Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Writing a Book is Not a Walk in the Park

Before you decide that getting a book deal or writing a book is your golden ticket to whatever, I invite you to read this in The New York Observer. Don't get me wrong. I am tremendously grateful for the opportunity. It has been my dream to be a published author since I was...I don't know..ten years old? Now that I am actually in the process of having a book published, I realize that dream and reality are quite different.


So you want to be a published author? Are you willing to commit your life to it? Are you willing to put your children, husband, social life and everything else on the back burner for it? Are you willing to sit at your computer for LONG hours writing endlessly with very little social contact?

The reason I love blogging is that it's so interactive. I write something, you write something and we have this nice, little exchange. There's none of that with book writing, apart from the feedback you receive from your editor. I had to laugh when I read the article above. So much of what the author described was true for me. Whatever subject you choose to write on, be prepared to be stuck with that subject for one, two or even ten years in some cases. By the end of it, regardless of how much you LOVE your topic, I guarantee you'll be saying, "I'm so sick of writing about this I could SCREAM!" or "This is SO BAD, who on earth is going to read it?!"

I became consumed with the idea of writing this particular book years ago. I imagined I would write it during a few lovely weeks at my family's lake house. I'd sit out on the picnic table in the sun, birds would chirp around me as I lovingly put down my life in words.

Boy was that dream shattered quickly. First of all, you need to decide how you want your book published. I chose traditional publishing, even though I was warned numerous times that it was a tough road to publication. Everyone has to decide what's best for them. I followed my intuition on this one and stuck the tough road out. Second, if you choose this road, forget the book. If you are going to publish any work of nonfiction, you need a proposal. Mine was around 95 pages and included my book concept, a marketing plan, sample chapters, production details, a section on the competition and a section on how the book would be promoted. I knew nothing about this when I started. I had to find it all out online and through books as I bumped along the road to publishing. I spent the good part of a year just writing the proposal. I hadn't even gotten to the book yet. Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write by Elizabeth Lyon became my bible. In the early stages, I hired a writing coach in Seattle at The Writer's Workshop who gave constructive feedback on my proposal and, more than anything, helped me stay on task by holding me to deadlines.

My husband, the former monk turned yoga teacher, played an important role in this process, too. He was my sounding board, my life coach and my cheerleader. His calming nature and belief in what I was doing really helped me get through it. He'd sit for hours listening to me read back what I had written. During a private yoga session with a client who already had two books under her belt, he got word of a freelance editor in Seattle who used to be an acquisitions editor at a major publishing house. While we were out staining our fence one hot, summer afternoon, he said, "You really should call that woman." So I did and I'm so glad I did.

It helped to work with a freelance editor who had been on the other side of publishing. I learned so much from her. She helped me refine my proposal. The thing is, working with a freelance editor is not cheap and there are no guarantees. You could spend a great deal of money on advice, coaching and editing and still not have a book deal in the end.

As many before me have probably mentioned, a lot of it has to do with timing. But more than timing, you need serious commitment. If you are really committed to your project, you are willing to take whatever time and whatever measures are needed to see it become a book. You need to believe in what you are writing about and it helps if you have a reason for writing it or an author's purpose. In my case, I'm writing my story because I believe I have something important to share that will help others realize their own purpose or potential.

On occasion, my husband has entered my writing room and found me, head on the keyboard, completely burned out from writing. In most cases, I haven't showered, eaten, nor seen the light of day. He's had to wing it for meals and housekeeping has completely gone by the wayside. But he never complains. Instead, he comes over to the computer, kisses me and says, "I'm proud of you, you are doing a great job," or he gently lets me know that perhaps I should turn off the computer and come to bed.

After several years, and through what I call "some mysterious workings of the universe," I not only received agent representation, but I also a got a book deal. Some of my friends believe it happened a little too easily for me, but what they can't see is that I put in a lot of legwork. I believed, with every ounce of my being, that it would become a book. I never veered once from this goal. I put every single ounce of myself into it. It was not a walk in the park. In fact, while writing my story, I had to relive quite a bit of pain and I often wondered why I was putting myself through it all again.

I've finally finished writing the book, 287 some pages of it. Yet it is not REALLY finished until it's sandwiched between two covers or until I can walk into Barnes and Noble and hold a copy of it in my hands.

No, it was definitely NOT a walk in the park, but neither is life. And, truthfully, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Note: Lessons from the Monk I Married is due out in bookstores across North America in spring 2012.

This was reposted from my blog: Lessons from the Monk I Married

2 comments:

c.e.l.i.n.a said...

WHAT a cool project! I look forward to the book! that is awesome.

Katherine Jenkins said...

Thanks celina...if you have time, check out my blog! ^_^!