Friday, October 26, 2012

Revelations on Writing Nonfiction

Huge thank you to Kerrie Logan Hollihan for guest posting in my spot last month.

For the past month, I’ve resembled Jack Nickolson in The Shining, but now I can finally announce that I sent in the manuscript this week. With any lucky, my editor won’t come back with “What were you thinking?” When friends asked, I explained, "I feel like I'm writing a thesis paper on steroids." Towards the end, I told everyone, "I feel like I'm giving birth to a baby." For about four hours at a time, I was power writing, trying to push out words. Then I’d stop and eat something, and then power write for another four hours. Now, I can feed the family, put out the Halloween decorations, and do some laundry. I can enjoy a movie and not worry and stress that I should be working. Why does it feel like I’ve been in a yearlong coma? For a year, I put off everything else in my life, but I do have to say that I enjoyed every second of working on this book.

Coming out of my writing stupor, the only thing that I can think about to write for my blog post this month is my thoughts on the writing process.

Here are some of my revelations and profound thoughts:
  • Writing some chapters felt like I was slowly pulling out all my teeth, one by one, just trying to any words on the computer. Some chapters went smooth as silk, taking just a few hours to write. 
  • Learning from others, I worked on the Notes and Bibliography as I wrote each chapter. A very good thing! Ideally, I should have done the same with the acknowledgments, but that wasn’t too hard to do at the end.
  • I approached the hunting down the images process like I was playing a game. You send out emails and all you can do is cross your fingers and hope that you get a response. And, when I heard back--- SCORE! Everyone from archivists at college libraries to family members was extremely generous and wonderfully supportive.
  • My system of labeled, recycled file folders for every person/chapter worked well. It was a fantastic feeling to move each file from the stuffed standing file on my desk to my filing cabinet. Ahhh, a clean desk! 
  • Not every source is correct. (Duh!) Check and check, again. Why does this ruffle my feathers so much?
  • Back up, back up, back up. Yes, my new MacBook froze within an hour of adding my last chapter and the fancy back-up system that my computer-savvy husband installed hadn’t backed up since last month. Talk about stressful situation. All was good a few hours later, but I immediately emailed a copy of the manuscript in it’s almost finished state to my husband. 
I’m sure some other profound thoughts will come to me in the next few days. During the last month, my very patient twelve-year-old would constantly ask me how the writing was going. Right before I finished, I told him, "I'm dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s." His confused look said it all. He'd never heard that phase before. I tried to explain. Isn't it interesting that kids these days aren’t writing their papers by hand, so they don’t need to be concerned with i’s and t’s. A sign of our times, I guess.

Now, I’m going to sit down, put my feet up, and read something totally for pleasure. And, it will have nothing to do with architects, engineers, or landscape designers, even though, those are wonderful subjects.


Cynthia Levinson said...

Congratulations! This is great advice. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Congratulations Anna! You are now a pro. The marks of a pro, in my opinion: Just because it comes easily and you wrote it in white heat doesn't mean it's good. You still have to go back and look at it with a crafty eye. Second, just because it came like blood from a stone doesn't mean anyone can tell. It's amazing how easily some of the hard-born words can flow.