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Posts Tagged ‘book writing’

Weary, Happy, Ready To Surgically Detach From The Computer — My Book's Done

In Media on June 22, 2010 at 6:26 pm

It’s a weird feeling to know I’m done — although “done” is a relative term because that decision will be up to my editor.

Let’s say, I’ve finished writing, revising, writing and revising. For a few weeks anyway.

I attach a photo taken by the sweetie last weekend, a document of the revision process. I print out my work in hard copy, using both sides of the paper, then satisfyingly crumple it into a big ball when I’ve entered my corrections and changes. (Here’s a recent New York Times piece about John Updike and his writing process.)

Every writer, and book, is different. Some people have tremendously sophisticated filing systems; I have two sofas — notes used (check mark) and notes not yet used. Some people write the whole book and only then start revising it from first word to last; I write chapter by chapter, revising each one, then read several sequentially to see how (if) they flow smoothly into one another and then the whole book itself.

Many months ago, I chose five people as my “first readers”, four of them fellow professionals, two of whom have also written books, one of them a best-seller. If everyone hates the same paragraph or page or chapter, I’ll have to figure out what to do with it. If there’s anything more scary than writing a book, it’s turning it over for consumption and comment.

I’ve seen my cover and we’re tinkering with it. I love the title they gave it: “Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail.”

The challenge of finishing a book is, just when you really want to sleep for a month, it’s time to crank up the publicity machinery. I’ve registered the domain name malledthebook.com and have yet to design or build the site. Then, (sigh) Twitter.

I love writing books and hope to write several more — as journalism sinks beneath the waves, there are increasingly few places left to tell smart, serious stories in depth. Some journalists hate the idea of writing a book because they fear they’ll get too bored. In both instances, I’ve found the subject so compelling I hated to end.

I’ll keep you posted on the book’s progress; publication date spring 2011.

Writing A Book: Part One — Bring Sherpas!

In culture, Media on November 29, 2009 at 10:43 am
This is an open suitcase

Time to unpack...Image by emmamccleary via Flickr

As we were leaving a friend’s home after Thanksgiving lunch, a fellow guest turned to me. Like almost everyone I meet socially, she had sighed wistfully hearing I’d written one book and was now writing another. “Oh, I’d love to write a book. I’ve got such stories,” they tell me. Only a few seem to get that it’s not quite as simple as pounding away at a keyboard for a few months.

“How do you write a book?,” she asked. “Do you have an outline? Do you just start writing?”

Writing a book is to daily blogs or daily/weekly/freelance reporting as a Tibetan trek is to a leisurely stroll through your local park. Bring Sherpas!

The former demands a sort of extremely solitary discipline, your writing life — minus competitors, colleagues, editors. You now have only one deadline, and it’s soooooo far away (mine is September 2010) it feels a little unreal, a shimmering oasis on the other side. Of course, you can write a lot faster and turn it in early, which also gets to you the Holy Grail of your next payment; they may eke it out in four bundles over two years. But it also has to be really really really good. No pressure!

I’d lined up my five first readers as soon as it sold; these are five friends and colleagues whom I trust to read carefully and thoughtfully and offer me helpful feedback. They’re essential, in my view. By time you’ve finished a 75,000 or 90,000 or 130,000 word manuscript, you’re often sick to death of it and it’s become far too familiar for you to capture its flaws and omissions.

To sell a non-fiction book most of us sell a proposal, call it a very, very detailed outline, with one or more sample chapters allowing acquiring editors to decide if they like your tone, voice and story. You tightly compress every scrap of your best stuff into this vehicle, find a great agent, send it out, and pray. After it sells, like some circus clown whose little cardboard suitcase carries far more than it looks, it’s time to beautifully re-expand those initial ideas into a book, something you hope like hell will have lasting value to others.

I love writing. So that bit doesn’t scare me. I just have to go do a lot of it now.

As I move through this process, I’ll offer occasional updates.

Selling Your Book, From Fantasy (An Auction! Best-Seller! Oprah!) to Reality

In business, Media on October 8, 2009 at 7:33 am
Books in the :en:Douglasville, Georgia Borders...

Image via WikipediaITh

J-Day returns! This time, a three-part series on how — if you’re not Malcolm Gladwell — to sell and write a non-fiction book.

Next Thursday, two veteran New York City agents, Kathleen Anderson and Joe Spieler, with NYT best-selling clients, share their stories. On October 22, Kelsey Timmerman and Ulrich Boser, non-fiction authors, talk about what it took them to develop, sell and write their books.

For many ambitious writers, seeing your book on a store or library shelf is a powerful and compelling dream. A number of True/Slant contributors have written books, (Ali Eteraz’ memoir comes out this month. Congrats!), so they’ve also felt the joy and terror of achieving it. But, for most of us, selling and writing a book offers a sobering education, as so many cherished fantasies of Becoming An Author — Your life will change! You’ll be rich! You’ll be famous! They’ll make big fat piles of your book on those tables at the front of the bookstore! — quickly evaporate under the glare of commercial reality.

Do not quit your day job. Your advance, for example. Wow — $50,000! (Or whatever.) You don’t get it all at once. I’ve never heard of anyone who does. Non-writers assume you’re setting up your laptop on some Bora Bora beach for the duration, as you simply now have so much dough, you’re all set. Hah! These days, you’ll be fortunate to get your advance in four instalments over as long as two years, each of them whacked by your agent’s 15% off the top and, oh yeah, taxes. Do the math, and keep on producing non-book income.

I finally sold my first book in 2002, and that was after a number of false starts — involving a lot of hard work each time writing a 30-50 page book proposal, finding an agent to read and rep it and send it out. Not to mention nursing the wounds of rejection. I did that for at least two or three totally different ideas, (I forget how many, it was painful!), one of which was soundly rejected and went on to climb the best-seller list when, virtually identical in focus and tone, it was produced by a Big Name Writer. Ouch.

I just sold my second book a few weeks ago. Like my last book, this one went out in proposal form to 25 major New York publishers and one bought it. That means 24 others “passed”, either dropping out of the race or writing some pretty stinging emails rejecting it. Trying to sell your book, or book proposal, is not a competition to enter lightly. Unless you are already a Really Big Star, wrap your soul and your ego in Teflon!

Here are some of the elements that combined (as they must), like tumblers in a lock, to open the door to my new book. Keep them in mind when trying to sell yours: Read the rest of this entry »

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