Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Friday, January 07, 2005

Book-Writing, Revisited.

One of my current nonfiction books-in-progress is a collection of articles I’m writing for The Shadowlands newsletter. Now before anyone starts saying a publisher won’t be interested since the book will have been previously published (and likely available to read, for free, on the Internet), I counter this response with two points: One, the book’s contents will differ from the articles in that they’ll be longer and there will also be photos; and, two, you won’t be able to read these articles online for free, unless you happen to have a copy of every single newsletter that was E-mailed to you, since it’s an E-mail only kind of deal. Also, I’m going to ask the Web site’s creator/EIC, Dave Juliano, to write the Introduction or Foreword for the book.

But, anyway, because I was merrily writing these articles the same way I’ve been writing the majority of my Shadowlands articles, I didn’t really look at it as so much of a “book project” but as an “article series.” And I know that, right now, it IS an article series, but since it will ultimately be turned into a book later on, I need to SEE it as a book, and not so much as a bunch of articles I had to write.

And I thought I’d already done this simply by writing up the book’s outline, deciding on an audience, scoping out some publishers and organizing how I plan to write each article. Unfortunately, I neglected one very crucial aspect of nonfiction book-writing, something EVERY nonfiction author should do: RESEARCH. This is especially true if you’re writing a book you have NO expertise with (I do have experience with this subject, but that doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on it).

I had to learn this lesson the hard way this week, when Dave E-mailed me a response to my second article saying, “I’m afraid I have to pass on this one.” His reason was that he disagreed with something one of my experts said. (Am I EVER going to write an article for them that we BOTH agree on?? Sheesh.) In retrospect, I understood his counter-argument on this topic, and then and there I decided I would be more analytical of exactly WHAT was going into my articles. And the best way for me to watch out for something that conflicts with the Shadowlands’ mission statement and what Dave has taught on this subject was to research it like crazy. To spend some time, energy (and, gulp, money) to learn everything I need to know in order to write a smashing, one-of-a-kind book. And I know that doing this research will better prepare me for weighing all of the information I’m told during the course of my interviews.

To say the least, this is what I’ve been spending most of my week on. I know I’ve got a zillion other book projects to work on, the E-zine, SIGNews articles, books to promote (mine) and books to review (not mine), but my next deadline is right around the corner and I’ve got a lot of researching, interviewing and fact-checking ahead of me. Thankfully, Dave gave me the chance to revise the article and send it back to him (I only pray my source won’t want to know whatever happened to that quote I’m going to have to cut) and so I’ve got this research to do to make the article even better. And I’m glad I’ve started researching the book, because not only do I now have a list of 28 books to read (oh, yay), but I found out about THE expert on this subject who I should definitely interview. I’ve been trying to find his contact info but, so far, no luck. (I’m hoping one of my contacts will have it.)

And, you know, I may not be an expert on this subject, but doing all of this research on it will get me pretty darn close to becoming one.


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