Sunday, March 25, 2007

So why am I writing a book?

It was purely an accident. I didn't start out to write a book. I'm a long term cancer survivor and I started out just writing an article about the benefits of cancer research and why everyone should support it. About a month later, there were over 32,000 words staring back at me. Now that's way too long for an article, so it became a book.

I've never written a book before so I had no idea what to do next. I e-mailed my first draft to to my sister to get her opinion. We went back and forth for a couple of weeks and I made some big revisions based on her input, then I sent it out to some friends and acquaintances for their opinions. All the feedback I got was very positive, but everyone said they felt there was a lot more to the story that I wasn't telling.

They were right, of course. There were some things that just seemed too painful and too private to tell. It wasn't going to be easy to drag those things out of me. I decided that I needed a totally unbiased opinion, so I hired a professional editor to critique the work.

Now, I know that hiring an editor is like heresy in some writing circles. Many people view them as money grubbing creatures whose only interest is in taking a poor unsuspecting writer's money. This may be true in some cases, but I followed all the advice and guidelines for selecting this person. I went to Writers Digest, Publisher's marketplace, AgentQuery, Preeditors & Editors, and all of the online sites and read everything they had to say about the process. I had e-mail contact with several of them and asked tons of questions.

When it came time to make my selection, it was part credentials and part intuition. The person I chose is a published author - several books with knowledge in the memoir genre. She has an MFA and taught for 14 years. And, most importantly, she seemed to understand what I was looking for in the critique.

Her critique came back with the information I needed. What was there was good and it could be publishable, but it needed to be about twice as long and I had to dig deeper. She listed several areas that needed to be enhanced and asked many questions that helped me understand what more was required. It was a good lesson in trying to hide. You just can't do that when you're writing memoirs. It shows!

Based on her feedback and that of my friends, I went back to work. About three weeks later, I had over 52,000 words and had at least addressed all of the points the editor had made. I knew there was going to be more to do, but my brain went into deep freeze, so I quit and sent it back to the editor with a request for another critique.

And that's where we are today. I'm waiting for her to get back to me. It's been just over 2 weeks and one thing I am learning in this process is patience - definitely not one of my virtues. She has given me a date for her response and last time she was right on time, so I'm choosing to believe I'll be hearing from her very soon.

There's lots more to say about this process, but it's time for the rest of my life right now.

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