Now that I have made it official that I am writing a book, I am encouraged to keep working on it. Yes, I have even made it a priority in my life at the moment. Once in a while, a friend asks “How is your book coming along?” They know this process will take a while, but they are curious about my progress and encourage me to keep going. All I can answer, however, is “Slow! And I have no idea what I am doing…”
Maybe it is because of my naïve or wishful thinking attitude, but I always expect things to happen quickly, as in … immediately, and smoothly, as in … naturally. Writing a book takes time. A lot of time. And effort. A lot of effort. Nobody says it is an easy task. But just how difficult does this have to be? I somehow thought the words would flow smoothly, an attractive frame would present itself, a book proposal would be drafted in a matter of weeks and the whole book would be done in six months or so, ideally commissioned. Obviously, I have not thought this through. Mark would call this “being in Liesbet’s world…” In Liesbet’s world, nothing is ever a big deal! Luckily, I have time. The whole reason we are semi-settled on land right now, house and pet sitting, is for Mark to expand the Wirie business and for me to work on this memoir, or whatever it will be called.
Over the last few weeks, I have been writing several new chunks (self-contained events I hope to include in the book), as suggested in “The Art of the Book Proposal” by Eric Maisel, and I have rewritten or rephrased some of my previously collected anecdotes. I organized all of my cruising notes into folders, so it would be easier to find information I would like to incorporate. I made a time line of all the places we have visited with Irie in eight years (not an easy task with my diaries and logbooks in any place but here) and made a list of one hundred possible titles (not kidding). Nope, I have no idea yet how this book is going to be called. Its working title is “Floating About – a Life Less Ordinary”, by lack of being more original. And, part of the same struggle: I have yet to come up with a focused book idea or theme that pleases me. That should be the red herring, the guiding thread to building my story. Except, it is still missing. I do know what I want to write about; I have 90,000 words explaining my book idea and how I want it to look and sound like. I just don’t have a concept yet to guide me through the process.
While one might think this is the most important part to get started and focused (it is, and yes, it drives me crazy I’m still at a loss here), I cannot waste hours and weeks to rack my brain in search of the perfect title or the most appropriate theme. Instead, I work with my vague ideas, write, read and research. I posted a question about writing a book about the cruising lifestyle on the Women Who Sail Facebook page and received a lot of useful information. Accomplished authors like Janna Cawrse Esarey and Wendy Hinman, who wrote The Motion of the Ocean (in its second print!) and Tightwads on the Loose (my two most favorite cruising tales) respectively, provided some very useful input.
Then, there is the book proposal, the preferred way to pitch a work of non-fiction. A writing project in itself, containing 10-15 well-constructed pages, a book proposal (ideally) allows you to sell your book without having to write the whole thing first. One of the parts of this proposal is creating a credentials section about yourself, an extensive “About the Author” spiel that is supposed to impress an agent or publisher. Famous bestselling authors have it easy here, as do people who have numerous public appearances, published books, qualifications and certificates. My main accomplishments that hopefully set me apart from the rest of the writing pack, are my unique lifestyle of continuous travels and adventures on a low budget, my array of published articles and the fact that I helped start and maintain a business in the middle of two oceans. I hope my third draft of this document does the trick!
Another part of the book proposal I have been working on is the “Competing and Complementing Books” section. Researching other, preferably similar, cruising books helps point out how my book will be different and what contributes to popular writing. It is a time consuming exercise and it is distracting as well, since I now want to read all those books (again) and learn from the way they are written. My conclusion: it is easier to read a book than to write one! And, once again, I have found an excuse to postpone working on my own book. Reading is more fun…
In order to categorize my future book (exercise: “Imagine your book being sold in a book store or catalogued in a library, where would it sit on the shelf?”), I drove into the little town of Kent today. In the library, travel literature was stored in the non-fiction room. Other than that, I could not locate any books, say by Paul Theroux or Bill Bryson. With the help of a librarian, I discovered that these books are catalogued by theme or locale, not alphabetically. I guess that makes sense. If only they would have labeled the sections that way. Then, I was distracted by the book covers and intrigued by the summaries. I left the tiny Kent library with five books! When will I be able to read all those?
To finish my research, I walked into a book store. I love book stores. More distraction was had, but I did find a label here, where my future book could possibly fit: “Travel – Adventure”. Now, all I have to do is write a popular, inspirational and suspenseful cruising story that will turn into a bestseller…