I’m now in the process of writing my second book and I thought some of you might be curious about the behind the scenes.
Each process has been quite different. For the first book I pitched a one page idea, a table of contents, and then was sent off to write. For this second book I created what’s called a “Book proposal”. Mine ended up being about 45 pages long.
This document has a synopsis of the book I am proposing, a lot of information about why I’m the person to write it (my bio, my credentials, my experience as a writer, and yes, all of my social media and newsletter statistics), and then information about the book itself.
I created a list of books that were similar to the one I was trying to write, but then also described how mine would be different.
There’s an annotated table of contents which is the title of each chapter and a paragraph about what I plan to cover in the chapter. Then there are sample chapters where I prove that I can write this thing.
Thankfully this time around I have an agent who has been walking me through every step of the process and helping me to make sure this proposal was as strong as possible.
Once the proposal is done, my agent sent it out to editors hoping to find someone who wanted to buy the book.
There were some no’s but also several yes’s. For the yes’s then, it became about trying to figure out who was the best fit. This wasn’t just about the finances, it was also about who was going to best be able to support the editing of the book, the promotion of it once it was done, and who would give it the best chance out in the world. I chose Broadleaf Books for this book. They’re publishing a lot of books in this space and offer a lot of support to their writers.
Once contracts are signed, I go off and write.
For me this process is admittedly messy. I write in Scrivener which allows me to start a ton of new documents within a document. In the beginning I write the pieces I know. Or I write the pieces where I am trying to figure out what the point is I’m trying to make. I don’t worry at this point where things go or that they’re connected, that comes later.
At some point in this process I will go back to an outline. Now that I’ve figured some things out, now that I have a sense of what I’m trying to say and how I want to say it, I’ll make an outline and start slotting in what I’ve written. This usually means that I have to delete a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff. (Though I never actually delete, I just move it to a document so it’s safe in case I ever need it again.) I also, at this point, see what’s missing. What haven’t I written yet? What have I been avoiding?
Then I go back in and write a bunch more. Then back to an outline. Back and forth. In and out. Until I have something that feels like a draft. Then I go over it again. And again. I might also ask someone to put some eyes on it at this point and tell me what feels confusing or missing or repetitive.
This is both the hard and the beautiful part of writing. You’re alone with these pages and your thoughts for a really long time. Months and months (possibly longer). It’s both an endurance race, but also a deeply emotional process as you try to be as honest as you can and write a book with integrity and truth.
This book, in some ways, is less personal than my first book but almost more deeply vulnerable. It’s about masculinity, which is not something I talk about very often. I’m realizing through the process of writing that I have a deep fear of being misunderstood and judged and that because of my previous experiences of being judged for my gender I am really sensitive to it. It feels fraught in a different kind of way. Gender is something both deeply personal and obviously public that it gets complicated. (Not to mention the overall tenor of conversations about gender are… well… not nice.) So I am definitely nervous about this one even as I feel it’s also the exact right book for me to be writing right now and that it’s a conversation that we need to have.
But writing is also filled with self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. And you try to push through it to create something that not only you can be proud of but that is also meaningful to other people.
This book is requiring a lot of research as well. My last book was well researched and grounded in scholarship, but I’d also been doing that research and work for the better part of a decade so it didn’t feel nearly as research heavy in the writing. This book is different as I am catching up with the newest developments in masculinity studies while also trying to read older stuff (and a lot of stuff that I very much don’t agree with and comes from people I don’t love, but that feels important to grapple with).
This is a hard process and a lot goes into it behind the scenes.
At some point I’ll turn a full draft in to the editor who will then send back notes. There are usually a couple of rounds of notes, each getting more and more precise as we move from big ideas to things like the formatting of footnotes and typos. With each round the book gets closer and closer to a version that feels readable.
Then there is a whole other layer: design and marketing. I’ll do another newsletter about that in the future if folks are interested!