Nonfiction Making

I have been at work collecting resources for my next nonfiction book. In one instance a neighbor was complaining about the SLOW SPEED of the internet provider we have here. I lamented that it took most of the morning to download one pdf I needed. He asked about it, and I explained it was 500 pages in length. Once that had been downloaded I discovered there were nine more documents of equal length that needed to be downloaded. Not much writing got done that day. He was amazed, awe-struck. “You mean you dig through thousands of pages of documentation looking for a few tidbits of juicy stuff that will make it into your book?”

My response was flippant, because what else could I say. “That’s why they pay me the big bucks. Ha!”

Fortunately, he is a self-employed wood artist himself and understood my “big bucks” comment. He grinned. “I know ’bout that.”

As I comb through the thousands of pages of documentation looking for those juicy tidbits, however, something else begins to happen. The book begins to take shape in my head. I starting thinking, “Oh, this might be a good place to begin.” Or a quote will make me say, “Hmmm. Perhaps I could throw this in the front matter.” Or “Oh, I absolutely must include this exchange between characters.”

These thoughts, of course, mean that “outline” I delivered to my editor/publisher to land the deal no longer stands. Shape (or structure, as it is called in the Common Core) doesn’t usually spring full blown based on preliminary research done for a query, but rather develops over time. Thankfully, I have an editor/publisher that allows me the time to find the appropriate shape.

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