View Full Version : Writing a book, need organizational help

2-25-11, 12:01pm
I work in a radio station, and part of my gig is interviewing classical music artists. The conductor of our symphony orchestra here has a show on our air, and over time I got to know him and realized that a series of interviews on tape with him would be a nice thing to have, especially since he's stepping down after a long career as the orchestra's music director and principal conductor.

We started doing the audio project, and at some point as we were chatting, it turned into an idea for a book. At first I wanted to just transcribe our interviews and publish them, but he told me he really liked the idea of a biography. So I jumped at it, and then only later (gulp!) did I realize what an incredibly challenging project and awesome responsibility this is going to be.

I'm very excited and optimistic, and I know it's going to work out. Some things are in place: I tape an interview with my subject a few times a month, and am transcribing and making notes from these interviews on paper.

I'm in contact with folks at the symphony, who are giving me nice things like access to scans of manuscript pages, old photos, and other cool stuff for the book. They're also giving me a behind the scenes look at how the orchestra works, so I'm getting some background I'll need to write about this conductor.

My subject is honest, courageous, funny, brilliant, and a great storyteller. He hasn't shied away from anything I've asked about, and I'm hoping he'll continue to be blisteringly frank about his life. Things we've touched on, but I need more: the times in his career that have been controversial, the main challenges and most disturbing problems in his life, and his love stories. Dr. Johnson said that "Even the most publick of men" have a private life, and readers will want to know all about it. All of these things are part of bringing my subject to life!

So far so good. What's bothering me most right now:

- I don't have a publisher. I'm almost finished with my proposal, and once I get it in shape I'll be sending out multiple submissions to every appropriate publisher I can think of. I'm feeling like I will need a lot of time to research this. I'm wondering if I should hire an assistant? Don't have a lot of money to give to someone though.

- I'm panicked because I'm not working quickly enough. It's been about four months since I made my initial plan, and I just feel I should have more of the book done.

- Lack of time. I have a full time job. I get in at 6am and leave at 2pm, but my husband works a super early shift and is often in bed between 3 and 4pm. My inclination after work is to go home, jump into bed with him and watch DVDs before going to sleep. But I can't do that anymore! I've got stuff to do! I need to think of my after-work time as my writing time. But it's hard, because...

- I don't have a good work space. We live in a tiny dark cave of an apartment. Our computer sits on a desk that's only big enough to hold it. In my fantasies I have access to a bright, cheerful space with a gigantic dining-table kind of thing that I could spread out on. There would be enough room to keep my reference books open, and to do a lot of hand-writing comfortably (I prefer that to the computer for my first drafts). Office space in this town costs as much as living space, so I don't think it's an option.

- Lack of money. I've got tons of people to interview in addition to my subject. I would love to go to his home town, about 2000 miles away, to check out the house where he grew up, and interview his sister, for instance. Takes money. I would love to have an advance to complete my research. That might be a part of getting a publisher to accept my book, but I'm not sure.

- I don't know the legal stuff. Does my subject get half the proceeds from a biography about him? Should he? Could I give it to him if I wanted to? How do I market my book?

- I'm worried about organization. I'm not organized by nature, but I've discovered that I REALLY need to be. I have a metal cube with all the files related to my project that I carry around, and a tetrabyte external drive that has all my interviews on it. Not backed up anywhere, though, argh! I've got two calendars -- one a daytimer thing with big day pages, the other a big monthly one that lets me see each month at a glance. I like both, can I have both? Or are two calendars too much?

Any other thoughts appreciated :)

2-25-11, 12:45pm
For organizational/time management help, I recommend a book called The Clockwork Muse, that really helped when I was writing my dissertation.

Mrs. Hermit
2-25-11, 2:50pm
No, two calendars are not too many--I have 3! Instead of trying to find a publisher on your own, you might want to find an agent instead. The agent will share (or shop) your book to publishers, so you don't have to, and they will help with the marketing.

Back up everything IMMEDIATELY, even if it is nowhere near finished. My computer ate a 250 page manuscript last night. Fortunately I had it backed up!

For organizing your notes, try Evernote or One Note (on the computer). There is some software available on the Web to help writers get organized, if you are into computers.

2-25-11, 7:28pm
Four months does not seem long to me, esp. on top of a regular job. JLRowling wrote the Harry Potter books at [which one?] one of those bookstores with a coffee shop. Panera restaurants have big tables, wifi, and a pleasant atmosphere.

2-26-11, 10:32am
Install a routine of multiple backups at the end of each writing session, on hardware and on air/internet, if only by sending an e-mail to yourself.

When does your DH get up for his early shift? Could you get up then, too, and use the first hours of your day for your project? This would make it possible for you and DH to be more in sync and save your afternoons. When I wrote my thesis I got up at 4.00 a.m. some days per week in spring and summer to use the early morning hours for my own work before leaving for my job.

I would also second using an agent. He/She will help you through the legal stuff, too.

2-28-11, 1:10pm
Good ideas here. Thanks so much for for responding!