Life Doesn't Fit in a File Folder

I'm Going To Do a Book

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I have been writing a manuscript for almost 8 years.

When I write that sentence, it is only slightly less embarrassing than when I say it out loud.

Some writers pop out books every other year.

Not me.

I used to joke that I felt like I was giving birth to twin elephants; the gestation period for one pachyderm is 2.5 years so I allowed  time to double it; after all, when I started writing my book my son was five years old. He was active, building LEGO creations and dancing and leaving goldfish crackers all over the house. He went to school under 3 hours a day. The nap had evaporated. I had my hands full.

But here it is — seven years later — and I am wondering what is wrong with me? Why won’t this baby come out?

Kristen Lamb (author of We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer) once suggested it is possible for some writers to get stuck “rearranging the chairs on the Titanic,” and I wondered if she was talking about me.

Was I that crazy woman adjusting the furniture when the ship was going down? I could hardly bear the thought of my baby sinking.

Rather than despair, I decided to remind myself that I am surrounded by greatness, and I figured I’d plug some people who I know in real life who have written and published some good stuff.

1. Michael Wexler: The Seems • Young Adult

2. Pam Sherman: The Suburban Outlaw • Non-Fiction Essays

3. Cynthia Kolko: Fruit of the Vine • Fiction

4. Betsy Petersen: Dancing with Daddy: A Childhood Lost & a Life Regained • Memoir

5. Chet Day: The Hacker • Thriller

6. Steven Mazie: Israel’s Higher Law: Religion and Liberal Democracy in the Jewish State • Political Science

7. Jeffrey Hirschberg: Reflections of the Shadow: Creating Memorable Heroes and Villains for Film and TV • Film Theory

8. Victoria Wasserman: Damage Control • Fiction

9. Rebecca Etlinger: To Be Me: Understanding What It’s Like To Have Asperger’s Syndrome • Picture Book

10. Janet Goodfriend: For the Love of Art • Fiction

11. Wendy Vigdor-Hess: Sweetness Without Sugar • Cookbook


12. Rebecca Land Soodak: Henny On the Couch • Fiction • 

And if that isn’t enough, I also have some cyber-budddies who have recently landed agents after attending writing conferences, so I keep writing and telling myself my time will come.

So now I’m looking into getting my ass to a writing conference.


All these people keep me inspired, as I try to remain optimistic that a book I have authored will — one day — make it on a shelf where I can see my name, written sideways on the spine, sandwiched between other legit authors.

That is if there are still bookstores with bookshelves by the time I’m done with this book that is sucking a piece of my soul.

Once I asked an author friend of mine about what I could do to help move my baby towards the birth canal.

She suggested that I stop whining and just push the kid out and see how he fares in the world.

I said he wasn’t ready yet, that he still needed time in the oven.

But she is right.

So I am dilating.


Right now I’m about 2 centimeters, and I need to move things along.

It is time to get this alien-monster out of my belly and into someone else’s laptop.

Okay, that was a metaphor fail.

What I’m trying to say is that I’m working hard on revising.

And when all is said and done, if my baby is dull or no one thinks my sweet thang is sparkly or bedazzled enough, well, I can bundle him up and tuck him in a folder called Manny Manuscript, age 8.

I can wax nostalgic about how much fun I had creating characters and setting and symbolism and sub-plots. I can laugh about how Manny kept me up at night and wouldn’t let me to sleep until I’d written down what he wanted me to say. I can talk about how much paper he ate, that crazy Manny.

But honestly, if Manny is never going to be a real-book, well… Manny has a sibling who has been patiently waiting to be born.

And maybe it’s her time now.

What keeps you inspired when you don’t feel like you are moving forward? More importantly, what is your favorite part of that video clip? And why do I want to throw the cheese?

55 thoughts on “I'm Going To Do a Book

  1. Go for it, Renee! You can do it. If you can post to this blog several times a week you can finish your book. At least you have something to talk about and show to agents. I’m going to a writer’s conference in January and don’t have anything yet. Seriously, your author friend is right; just push him out and see how he fares.

