Writing a Book
Looking for Lydia; Looking for God
The actual writing of the book–which never started out in my mind as a book at all, just some writing I seemed to be doing–happened in a white heat over a period of about seven months. I wrote all day; I wrote half the night. I didn’t sleep much, and I existed on Vigo Red Beans and Rice and Diet Coke. As I neared the six-month mark, I began to realize that the work on my computer, each piece a separate document, just another journal entry, was getting longer, taking on heft and weight, all those separate pieces fitting together into something like a whole. But I never used the word “book,” even to myself. Eventually, I had to call it something, so I settled on “manuscript.”
Writing Book Proposals, Cover Letters, Queries, and Click-Bait
October 2014-January 2015
I decided there wasn’t much excuse not to at least send my work out for a trial run. The first agency I chose wanted a formal book proposal for which they provided a template. I occupied myself for quite a while writing that proposal which weighed in at 10,000 words. I soon discovered they wanted everything “included in the body of an email.” No attachments. I had no idea how to do that (I have since learned). I never sent the manuscript to that agency. I did, however, send it to ten other agencies and a couple of publishers, committing myself to one submission a week.
Meanwhile I had made contact with a student from thirty years ago who had just started a political satire “page” on Facebook. While I waited and fretted and wrote letters and proposals, he let me write “click-bait” pieces for his new site. I wasn’t very good at it, but I learned a lot about writing 500-1000 words to deadline, and that was the beginning of what has turned into my weekly blog posts.
I wrote about an Episcopal Bishop who ran down a young man on a bicycle; I wrote about Pat Robertson and Sarah Palin.
I wrote about Joel Osteen. It was fun. I just never got the “click-bait” part down.
An Author’s Questionnaire and Pages for a Website
February 2015 Koehler Books
Through a series of unlikely events, Koehler Books and I found each other. And the contract was signed. At that stage, I had done the actual writing; I had written the gargantuan book proposal; I had written cover letters, query letters, summaries, and a marketing plan. I had shamelessly promoted myself. I had, it seemed to me, used every cliche I’d ever known.
My first job after signing with Koehler Books was to fill out an author questionnaire which included a synopsis of the book; an “elevator speech,” that is, what I could say in a short elevator ride to convince my fellow traveller to rush out and buy the book; an author bio; and a book description for the back cover.
I wrote text for all the Pages on this website–the story behind the book; the story of the writing of the book; discussion questions. My story.
Writing a Blog
March-May 2015 Lawyers and the first blog 3/26/15
On March 26 2015 I posted a blog about all the different kinds of writing I was doing, having completed a book and signed a contract. I wrote that blog because right after I signed the contract with Koehler Books we entered the two and a half months that I now call only “The Lawyers,” during which I didn’t dare write about what was actually going on. But I really wanted to write something on my brand new blog.
May-July 2015 Seven days to make it legal
Once we had come to a compromise that satisfied nobody, I sat down to rewrite the book. I gave myself one week. For legal rather than literary reasons, I had agreed to delete two, possibly three, of the women in the book. Each of them was threaded throughout the story; it wasn’t as simple as just cutting isolated sections. And so, on May 23, I began. I wrote a blog every day of the seven, beginning with one I called “This Is the First Day of the Rest of the Week,” and ending with “Sometimes the Ashes; Sometimes the Phoenix”:
This seemed like a real test: writing deliberately–without inspiration– effecting necessary changes, hacking vital characters and sections from the book while maintaining the integrity of what I had written. This seemed like the real test of whether I was, in fact, a writer.
I brought it in ahead of my deadline. Today I can barely remember the book before the surgery. There was one woman, whose daughter–after over two months of lawyers saying whatever lawyers say to each other (and I had a wonderful attorney!)–decided to get her own lawyer. I just knew we were looking at months more of waiting, so I simply took her mother out of the book. That one broke my heart. Otherwise, the book is good, and I passed my own test: can I write to schedule, independent of the Muse.
Let the Blogging Begin
A Party at the Slover Library
Travel Blogs, Guest Blogs, Book Reviews
On September 12 2015, the new Slover Library in Norfolk hosted a fabulous book launch/book talk for me. Over a hundred people attended. I talked about the book, sold books, signed books, and ate good food. I think everyone had a good time. I wrote two blogs about that event, with loads of photographs.
After that, I hit the road. I wrote a blog for every trip. The traveling was exhausting, and to this day I have no idea how many books were sold.
Several of the authors with whom I have connected on the Internet have written guest blogs for me, and I have written introductions to each of those blogs. My cousin, Jane, in Texas and Alison Daniels in Norfolk, have co-authored blogs with me; I have written guest blogs for other authors’ sites.
I have blogged about grief, about a former student who makes art, about Julian Bond’s death, about dreams, about the shootings in Charleston and Roanoke, about Valentine’s Day.
And then there are the book reviews. I decided it would be fun to write two or three book reviews; I was learning to manipulate images by then and just generally getting better at using the WordPress site, so I made the offer in a couple of the writers’ groups I had joined. I counted this morning: I have reviewed sixteen books and still have three in the queue. A random sample:
Is all this really writing? Have I run out of steam for a second book? Am I a one-trick pony? Am I destined to be a blogger, an editor, and a reviewer of other people’s books?
I don’t have an answer for that.
Meanwhile, I will continue to write because, having started, I don’t seem able to stop.