Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

Recap of My Book Writing

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing. Starting this month, they have added a question as a prompt to get the juices flowing: “What’s the best thing someone has ever said about your writing?” It has been a while since my last “book update”, so today is a good day for some insights and an answer to that question.

The Background

As some of you know, my biggest passion is traveling. Since graduating at 22, I have been on the road or on the water full-time for 14 out of the 18 years. I’m not sure whether to count our current lifestyle of house and pet sitting as traveling, since we are semi-settled “abroad” (for me anyway), but still explore different parts of the country while at it.

The other thing I have been doing most of my life is write. I have always enjoyed writing and have been pretty engrossed by it since I started my first diary at the age of 10. Only recently I realized that “all” I am actually doing, is write: diaries, blogs (replacing the email reports and letters I used to send out), comments, emails, articles, cover letters for translation jobs, article submission and house sitting assignments… Except for the weekends, I am always sitting behind my computer; and I am always writing. Other than a bunch of published articles, none of my writing has had any serious meaning or intent. Last November, I also decided to focus on writing a non-fiction book, loosely centered on our eight year sailing journey.

The Idea

From the beginning, I wanted my future book to be or do many things:

  • Read like fiction
  • Contain engaging dialogue
  • Show, not tell
  • Use flashbacks and foreshadowing
  • Avoid clichés and too much chronology
  • Engross the reader
  • Inspire the reader to be adventurous
  • Encourage the reader to get out in the world and live life to its fullest
  • Prove how easy and cheap it is to be a nomad
  • Offer a peek into the “life behind the scenes” of a cruising couple
  • Share emotional moments, the good and the bad, the exciting and the heartbreak
  • Take the reader with me as our life unfolds day by day, and therefore create a sensation of curiosity as to what is next – much the way we experienced it

I love brainstorming, coming up with an outline, describing what I want to do and getting excited about the whole concept of my book. This is the fun part.

The Problems

Where do I start? 🙂

Problem #1: Thinking (and explaining) about your book is much easier than actually writing it. While I know what I want, I do not succeed in actually producing this result.

Problem #2: Because of #1, I lose focus, interest and determination.

Problem #3: I have so much to write about that it is very difficult to find a theme to work and build around. Something I still am not successful at. What will that theme be??? I know I cannot write about it all, and maybe writing several books is an option, but that does not help me now.

Problem #4: Because of #3, I have decided to just write, write, write, like many friends and fellow writers have suggested to do. Well, that is whenever I actually sit down behind my screen and work on my book. Why is this a problem? Because now I am doing exactly what I didn’t want to do: write chronologically, write too much, forget about dialogues, and – when doing effort to keep the word count under control – produce summaries without a soul.

Problem #5: Distractions, also called excuses… There are so many other things to do that are more important – and accomplishing – than writing a book. And, I am not even talking about traveling, exploring, household chores, exercising or reading a book. I feel overwhelmed these days with applying for “real” jobs, submitting articles and following up on them, answering emails from friends and family, thinking about and writing three blogs a week, reading other blogs and commenting, dealing with my photos (recent and older), and producing time-consuming applications for house sits, a post master job in Antarctica and a travel writing scholarship in Australia. That all sounds much more interesting and exciting than writing a book, right?

What’s Next?

Even though I am not a fan of how my book is developing right now, sticking with it, following my original outline and just writing experiences and memories down, seems the easiest plan of action. When I do allocate time for this, I am actually enjoying the process and making some progress. I have a different approach for the story in mind, but I guess I can always cut and switch things around in a second draft. One day, I will be less vague about all these thoughts and concepts.

The Goal

For now, I have to take a step back from all my intentions, expectations, objectives and perfectionism. The main goal I have in mind for my book is procuring that every reader will ultimately agree with the best thing only friends have ever said about my writing: “I felt like I was there.”

IWSG First Wednesday Feature

What are elements that create a good (non-fiction) book for you? What are favorite themes you like to read about?

22 Comments

  1. First, one of the genres that I love reading in non-fiction is memoirs. Especially if the person has overcome much through perseverance and endurance. However, I like to read non-fiction about spiritual experience, and I like to read about travel.
    All the best with your book concept.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Patricia

    • Thanks for the insight and encouragement, Pat. My hope is to create some kind of memoir about travel that includes quite a bit of perseverance. But, how to weave that into the whole book in an engaging and interesting way… that’s the question.

  2. I’ve always been told to read the books I want to write. Read the memoirs that inspire you and use that to find your own voice. It works! Good luck! I too want to write a memoir – one of my biggest desires and worst fears. 🙂
    Wishing you the best!

    • Thanks, Yolanda. When I have the time, I try to read books in “my genre”, which causes different emotions, ranging from “Wow, this is written so well, there is no way I can ever match the style” to “Aha, that is a good way of approaching a subject.” Reading does help! If only there are more hours in a day…

  3. Ohhh, I always wanted to write a photo journal as I traveled Route 66, but I never made it. I think writing about your travel experiences would be great for Travel Magazines. You will figure out how to tie your book together as you travel or even after you are done traveling and you see a connection. Or WHY are you traveling… catharsis, escape, adventure??? Good luck, but keep on truckin!

    • Thanks for the motivation, Gwynn. I hear you about Route 66 and the photo journal. I have so many projects like that, but they will never happen. Just making a photo album for myself is impossible. There is just not enough time for everything. It is one of the reasons we need to stop traveling for a while as to catch up on a few ideas, before gathering more experiences. I do hope you get to your photo journal one day, though, it sounds like an interesting adventure. I am looking for that connection in my book. Maybe, I have to just make every chapter a different story. There are so many approaches to this!