  2. Self e-pubbing is a legitimate way to get your baby read – and an income stream started – while you try to get an agent and traditional publishing deal. My friend @Tiffany_A_White reps for an e-publisher and could give you all the details about it if you’re interested. Another friend e-pubbed a book about a year ago and is developing a very nice income from it.

    1. Hi David! I know Tiffany. I still want to try to told fashioned way first, but if that sinks, I am willing to give self-pub a try. I have been reading endlessly about how successful the process has been for people. Plus, the books never get pulled from the Amazon shelves! 😉

      I know a lot of people who have self-pubbed. I couldn’t even begin to list them all here!

  3. Renee, I’ll sign you to your first book signing event, visitor’s day at Camp! In all seriousness, swing for the fences, I’ll be buying a copy. Also, is that Michael Wexler fellow CSL Alum?

    1. Aaron, I am all over that — especially since some scenes may or may not take place at a summer camp set in a completely fictitious Jewish summer camp. *wink*

      And yeah, that’s Wex. He’s HUGE! He’s a machine!

      Oh and PS: Wendy Vigdor-Hess and Janet Goodfriend are both alums. Even Jeff Hirschberg went! 😉

  4. You are so helpful! I need to finish my manuscript too. How about if we hold each other accountable? I need to go to a writing conference as well…I love your metaphor, and my favorite part of the video? The part where he’s talking to his wife….who is a chair….

    1. “You’re a chair”
      “I can dream!”

      KD, how about after my son’s bar mitzvah we talk about this in a real way. Right now, I am hardly accountable for dinner. But I am working my butt off. And I am working with Kristen Lamb and Jess Witkins at Warrior Writers Boot Camp (#WWBC) to try to get this thing finished.

      1. Well then, it sounds like you’ve got your accountability partners!! I know that your son’s special day is going to be perfect. I’m sure there might be a blog post or two in the preparations….at least I hope so!

  5. Renee, you know I’ve been waiting for YEARS to read your book. You should definately focus on getting it finished. I think you were much more than half way there already! Now that Tech Support is older and more indpendent, hopefully you will have more time to work on it. Your writing is definately NOT dull, and I’m looking forward to reading the completed book. If there aren’t any bookshelves left…maybe I’ll even buy a Kindle! 😉

    Aaron – Janet Goodfriend is CSL Alum, too! 🙂

    1. Larisa! I know, you have been an amazing supporter! Thank you! I changed the whole book from non-fiction to fiction, and even now I am adding characters and killing off scenes. It’s really different. Still being born — although it is completely plotted, so I know exactly where Manny is going.

  6. Feel for you. Currently writing a synopsis. Aargh – the pain, the pain. Can’t explain.
    Your book will be good.
    Your book will be.
    (Happy to read the ms if you want.)
    The video – yeah – very good – the internet v book bit and the going into space. My son like this sort of thing – maybe that’s where he gets is cutting sardonic patronising wit.

    1. Michael, you should just copy all your blogs and publish them into a book. (Or are they the property of the parent company? That would suck.) Unless you are talking about one of those “more creative book” topics that you and your brother had generated. Which are hilarious and would totally sell.

      You know how much energy goes into running a successful business. Well, it has been said (and often quoted) that only 5% of people who ever say they want to write a book actually do it. And then only 5% of those people query. And then only 5% of those who query get an agent. And only 5% of those who get an agent make the necessary revisions. And then only 5% of those who make the revisions get the deal. It’s a lot of commitment. A lot of steps.

      I’m at step 1. Finish Manny.

  7. I hope you can get the book finished and published and I look forward to reading it!! I don’t know how writers can look at the odds of getting something published and not be overwhelmed by it. Sometimes I feel like if I could just sit and write all day, and not have any other obligations, that I could crank out something amazing. But, alas, that is not realistic! So you pick away at things when you have a free minute here and there. I can’t really think of any other “job” where you are able to find success that way. I have to say, it can be a frustrating industry. I’d be curious to know how some of those “published” friends of yours made it work.

