Friday 6 January 2012

I have all the material; I just need to formulate the book!

A while ago I mentioned that I'd like to write a book about my experiences as a parent of a teenage boy with anorexia. Following that, I sat down and collated a truck-load of information, including all the stuff from this blog. Then I worked on structure after structure, creating umpteen different documents on my computer. Result? Chaos!

The thing is, I've got all the material. I am also a (advertising copy) writer by trade. Heck, I can even put together a basic outline for the book. What I seem unable to do at this stage is to 'see the wood for the trees' with the sheer volume of information I have, let alone put it into wording that's right for this kind of book.

So what do I find myself doing? I procrastinate, I avoid the subject, I put off going back to all those computer files and consolidating them into something that might just work. And I tell myself that sometime soon, maybe when Ben goes away to university, I'll knuckle down and actually write the darn thing.

Yesterday I sent out a cry of help to Becky Henry, author of 'Just Tell Her To Stop', who I often 'talk to' on Facebook. I'm not sure how, when or even why we got talking originally, we just did. And the other week I bought her book.

Anyway, Becky has kindly offered to share her vast knowledge of book compiling and publishing with me which may just help to get the ball rolling.

I really appreciate that, I really do.

To be honest, it's the whole publishing thing that scares me. Okay I write for a living as a freelance copywriter. But I write in editable Word documents or websites. If (or more likely 'when') I make a typo or am inconsistent in some way I can go back there an alter it.

And I have a habit of editing and re-writing stuff until I'm blue in the face.

Ten weeks later I'll come back and edit it all over again.

And again.

If your book is sitting there in print you can't do that.

And there's another thing. I write for other people... businesses... I just send them the finished document, they pay me and that's the end of it.

Writing your own story, especially on such a difficult and emotional subject, is something altogether different.

Also, what if you inadvertently said something that someone objected to or disagreed with? Maybe seriously. Very seriously. What then? I'm no legal eagle, I'm just a mere writer after all. Neither am I a trained medical professional or an expert in the field of eating disorders.

I am just a mere mother of a teenager with anorexia. What if I get something really wrong? Not that the aim of my book would be to offer medical advice. Far from it. But I guess that somewhere you'd have to give some kind of background to the world of eating disorders and their treatment.

Okay, I can market the published book successfully. I think. I'm pretty good at creating websites and getting them high up on Google, so I could publicise my book. And, anyway, as long as I cover my publishing costs I'm not planning to make a profit. All I'd want to do is what I (hopefully) do with this blog i.e. help other parents of teenagers with eating disorders.

But it all seems like a bit of a scary jungle out there, all this book writing and publishing stuff.

But Becky's done it - and so have some of my other contacts.

So I guess I can too.

But what I don't want to do is spend hours, days, weeks and months of my time messing around with the nitty gritty of publishing, proof-reading and so on - time I could better spend on getting a really great, helpful book together.

If anyone reading this has any suggestions or advice, please feel free to throw in your two-penneth (as we say here in the UK)...


  1. Batty Matty,
    I have a friend ni queensland OZ who gets her writing out there through ebooks (she writes georgian mysteries). You can circumvent the agent publisher and the problem of getting your story to your readership and go direct to the readership at low cost to them and you. Happy to find out details if would help but e-publishing may be the first step and then hard copy book could follow.
    With the writing part I would suggest a writing crit partner who has the literary skills but also understands the story you are conveying. Instead of you messing aorund with the proof reading agree on a timeframe (this of course can be flexibile) and send her/him a chapter or a series of chapters to be read and then they can be set aside without you having to fiddle with them once you have looked at the feedback. Writing the story is the critical part.
    As to writing inflamatory stuff - again I doubt this will be an issue for you, There are ways to write about unhelpful medical treatment without naming people - look at Harriet Browns book for example. I think this story is so important - we need narratives of boys/young men battling this illness. Amaya

  2. Amaya, thank you for your brilliant feedback - it's really helpful and just what I need.

    I love the way Harriet writes about the medical side of things i.e. weighing up her own opinion versus possible other opinions (e.g. "I think XXXX is right", or "I don't buy it"), rather than saying "This is how it is" etc.

    Also, with my background as a copywriter, I am experienced in the use of the words "may", "might", "could" etc rather than "will", "does", etc!

    And I am sure there could be a suitable disclaimer at the start along the lines of "This book is not meant as a substitute for medical advice" blah blah...

    I really appreciate your feedback, Amaya.

    Thank you! xx