of a growing population of stepparents with special needs kids. And it is hard. Being a stepparent is hard. Having a special needs child is hard. Blending the two sometimes feels like an advanced form of masochism.

    In any case, maybe just get rolling, and that unique thing (or things) that you have to say will become more clear in your own mind. I think that if others did not already sense that you have something that needs to be said and that you are the person to say it, then you would not have people urging you to get to typin’. :). But the clarity might come for you through the writing process itself, rather than as the initial inspiration.

    1. My plan is to hit it like a job once Dee is back in school at the end of the month. Summer is too fluid and any goals set are too easily put aside, which starts that vicious expectation cycle that is less than helpful.

  3. There is no time like the present. I have been spurred on to accomplish some of my deepest desires because someone I care about cannot accomplish theirs. When we put that kind of positive energy into the universe, for ourselves and on behalf of others, it is not ignored.

  4. Interesting. I stopped writing “my book” because I realized that (a) I didn’t read any grief memoirs when I was grieving, and (b) I’ve never read inspirational books of any variety, so (c) why would I write an inspirational grief memoir? Or in your words, “what’s the point?” (By inspirational, I mean “uplifting stories of the human spirit triumphing over pain and challenge,” as opposed to devotional stories of faith conquering all — another genre that I don’t read and wouldn’t write.)

    But I’ve been thinking about it again, thinking I may finish it now, through the lens of a few more years’ living. Even if I never send it to a publisher, it may be what I need to do, to steady the boat through the rocky waters ahead of me.

    1. @Sharon, good point about the karma not being wasted.

      @Alicia, I don’t read griefy memoir either. In fact the whole genre is too perky in a bootstrapping on way for me. It encourages people to marvel in awe or feel inadequate. Neither are good things. However, truth and reality is something the world lacks. That’s why I liked Abby Carter’s book – she didn’t lapse into “magical thinking” or go goey trying to inspire. She told it as it was. Also, I learned a lot about relationships. Stuff that the women’s mags and the self-help genre still don’t deliver. It makes me sad for our gender when I see the fantasy being pushed – even in non-fic forms and forums.

      But to the “rocky waters” – running new rapids brings back the older journeys to be sure. Writing might be a good anchor in the next while for you.

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