Wednesday, January 11, 2017

It's Semi-Official: I'm Writing a Book

Hemingway (certainly not McPhee)
at work
Well, I am semi-officially writing a book.

I say "semi-officially" because I'm in the early stages of research and development and I don't have a publisher yet.

I decided first that I did not want to self-publish. I've worked in publishing for many years and have gained an enormous amount of respect for all the things a good publishing team can bring to any project. I want to avail myself of that help, so I'll work hard to find the right publisher for this particular book.

It then took me a while to find the right subject. I had four main goals in mind. I wanted to find:

David McCullough
  1. A subject with the potential for at least a little commercial success. For instance I considered for a time a biography of Benjamin Rush, one of the Founders I think has been underrated. I finally decided that a Rush biography wouldn't sell well enough for the amount of work it would require.
  2. Something reasonably limited in scope. I've thought for quite some time that I should take a cue from David McCullough, my favorite biographer, and start with something manageable. While working at American Heritage he decided to write about a disastrous flood in 1889. The result was The Johnstown Flood, a wonderful book that garnered McCullough wide praise. He wrote about the people in and around Johnstown, not just about the flood, and told the tale with clarity and elegance. I can't hope to touch his greatness, but I can tell a similar story in my own way, and that's what I'm going to do.
  3. Something relatively close to where I live, to make onsite research easier.
  4. A story that hasn't been told yet or one told so long ago or so poorly that a new one would be welcomed.

I finally stumbled on a subject that met all four goals, a mid-twentieth century environmental disaster in Eastern U.S. I'm currently researching the various aspects of the event, compiling a timeline of what happened when and who did what for whom, and beginning to organize the research so I can find information quickly later.

Sample Aeon Timeline screen
I'm using Aeon Timeline 2 to build my timeline and will be using Scrivener to write the manuscript. Both applications are industry leaders and are tailor made for writers.

Soon I'll be scheduling a visit to the area to get a closer feel for the story, the event, and, most important, the people. I should be able then to begin work on a proposal, one that will look at what the story is, why it needs to be told, why I'm the best person to write it, how it will be organized, what resources I'll use, and roughly when it might be finished.

Then I'll identify potential publishers and agents, and begin the work of getting a contract to tell the story.

All of which is to say that in my retirement yes, I'm working on a book, and no, don't ask me where you can run out and buy a copy. Let's save that for later down the road.

(But yes, please DO run out and buy a copy when it finally does publish!)