The last time I worked on my travel memoir was May 30, 2016 and when I left off, I had a grand total of 33,620 words.
Drumroll please …
I have finished!!!!
But wait! Stop the cheering! While it is certainly a big deal that I finished writing the story of our thru hike on New Zealand’s Te Araroa, I am actually FAR from done.
So let’s start with what being “finished” means.
*I’ve spent the last month living in a cabin in the woods on my own. No people, no Justin (sadly), just the cats and myself. Here’s the thing I discovered though. As much as I miss my husband terribly, I write better in solitude. There’s NO way I could have cranked out 20,000 more words in less than 30 days if Justin were here bugging me to play the Bean Game. (I’d like to point out that there is a writer initiative in November called NaNoWriMo, which basically is a challenge to write 50K words in the month of November. After accomplishing only 20K, I find this cra-cra, but more power to them).
*Further, our cabin in the New Mexico mountains could not have been a more perfect setting for writing a book. Studies show that nature stimulates creativity in the brain. Pretty sure I can vouge for that. My creative juices were flowing like the creek in our backyard.
Closeup of my view … I spy a deer!
*Every time I read a portion of my book, I find a flaw. I believe this is a good thing, because there’s usually a sentence missing comma or a word I know I’ve used 17,000 times. No matter how many times I’ve read the first chapter of my book (roughly 20 times), I can always find something to fix! Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.
*Revisions are also coming from others, too. Justin read my whole book in one day!! Now of course he is biased, but he still has some surprisingly good feedback! I have a few other writer friends reading specific chapters I plan to submit to publishers. While they will also have the story’s best interests at heart, they will be less gentle and complimentary (that’s actually what I need).
*The dreaded—yet inevitable—self doubt that comes with the territory of book writing has already begun for me. I’ve already used that overdramatic adjective 17,000 times. Will readers really know what I mean when I write “flamingo-colored alpenglow” and “mountains looming menacingly like a prehistoric monster?” Or is that overkill? Can someone remind me of the difference between dashes and commas in writing?
*My book is about 54K words, and I’m aiming for 60K. My writing process was chronological (big surprise given my Type A personality) and I just wanted to get the story down on paper. Now, I’m going back and enhancing certain scenes and details. I am in love with writing this story, so this part is fun.
*You know what’s not fun? Putting together a book proposal.
Book Proposal 101
I’ve said this before, but selling myself makes me break into hives. Justin and I have worked together to create our “brand,” at least in that we have been sharing our stories and expertise in the outdoor world and thus building trust. This has taken time and consistency. We continue to partner with several gear companies and Backpacker Magazine because of this. But really, Justin deserves all the credit on this. He’s the persistent one who isn’t afraid to ask. Don’t mind me, I’ll just be cowering in the corner while he does that.
Now it’s my turn to take the reigns and own my awesomeness (I just cringed writing that phrase).
Back in the day, all a writer really had to worry about was writing a book and writing a query letter to a publisher. Like a cover letter, the query letter brags about you and summarizes your book in the most polished 3-4-sentence elevator pitch you can create.
Nowadays, it is a whole lot more. Querying a publisher (or an agent, who will then find you a publisher) involves research on the book’s potential competition, market, and publicity ideas. I’ve really minimized it, but trust me when I say it’s laborious and tedious. I’m writing this blog post as a way to procrastinate working on my book proposal …
After you pour your blood, sweat and tears into your book, query letter and book proposal, then you can send it out into the big bad world of publishing.
But guess what? It’s a long shot. Did you know publishers pursue less than 1% of submitted work.
Also, fun fact: anyone remember the NY Times best-selling book, Chicken Soup for the Soul? The authors of the original book endured 140 submissions before getting picked up by a publisher.
Totally reassuring. I have my work cut out for me!
So that’s where I’m at. Hoping to finish the book proposal and revisions by the holidays, then it’s send, send, send. And wait, wait, wait.