Why am I having so much trouble finding a focused book idea or common thread for my book? Why is this so important?
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have written a lot of useful material over the years, I did a month-long outline course online in November, collecting another tens of thousands of words, and I started writing a couple of “real” chapters the previous weeks. All without that needed theme to tie it all together. Why don’t I keep plowing through all the content and forget about that supposedly important theme?
I feel like I am getting in trouble and am digging myself deeper and deeper into this project, without a goal or a guideline. That feeling is confirmed when I work on my book proposal. Every step along the way to put this document together requires knowing your common thread. How can you come up with a list of “competing and complementing books”, highlight the important factors for your “credentials” or find your “potential markets” if you don’t know what the focus of your book is? It is driving me crazy.
I am reading other (mostly similar themed) books and that helps me. But, it also makes me believe that those cruisers had a clearer path and found a sensible thread, because of their goals, experiences, dreams… See, I feel that conclusions and concepts like those from most cruisers are missing from my story, because traveling and living from day to day has come easy to me. That eight year journey on Irie was never the “once in a lifetime” adventure of many of my peers’ books, it was a way of life.
While my personality might help and encourage me to live a life less ordinary, it obstructs readers of my book to relate to me, I think. Call me arrogant (I hope not), but I feel that these factors hold me back from finding my all-encompassing theme:
- I take travel for granted, since it has been my main passion and way of life for over a decade (the trip on Irie was not a “dream come through” like for many writers of cruising books)
- Differences with my home country (or the western world in general) become vague, because I live where I am and continually adjust to local habits and the way things work there. I live in the world and not in one conclusive place that I can compare to one previous place called home
- I do not anticipate or look forward to destinations and itineraries, because that always leads to disappointments. That being said, I do get excited about new opportunities and challenges!
- I am not in search of anything when traveling, sailing, setting out anywhere (some books have self-discovery as a theme)
- I do not plan, so the theme “how nothing happens as planned” will therefore not work. By living in the moment, things happen accordingly and we deal with it (could this be the theme?)
- We were not novice sailors or were not on a mission to sail around the world (like many other cruisers turned writers)
- We were not restricted by time (we left indefinitely; the boat was our house), destination (we just said “Let’s go and see where we end up”) or money (we worked along the way to make the adventure last); we were not on a sabbatical so I can’t write the book around that.
- We were not looking for extra excitement, because we were never bored and were busy often. Life happened and was exciting enough, just dealing with the daily occurrences, some of which we inflicted ourselves. No stories about surviving hurricanes, because we were very conservative and careful in our weather planning and maintenance of the boat.
- I am not easily impressed by beauty or horror, irony or contrasts, since a lot of experiences have been instilled in me during those early years of backpacking in third world countries, snorkeling in the most beautiful waters and walking along magical beaches. (How do I know what people think is special and what I should focus on, when some of that is part of the life I live and like to live, and is possible for others as well?)
- What was new to me was the array of emotions I had to deal with (all alone) during these eight significant years of our lives – my thirties. I am leaning towards this as a possible theme.
- I feel at home almost everywhere, and it did help that we had our home with us!
- The sailing trip was not an escape from a failed relationship, stress at work or scary politics
- Nothing major happened at the end of our journey – we didn’t reach a certain goal, we didn’t get married, we didn’t divorce (close, though), we didn’t adopt a child, we didn’t circumnavigate, we didn’t move back “home” (we actually lost our home)
With all these things the book isn’t, of course, there is a lot to say about what the book will represent. None of those topics are getting me closer to a satisfying focused book idea, however! As I said before, I have a really good concept of what I want the book to include. I just have trouble putting it all into practice.
Mark is nice enough to let me vent and brainstorm once in a while, and my friend Rosie has been a listening ear and helpful “distant” friend as well, but I feel pretty alone on this quest and during this book project. The first recommendation fellow writers have is: join a writer’s group. I am familiar with that amazing and helpful concept from when I “lived” for three months in Texas in 2006-2007, when my friend Jennifer organized monthly writing marathons. The problem now is that I am moving from place to place every so many months, so a local writer’s group won’t work. In spite of that, and as a result, I have found a solution where many solutions can be found: the internet. I stated my conundrum on a few Facebook groups and posted it on a couple of writer forums. All of a sudden, I am not alone anymore, but part of a community. And, that feels damn good!