I’m excited to answer some of your questions! I won’t elaborate (ramble) as much as usual, in an effort to include as many people as I can.
Christine Lee Smith asks: I was trained as a journalist – writing in as little space as possible. How do I take “pamphlet” mentality to make a book? And – how do you begin? With an outline, introduction…or just a pen and paper?
Actually, Christine (by the way, you are an INCREDIBLE photographer), your journalism background will serve you well as a writer. My first book? Originally 110,000 words. I trimmed it down to 69,000. Fluff, fluff, fluff. Just because you (I) have a propensity for words doesn’t mean readers want to shuffle through the packing peanuts to get to the point of the book. Just the facts, ma’am.
And how do I begin? Never with an outline, never with an introduction. I just dive in with the first thoughts that come to mind. I write all over the place and stitch the pieces together later. (But that’s just me.)
Teresa asks: How do you get all of your notes into something that makes sense?! And do you set aside a certain amount of time each week to write when you are in the middle of a project?
I pray. A lot. And I’m not kidding. When everything is all jumbled up and I’m completely overwhelmed by a million parts, none of which work together, I stop and pray my eyeballs out. God truly helps me focus, gives me words. I could NEVER do this on my own.
And no, I’ve never set aside a certain amount of time each week to write (although that’s a splendid idea). I write whenever I get the chance. And lose sleep if I have to. And I usually have to.
O asks: How do you pick one subject or character when your head is swimming with ideas and “people”? And Gail says: Talk a minute about your process of moving from a thousand ideas to narrowing in on a real, cohesive book topic.
Since I don’t write fiction (although I’d love to someday), I don’t usually have characters swimming in my head. Good thing, because I’m out of space up there. I do have a ton of ideas swirling and whirling. Usually, one will rise to the surface. I’ll start to see it everywhere. I’ll go to sleep at night thinking about it. I won’t be able to shake it, and then I’ll know. Write about this.
After I wrote my first book, the publisher asked me what I wanted to write next. I gave them a list of 5-6 book ideas. They picked this one. Besides the fact that the subject matter was semi-terrifying, they made the choice, and I, Lady Indecisive, was off the hook.
Whimzie (coolest name ever) says: From first idea to printed word, what’s the average length of time it takes to birth a book (or gestation length, if you will, Mrs. 52 Zoos)?
Hmmm… Every project is different. My first book? I technically started writing it on my honeymoon. January 1998. It was on the shelves March 2006. Now, that’s a long time. But I really wrote off and on and spent an inordinate amount of time convincing myself that it would probably never be a real book and I really shouldn’t bother.
Books #2 through #4 came out in February 2007, March 2008 and January 2009 (I think), so those obviously just took a few months to write.
The Zoo Book? The idea came to me in July 2008, and I’m aiming for a December 1, 2009 deadline. This project was obviously different. I was busy doing something for a year and now I’m writing about it.
So, tell me–what are the biggest obstacles you face when it comes to getting serious about writing (or any other dream/calling you might have)?
See you tomorrow for our last day of Writer’s Week! Happy October! (my favorite month of the year)