    But if anyone can do it… YOU CAN!! Good luck!

    1. Thanks Steve! I am with you. If I only had 3 more hours in my day, this thing would have been done already. You are another phenomenal writer whose stuff I’d love to read one day! (Of course, I demand a signed copy…

      To Renée,

      From your favorite Cowboy.


  8. You can so do it, Renzay. The perfectionist in we teacher types sometimes holds us back. I spent much of the weekend afraid I’ve lost my funny. How can I write a humor book if my funny is AWOL? Do I plug ahead and funny-it-up later? Do I take a break and read some funny authors? Do I roll around naked in all our freshly fallen snow hoping that wakes me up?

    I dunno. But I know I have friends, some IRL and some cyber types, who push me forward.

  9. You can do it, Renee! Seriously, you’ve got this. When I have a hard time motivating myself to sit down and write, I remember the people that are cheering me on and my test readers that are anxiously awaiting the next batch of my WIP. Some days I think about how great it’ll be to type the last sentence and other days I won’t let myself think about the outcome. But mostly, I’m just sure to sit down in front of my laptop and write SOMETHING and that’s usually enough to keep me going for awhile. Even if I obsessively look at my word count each and every paragraph.

  10. Renée darling – STOP RIGHT THERE!

    I mean it. Stop. Don’t touch that manuscript.

    I want you to think about this. There is this really smart, funny, woman I know. She can write up a storm. She even teaches English.

    So why has she been working on a book for five years? It isn’t because of lack of skill.

    No, it is because of lack of confidence.

    So stop working on the book. Email copies to people you trust and like, and ask them to read it. Then start writing your second book, AS SOON AS YOU HIT SEND!

    That is how you do it.

    Next, don’t worry about getting an agent. Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch strongly advise against using agents. Me, as a small publisher, I refuse to deal with agents. I will however deal with Intellectual Property Attorneys. They have a use. Agents don’t. I strongly suggest reading Part 3: Agents and All the Myths of Dean Wesley Smith’s Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing. Anyone who intends to succeed in this business (and yes, writing is a business) needs to read that.

    Last, the publishing landscape is changing. I’ve covered this fairly well I think in my article Publishing. Right. Wrong. Otherwise!. Download the spreadsheet that is included in the article. If you don’t have a copy of Microsoft Office or Apple IWorks you can download a copy of OpenOffice or LibreOffice for free. Play with that spreadsheet. A bunch of big name professionals have told me that this little spreadsheet, that I put together in my spare time, blew them away. The reason it blew them away is that it makes a very strong argument for not going the traditional publishing route.




    PS: Sorry for the caps – but this is really important. The only way to grow as a writer is to move on to new projects. You’ve got a book. It may not be perfect. Hey, it will never, ever, will be perfect. We are only human, we are not G-D. So send it out, let people enjoy it, and start on the next one.

  11. You are making the hard decisions you need to in order to put baby first. Book baby that is. Don’t feel bad, remember you’ve got a community full of support and a WWBC partner who’s been a little MIA this month, but is totally awaiting the end of the hellidaze to dive in! I’m happy to read anything and give feedback if you want!

    P.S. Try the water birth method, I’ve heard it’s better for the baby. 🙂

  12. Hey there babe. I’m glad we have a chance to discuss the “writing stuff.” I’m there with you . . . I started writing fiction five years ago. I go somewhat close with an agent on a manuscript but it never quite made it all the way. I still–for whatever reason–have my heart set on the traditional path. Maybe that will change for me in a few more years. I don’t know. But either way (traditional or self) I KNOW that the book I was “close” with was really not good enough. IF i’d landed the agent, I have a feeling she wouldn’t have found a publisher anyway and now a few years later, that story line makes me kind of gag. So that’s the good news.

