Memoirs Written by the Common Man/Woman

Whether through the written word, oral tradition, or visual media, people love personal story. According to 2009 Publishers Weekly nonfiction hardcover report, 10 out of 30 nonfiction books listed were personal story, and plenty more will appear on the 2010 listing. Memoirs are the rage.

Yet, the word I’m getting is that unless the writing far exceeds the writing of a memoir written by a famous person, publishers are reluctant to sign with an unknown author. Apparently, fame moves books. However, as an expert in the field of reading, I disagree. And this is why.

I cannot deny that people are fascinated with stories about people whose lives they can only dream about. I am one of those people. But I also know—as an expert reader—that beyond the entertainment factor of a good read, germane to our humanity, people want to connect to other people. A writer’s fears, disappointments, tragedies, and triumphs validate and clarify the reader’s experience.

A reader doesn’t want to get lost in bad writing, but rejecting a well-written book with a strong hook and fabulous story because the author is not famous is to minimize the need for personal stories the common person (most of us) can relate to.

Appreciating the Process

What is it About Bread? That is the question I pondered today as a smile appeared on my face while kneading bread dough. After two extremely tense days and nights and for no apparent reason, I smiled. After the smile, I took a deep breath and felt my shoulders relax; I sighed. It felt good to feel good.
 
Most everyone likes to eat bread, especially home-baked bread. Not everyone likes to make bread. Or some people like to make bread in a bread maker, which is not actually making bread. Making bread in a bread maker is assembling ingredients for a machine to make bread. Even if the bread from a bread maker tastes as good as handmade bread (I’m not convinced it does) the benefits of handmade bread go far beyond taste. Not everything in life is about taste. Most of life is the process. I want to enjoy the process.
 
Writing is a process. If I can’t enjoy the process by taking pleasure in the small steps, I would quickly become discouraged. That’s why I reward myself with a private little celebration every time I achieve a goal even as seemingly small as completing a difficult sentence. The larger achievements, such as completing a chapter, receive a bigger award. I take a day off from writing simply to appreciate the accomplishment. This is my base camp. This is my opportunity to look down the mountain to see where I have come from, rest, and then gather my gear to continue my trek up the writing mountain.
 

the lonely trek

Success and Failure

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” ~~ Sir Winston Churchill
 
 Some well-meaning person, I’m sure, posted this quote on my Facebook page.  My response: “NO loss of enthusiasm?”
 
Of course my enthusiasm has waned from time to time during this book writing-process. For the last seven years, I have experienced serious writer’s block, headaches that have rendered my writing efforts temporarily infertile, rejection letters, major rewrites of sections I naively viewed as stellar, an agent who “strongly encouraged” me to rewrite my 67,000 word true story as fiction, confusion, interruptions, exhaustion, and occasional spousal riddling such as Is the book done yet? or Has that million-dollar advance arrived?

 Does this make me a failure?  I don’t think so.

Sorry Winston, but I am going to counter your definition of success with my own, “Success is the ability to stand up in the midst of discouragement (loss of enthusiasm), brush yourself off, and ride into the wind with your head held high.”

My Cousin Judy

I just requested a non-fiction proposal template from Mary E. DeMuth, memoir (and other works) author, speaker, and book mentor to help me piece together a more polished proposal. Even though I have a completed proposal, it needs work and I have not known where to start the process. I feel like a floundering fish just reeled to shore.

For years, I have been working with another book mentor, a perceptive and talented writer/editor with whom I work well: my Cousin Judy. But Judy has not been well enough to help me for the past few months, and we both know that it’s time for me to give birth to this book. A seven-year labor is long enough.

 Though we both know that I need to keep working even if it means without her direct help, I am emotionally torn. Judy has been more than a mentor.  She has been a midwife, and she has been a friend. Our relationship throughout this book-mentoring process nourishes my soul and enriches my life.

I have always loved my Cuz, but I love her even more now. Thank you, Cousin Judy!

Manuscript to be done or not to be done

The protocol for submitting fiction to a literary agent or publisher differs from submitting nonfiction. Typically for fiction, and most certainly for unknown fiction writers, agents and/or publishers want to see a completed manuscript. But for nonfiction, they usually request just the first two or three chapters of a manuscript-in-process, plus a proposal.

Might sound like nonfiction writers are getting a break, but they are not. A well-constructed proposal, the nonfiction-writer’s primary marketing tool, is a huge task. Not only does a proposal require focused, polished writing, but also the type of writing, the genre, if you will, differs drastically from the proposed writing.

A book proposal is a sales pitch written to persuade a businessperson (agent and/or publisher) that readers (your ultimate audience) will buy your writing. And most writers simply want to tell a story, not sell their story or themselves.

Today, I am working on my book proposal. But I’m not excited. I’m not full of enthusiasm.
 
Why?
 
Because I’ve written it already, sent it out to several agents at their request, and received enough feedback to realize that the proposal needs more work. I want it to be wonderful NOW without more work. So, I’ve been procrastinating. But TODAY, I am picking myself up by the emotional bootstraps and getting back into gear.