Behind the Scenes of a Book in Progress
I’m starting to write a book. It’s a strange, big project I’ve been wanting to take on for years (I’ve written about doing it at length on here) and now FINALLY the time is right. Here we go. I also want to bring all 9,000+ of my followers along with me, hanging out backstage for this creative tour, in case there’s even one person out there reading these words who wants to write a book or launch a business or join a traveling circus or climb a French mountain or do anything that seems just a little bit out of reach.
There’s also the idea of accountability, which my mentor Gino Blefari says is the catalyst for progressive change. To move forward, human beings must be held accountable, we’re simply wired that way. It’s why deadlines exist and chapters end. There’s nothing wrong with bookmarking a beginning because it means you’re going somewhere new.
I’m not ready to reveal the theme or plot of the project yet, mostly because I haven’t figured out where the narrative goes, but I will say it’s based on a true story that’s never been told before. It’s not the grandest story or the most history-shattering tale but it’s a fairly glitzy anecdote with revolutionary ramifications for an industry swinging from the shadows of what it would one day become.
In terms less metaphorical, this is what I’m doing to prepare:
Reading. I’ve written before about my initiative to read a ton of books each month and it’s even more important now as I select the words and tone of my book. It feels something like a college student peering inside a refrigerator filled with one beer, two olives and yesterday’s fried rice, deciding how to make lunch. Stephen King reads only non-fiction when he’s writing (the influence of fiction, he says, holds too strong a sway on his style to work while crafting a book), and I’ve been following along the same path. There’s a bit of fiction thrown into my current list but of a wildly different genre, so I’m not too worried it’ll predispose my prose. They say if you want to get in shape, exercise more and eat healthier. The simplistic blueprint works for writing, too. If you want to write better, read more and write more.
Research. For this particular story, there’s a fair amount of historical detail I’d like to fold into the batter, and also some documentation of the tale in archived New York Times articles and scholarly works. Style-wise, I want the story to feel dense and rich, as if I’m pulling out something that already existed instead of creating something that never was. Maybe this point seems abstract; it’ll make more sense as we go along.
Accountability. MAKE ME DO THIS! I’m standing at the precipice, and though I might be able to talk myself into leaping, you’re the ones who will let me fly. After all, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it really make a sound? If you write for no one, did you write anything at all? Well, maybe you did. I guess that’s the entire point of a diary. Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is a basic tenet of my book-writing plan: These posts are part of the accountability piece sitting at the fulcrum of productivity and procrastination. I’m also creating an execution outline, disassembling every piece necessary to take a book from idea to completion. Speaking of …
Small steps. I remember reading an interview with Sara Bareilles in some Orange County magazine where the reporter asked her how the heck she wrote so much music for “Waitress.” She said something about feeling like she couldn’t do it at first and asking her mom for advice. Could Sara finish something so big when she’d never written a musical before? Mother Bareilles told her talented daughter to think of it like eating an elephant — “Do it one bite at a time.” I thought the analogy was kind of weird, but maybe by elephant she meant something elephantine, like a giant pizza pie. One bite at a time. I can’t think about this project in the whole, it’s too overwhelming. Instead, progress will be a series of small steps until I’m miles from where I was before. I’m two months into a three-month online class on commerce for creatives and the woman leading says progress should be “quiet and slow to be beautiful.” I like that.
Well, I should end it here and take my dog for a walk. Hope you enjoyed the first post in this new blog series, “Novel Ideas.” I’ll try to hop on the blog at least once a week with updates, setbacks and fun.
Have a SUPERB weekend, friends …