    For me the bad news is that I haven’t landed on an idea I’ve loved enough to dedicate 80,000+ words to. That’s why I’ve been dabbling in short stories for a few years. I’ve had some “success” with that, but the real action is in novels and I want IN.

    I agree with the person above who said it might be time to get some new opinions on the book and start working on #2. Of course that’s easier said than done. I’ve been working on a new idea for two years . . . and I’ve written about 50 pages of four different ideas. Hate them all.

    Why are we so crazy?!

    1. I have an idea and I’ve been working on it like crazy. It’s about 75K right now, but it needs to be torn apart and reworked a bit. I needed to add a daughter. 😉

      In general, I think I am more of a short essay writer.

      But I am going to give birth to this sucker.

      It’s happening.

  13. For all those who are moaning about getting an agent, please read this:

    Okay, I’m going to grab hold of the third rail of fiction publishing with this one and see how long I can hold on.

    Myth: You can trust your fiction agent. Major myth, actually. And one I have tried to deal with in a number of ways in this book.

    For some reason, the same person who will give a stranger all their money and the paperwork for that money will at the same time shout about a reader stealing a book online. I shake my head at that. That’s like complaining someone stole the mirror off your car while at the same time a moving van has backed up to your house and strangers are stealing everything you own. But, of course, theft in modern fiction publishing conversations is limited to the theft of the mirror and we just won’t notice how all the furniture is gone.

    The complete article is Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can Trust Your Agent, and it is written by Dean Wesley Smith, who has written over 90 books, and has hit the New York Times bestseller list. Dean is a really smart guy, who knows a heck of a lot about agents.

    If Dean says you don’t need an agent, I believe him.

    Besides, as a publisher, I don’t want to deal with an agent. I want to deal with the writer. The agent doesn’t know your book. You do.

    Also, this is a business. If the book earns $1,000.00 worth of royalties, why would you want to give $150.00 of it away? Seriously.

    I’ll shut it if and when someone can tell me WHAT AN AGENT CAN DO THAT YOU CANNOT DO YOURSELF.

    Think about it.


    1. Notice the 1940 section – this is before my time, so I didn’t know about this. Dean is a bit older than I am [Grin].

      In the era around 1940, literary fiction agents existed, but only in a minor way. Fiction writers still dealt directly with editors, often going to their offices. Some agents worked with writers for Hollywood and some agents worked with a few writers to deliver manuscripts to New York editors for writers who lived outside of New York. But agents did very little else. And they took 10% when they did manage to place a story for a writer.

      95% or more of all writers sold their own manuscripts directly to editors.

      Interesting, isn’t it?


  14. Just looking at a quote on my wall written by Douglas Adams (whoever he is!) that says, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Your book with be born when it’s ready – there is no deadline!!

  15. I just constantly remind myself I am happiest when I have written that day. Which is what I am off to do for half an hour because it’s all I got today.

  16. I could write 10,000 words here but I won’t for no other reason than just because. And it is not because I worked/went to two different Jewish summer camps (hello Ramah) that may or may not influence my books.

    The reason I started a 5th blog was to write the damn book that has been percolating inside of me. I have posted about 50k words and having a blast. I update it every day day. I probably have another 80k that I could drop in it now.

    I write because I these words give me indigestion and if I don’t spit them out I might go completely meshugah.

    So my thought here is put pen to paper, finger to keyboard and go. Don’t wait. Don’t think. Just write.

  17. Good stuff! ???? Except now I feel totally guilty! You introducing me to your blog (and getting me hooked) inspired me on Sunday to finally write an article I’ve wanted to write for 6 months. And I was about to email it to you asking you to review it. But I see you are a woman on a mission! Everyone better get outta your way because here comes Manny ????

  18. Yay!! If you ever need a guinea pig reader, you let me know! My biggest inspiration is people like you! Although I’ve been so bad about plugging away with the memoir in the past few weeks – been working on so many other projects!!

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