Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Dreamer, The Writer

Poor Atticus. He’s trying to be patient in this week of rain and writing. The rain stopped yesterday, the writing is continuing. He’d rather be hiking.

I’m close to the completion of the lengthy book proposal I’ll be sending out to the publisher next week along with my sample chapter, the first one. Putting together a proposal was intimidating for me and it has little to do with actual writing and everything to do with how a publisher can justify investing money into you with first an advance and then the publishing of the book.

Much of the focus is on the market place and audience for the book as well as the marketing and promotion. I had to do a lot of research to back up my claims and put factual information out there concerning the demographics I am aiming at. It’s not unlike writing a grant, or so I am told.
However, the toughest part was a summary of each chapter of the proposed book. Each summary was one or two paragraphs long. The challenging part was writing these summaries about chapters that have not been written yet and may or not end up in the book. What it all comes down to is that the publishing companies want to know they investing their money in a person who has put a lot of thought into the book.

I must admit, that as daunting as that part of the proposal seemed, it wasn’t all that bad. I kept putting it off but once I started writing the summaries the chapters fell into place.

For years I dreamed of writing a book but always doubted my ability. I lacked the same audacity that served me well in publishing The Undertoad or taking to these mountains. I knew nothing about either venture before embarking on them but I went at them with all I had. For many reasons I lacked the same intensity in putting together a book. I lacked confidence and thought I just wasn’t good enough. However, in the past few weeks, that has all changed.

The old audacity is now present. Where I used to walk into bookstores and dream and then say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to make my living as a writer,” I now have no doubt in my mind that I can and will succeed. Dropping into the well and writing intensely has made all the difference. I stopped wishing for what I wanted to become and just became it.

An employee from a major publishing house requested that I send in a proposal about our adventures up north but various things got in the way. Now those hurdles have either been cleared or cleared away. Everything to me these days is writing. No more doubts. No more reluctance. No more distractions.

If the original intended publisher does not go for the book, I now have little doubt another will. The focus group of critics I put together for the first chapter all had pretty positive things to say about the book, especially the ones I put the most stock in. The weakest response I have received was still a good one. “Terrific,” she wrote.

But I have to tell you, this new found confidence doesn’t emanate from their responses to what I wrote, but instead to my own belief. As I wrote to my friend Sarah a couple of weeks ago: “For the first time in my life I feel like a writer.” The change came about by deciding it was time to throw myself into the fire completely. Much of this was triggered by Liz Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love,” but it was also just time for me to follow the advice of that Nike commercial: “Just do it.”
The other day I walked into a bookstore and instead of wishing that could me, I said, “Soon, very soon.”

Now you’ll excuse me while I go back to writing and polishing what I write.

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