I could give credit for this idea to the author of one of those self-publishing how-to books that are constantly being discussed in the Minion Cafeteria. (“Is this a scam? Does it have anything new? What does an author whose bestselling book is ranked at twenty-bazillion on Amazon know about how to write a million-seller anyway?”) That would be giving that author too much credit. But he did get me thinking.
I’ve had an idea for a non-fiction book kicking around for some time now. The elevator pitch would be “What I wish I’d known before starting my book review blog with a little bit of what I’m glad I figured out in advance thrown in for good measure.” At one point I even did an outline and roughed out a few chapters. But then I experienced something that I’d bet many of you are familiar with. Other obligations got in the way. The day job. The websites I run in my “spare time.” Posts for IU. Family. Political arguments on Facebook. Naps. A guy has to prioritize, right?
Then in a discussion with Kat she mentioned that the archives of IU were skimpy in two areas.
The first is anything to do with non-fiction. Scanning the list of IU contributors and their books I saw a few who had written non-fiction. Melissa Bowersock has a biography. Mr. Pish really took those trips, and both Martin Crosbie and Melinda Clayton have some non-scammy, self-publishing, self-help books that are more than worthwhile. Shawn Inmon has a couple of memoirs (and I personally think Rock and Roll Heaven is a real place and that they’ve got a hell of a band). But the focus of most is fiction, both in their books and their articles.
Then we have the issue of experience. Specifically, they all have it. Me, not so much. In the comments of one of Shawn Inmon’s posts, Kevin McLaughlin mentioned a million words as the point where an author might move out of the novice category. (I’ve seen this number cast as someone’s estimate of the word count needed to put in Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours which as this article explains, is commonly misunderstood.) And while I claim not to be a writer, I just did a quick estimate and came up with a conservative count of 300,000 words I’ve had published over the last 13 or 14 years between various websites and magazines. (Yes, I’m shocked and questioning my math skills.) So while I’m well shy of a million words, I guess I don’t qualify as a rank beginner. However, I’m also guessing there is a difference between writing a 300-word review, a thousand-word blog post, or a couple thousand words for a magazine article when compared to writing a book that runs 50-100,000 words. I’m sure my discoveries during this process will show plenty of inexperience, naiveté, and overall cluelessness to satisfy the newbie audience.
So the idea is we’ll go the cliché one better and kill three birds with one stone. I’ll have some posts about the experience that discuss things I discover that might be helpful for new authors. (Those more experienced can laugh at me, which provides a different kind of value.) Along the way I’m bound to stumble on some subjects unique to non-fiction that will be fodder for more articles. (Maybe I’ll even be able to write a post that I can sneak in the book with a disclaimer about originally appearing at Indies Unlimited in a “slightly different form.”) Finally, the last bird gets killed by making this an obligation. I can’t write about an experience unless I have it and I’ll include at least a brief status which will hopefully demonstrate some progress. So my choice is less naps or a major fail in public. I think that’s what the self-help gurus call accountability. All in an ongoing series. I’m open for series naming suggestions.
Concurrently with this, Cathy Speight and I will be doing another series which you might have already seen. If it seems like I’m paying more attention to that one than this one, I’ll bet you can figure out what to do. A little public shaming is bound to make a difference.
So all you experienced authors out there, I’m ready for advice.