  4. It sounds like you are well on your way to producing a solid book. I love the concept – world travel by boat. I think, like you are already doing, I would start by writing out your own personal experiences and just get things down on paper. Maybe you might try to find the voice of your main character? Try out different types of stories and see how they make you feel. Pull out old pictures and use them to develop your story. And I love the idea of reading books written how you want your book to read. Just keep writing, reading, and traveling, and I know you’ll find the perfect way to form your book! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for your input and encouragement. Write, write, write is the right (:-)) way to go, but it can be so exhausting at times. The photos do help. I have been going through my archives to come up with the first drafts of the first chapters. Maybe one day, it will all come together and it will all make sense. Nobody said writing a book was easy, right? 🙂

  5. I have no advice on book writing since even writing a blog post seems to take me forever. A post master job in Antarctica? Now that is one serious distraction. Wow!

    • I knew you would see the sense of adventure in that one, Sue! Unfortunately, I didn’t get the position in Antarctica, even though I would be perfect to live in basic accommodations, talk to cruise ship passengers in their own language and hang out with the penguins. Their loss! 🙂 They do seem to prefer UK citizens, unfortunately. And only I would spend three solid days putting an attractive profile and application together and thinking I would make a chance. Maybe I am more lucky with the Australia one…

  6. What a fascinating life and time working! When it comes to fiction, I have to be honest what I like best are stories that surprise me BUT have happy endings. So,not surprise like the main character dies in the end. Clever plot twists, characters that do things we should have expected but didn’t. And great prose that you can taste and that draws you along a narrative where things happen which are interesting. Give me that and genre/target age group really doesn’t matter so much. Now that I’m describing what I like to read this is giving me a better idea what I should probably be writing too. =D

    • Haha, Anne. It is a good thing to know what you want! You know what you like to read and you know what you like to write. Now, “all” you have to do is incorporate those elements. 🙂 I wish it was that simple. How is it that the mind always has this great description or ideas, but reality (and physics) can’t make it happen?

  7. Loni Townsend

    July 8, 2016 at 11:34

    I don’t read much non-fiction, so I don’t know that I’ve got anything helpful to give. But it sounds like an interesting life and tale. It’s been said that the first draft of anything is crap. You can revise everything to be exactly how you want it after you get everything down!

  8. First of all – two posts on a Wednesday? Very impressive 🙂

    I can relate to so many of these problems. Writing is just so darn hard. I’ve not idea why, but it is. Writing blog posts is a piece of cake, but something longer is so challenging. I think your book is going to be awesome and I cannot wait to read it!

    Have you ever read anything by J. Maarten Troost? He wrote these hysterical memoirs about his time in the Pacific Islands. Reading them definitely made me feel like I was there.

    • The only time I will pull off the two posts is on those IWSG days. Why do they have to do these on Wordless Wednesdays? 🙂 Since you are a writer as well, coming up with great stories, I’m happy – but not surprised – you can relate. Blogs are the easiest thing, because they are ours and we don’t have to “prove” anything or have the pressure to make them outstanding. This is so different with articles and books. Thanks for the encouragement in regards to my book, Ellen. I truly have no idea how it will come out as of now, but I hope you are right! 🙂 I will check out J.Maarten Troost, now that I have a local library card. Thanks for the tip.

  9. It was great to get a view into your writing process. Sounds like you have a lot of exciting things on your plate (Antartica and Australia jumped off the page at me).

    Two different processes have served me in achieving my goals in life. In most cases, I’ve used ‘necessary procrastination with a deadline’ to get the job done. When I seem to be doing everything but my priority, I am actually seriously creating in the background. This works best when I have a real deadline that is important for me to meet. Less often, I rely on my ‘ruthless prioritization process’. This is for my big life goals (career and later, my circumnavigation). Here, anything that isn’t supporting the goal has to go which can be ugly and painful at times. But the rewards makes it totally worth it.

    I look forward to reading your books when you manifest them. I think your ‘what’s next’ plan of action is a good one.

    • I totally recognize your first process, Lisa. Even when I am doing different things, my book idea is in the back of my mind. I am thinking about ways to approach chapters and remember content almost every moment of the day, but I don’t actually write anything down. Especially at night, when I try to fall asleep, my inspiration soars, but I am too lazy to do anything about it. And, even if I write something down, in the morning when my head is clear, that great night time idea sounds all but exciting. And, you are so right about prioritizing and deadlines. I am trying to make this happen with lists. Problem is that I put too many things I want to achieve on this list, making it impossible to check everything off in a week, and more topics show up as the days progress. I think I need a real deadline! Thanks for the advice, I will do my best to stick to these processes.

  10. I wish you luck in figuring things out. I’m not sure I would even be able to write book length non-fiction and I am impressed by your willingness to try. Pushing through the distractions is certainly key, followed by words on the page. If it matters, I certainly believe you are more than capable of putting all of this together. You’ve got mad skills. 😉

    • Mad skills? I love that. What a compliment! 🙂 I thought having a lot of content and a love of writing would easily result in a book. I was wrong… I’ll keep trying, though, and fight (or give into) distractions. Thanks for the encouragement, Ryan.

  11. You have some great ideas Liesbet; sounds like you could be the next Bill Bryson!

    • Haha, Denzil. You are too funny! Are you trying to give me the best compliment ever? I think you succeeded right here and now…

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