I’ve been thinking about writing a book pretty seriously for a couple of years. Not a collection of poems, which I’m finishing one of now, but a creative nonfiction project. Nonfiction as a genre has a bad rep, truly. How many bad memoirs can there be in one world? EVERYbody has a story they want to tell, and it’s truly painful how few of those are interesting to anyone other than the parties involved. And really, just image your mother reading it!
But I’ve had it. I don’t care if this book sucks. I’m going to write it anyway. And it’ll never get published. But I’m going to write it anyway.
So here’s the story. It takes me about 30 minutes to write 250 words. I’m shooting for a length of about 75,000 words, just based on what published books typically run. I think what I want will actually be shorter than that, but I won’t really be able to tell until I start writing it, so let’s shoot for the high end. So let’s say I write 30 minutes a day, 75,000 words as the target. That means I’ll have a really shitty first draft (as Anne Lamott so elegantly calls it) in 300 days. I can already tell you I won’t write every day. There’s that whole work thing, commuting thing, kid thing, and occasionally I’d like to actually exchange a word or two with my husband. So let’s just call it an even year to end up with a really shitty first draft. That’s with me using something like 42 Goals to track the writing time. And a lot of cussing or praying, depending on the day.
(At least I don’t have to save the world every single day!)
Then a year to revise it. What order does everything go in? (I’m envisioning a sort of collage narrative at the moment, so that’ll be loads of fun to arrange, and I know this from several months of trying to figure out how on earth to get poems into a reasonable order.) How do I stop using the word “still” every three lines? What on earth was I thinking with that sentence? Then a year or two to try to figure out that it won’t get published. Writing a query, identifying publishers, revising again when I find the flabby stuff again.
So the question comes down to this. Should I spend 30 minutes a day for three years writing something that won’t get published?
Well, if I’d started this in May 2011 when I first started taking notes, I’d already be hopelessly searching for a publisher! So since two years have gone by and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, yes, I am.
To make it simpler, let’s start with the daily goal and the first big goal.
A shitty first draft in one year.
250 words or 30 minutes writing time every day.
And get over the chicken thing.
Guess it’s just as well I don’t watch TV anyhow, right?