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A few weeks ago, I let you in on a secret. We're writing a book together, you and I.

A few weeks ago, I let you in on a secret. We're writing a book together, you and I.

This is not usually how book-writing is done. Traditionally, an author works on a book alone for a year or more. No-one sees it while it is being written and the writer keeps working on the book until they finish it.

This author wants to do things differently. I publish every week. I develop my craft in public. I send you draft chapters and stories that I know are not finished. Because done is better than perfect.

I have form here. As the new director of a non-profit, I blogged my first 100 days, every mistake, failure, and missed goal. Looking back, the posts are naive, embarrassing even. I exposed my inexperience. It made members of my team uncomfortable. People questioned my professionalism, you shouldn’t admit that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Here’s the thing. None of us know what we’re doing.

Admitting that is the first step to self-improvement. Talking about it openly helps others. Everyone knows what it feels like to struggle with something new.

So let’s talk honestly about what I’m trying to achieve here. And how much I don’t know.

Why I Write

Since I could read books, I have wanted to write books.

When I left my job as a non-profit director on July 1st this year, I decided to learn how to write. I embarked upon this memoir project. At the age of 40, I feel this is a good way to better understand my past. I want to tell the story of my remarkable family and how they made me who I am.

Deep down, I hope writing can be my new career.

My year-end goal is to complete a book proposal. That will be the strongest indicator to myself, and the world, that I have what it takes, that this lifelong dream might just become a reality. That this story is worth telling.

To get there, I have specific writing targets, milestones to head towards. Indicators of writing progress.

Bookmarks, if you will.

The Book Proposal

A book proposal is a pitch to a publisher. It contains an outline of a book, ideas around positioning and marketing, and details about the author. It includes chapter summaries and - for memoir and nonfiction - often a full manuscript.

Book proposals are rarely sent directly to publishers by prospective authors. Instead, they're condensed into queries for agents who agree to represent the author and pitch on their behalf.

I'm not there yet. Nowhere near, in fact.

But I'd like to get there by December 2021. By the end of this year, I expect to have completed:

  • The book outline
  • 20 chapter summaries
  • Ten draft chapters (30,000 words in total - that's about half the final length)

So far, I have:

  • A very early outline draft
  • Five chapter summaries
  • Five chapters drafted (around 15,000 words)
  • Another 10,000 words of ideas, scenes, and sketches

That's not bad going; I started in July. But there is still a long way to go before we know whether this book is good enough. And time is limited - I have savings that allow me to focus on this full-time. But only until the end of the year.

So I need your help. Don’t worry, I’m not about to ask you for money.

I need something more valuable than that.

Work In Progress

Before the end of the year, you will receive five draft chapters and five further newsletters with insights into how I'm working and progressing.

Why am I doing this?

  1. Feedback helps me understand what stories readers connect with.
  2. Deadlines force me to push through difficult days when the words refuse to flow.
  3. I need to build an audience. Newsletter subscribers, website views, and Twitter followers don't guarantee that an agent will read a query or a publishing house will accept a manuscript. But an audience doesn't hurt.

By sending you draft chapters and regular writing updates, I hope to improve my writing and build a greater connection with my readers.

I ask for only one thing in return: please continue to share these stories with friends, family, and social media.

New subscribers will give me more diverse feedback, help me hit my deadlines, and demonstrate interest in this work. Every new subscriber helps. 212 people have signed up to receive these newsletters. That number blows me away. I'd love to double it before the end of the year.

I’m going to share everything with you on this journey. Every mistake, failure, and missed goal. Every experiment, every little win, everything I learn.

We all understand what it feels like to try something for the first time, to struggle. None of us really know what we’re doing.

So let’s figure it out together.

Thanks to my Foster editors, Jillian Anthony, Anne Helen Petersen, Sara Campbell and Ryan Williams. And thanks to Julia for helping me to figure out what I'm doing, every single day.

If you liked this, please share. Subscribers get to read my memoir as it is being written, as well as updates on my writing process and progress. See you next week.