Making the Write Choice

by limebirdkate

A local writer friend called me with a writing proposal. He works at an inn with deep-rooted history and is in the process of writing a small pamphlet for tourists that would describe the history of the inn and include photos over the past 150 + years. Someone had suggested to him that, to complement the pamphlet, he write a novel that takes place at the inn.

“So,” Tony said over the phone. “I thought of you. I’m not a fiction writer, so do you think this is something you’d be interested in doing?”

Normally I would have said ‘no’ right on the heels of his words. I have way too much on my plate. In fact, my blood pressure was rising with the mere idea of adding something else to my list. But I have been telling myself that part of the reason I’m struggling with my career path is that I automatically shy away from a risk. If I am not mentally prepared enough to embark on a new project, then I spaz out and  cite some crazy reason why I can’t. I’m actually quite skilled at plucking fake excuses from thin air.

I braced myself long enough to ask for more information. Tony gave me what details he could and added, “I did talk to the woman who runs the inn. She’s very interested. We’re looking at a publication date before the 2013 tourist season.”

That means I would have to research the inn’s history, conjure up a story idea, write it, edit it, re-write it, revise again, and publish it in less than 12 months.

I think I hyperventilated. I don’t remember.

Then there’s the question of publishing the book. There wouldn’t be time to traditionally publish it with a literary agent. And we don’t want just an e-book, because the idea is to have the books available for purchase at the front desk, displayed in the lobby or the tea room or something. There are some small, local publishing outfits that are possibilities, so it’s not an impossible venture…

My biggest weakness is fear of taking a risk. This project is fraught with risk. However, offsetting that fear is my fear of letting people, particularly friends, down. I was acutely aware that Tony had taken time out of his day to get a hold of me, to include me in his idea. I was also a little bit flattered that he even thought of me. We are in a writing group together, and so he’s read my work. He wouldn’t have asked me if he didn’t think I was any good.

I told him I’d think about it and let him know.

So, I’m thinking about it. I’m weighing the pros and cons. There isn’t a lot of time in my day to sit down and write it, certainly not during the summer when I have the kids all day. I do have my 4am writing block, but 2 hours a day is not enough to write a book. Not if I have to have it completed and published by next May. I can’t think of any other time in my day where I can write it—much less research! We can’t forget that part, because the whole reason behind doing this is that this inn has local history, which needs to be incorporated in the story.

As enticing as the idea is to write a historical novel (actually something I have wanted to do), I really don’t have a lot of faith that I can do this, and do it well.

So, while I mull this over, why don’t you tell me about the most difficult choice with which you struggled. Why did you choose the route you did? How did it pan out?

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45 Comments to “Making the Write Choice”

  1. Kate, This sounds so different! I’ve never heard of a PR novel being approached in this way!

    I can totally relate to your fear of taking on something like this. I think now that I’ve been freelancing for a while, I consider whether a new project is going to keep me on the path I want to travel or if it will take me off course because I feel like I have to do it for some reason. Would you enjoy the process or feel like it’s an anchor (after the initial spaz out)?

    I have turned down a couple of very big PR projects because I had worked with the companies in the past and knew that, although the money was good, the people requesting the work didn’t have a good idea of what it was they wanted… which ultimately leads to lots of edits and lots of time. My little, short-term projects aren’t as profitable, but they are more satisfying. It’s just a choice I’ve made.

    But I know what you’re talking about–as I get older, I don’t want to turn down projects simply out of fear. I try to embrace new challenges if I think it’s something that will pay off in the end.

    • Hi Anne,

      Does it sound that different? Rut-Ro. Maybe I am in over my head then.

      I like how you make your decisions based on your “path”. I think that’s a smart way to go about it. I guess my path at this point is trying to branch out from that one novel that has ruled my writing life. But I still want to focus on that book, too. Once I’m back to the querying stage I don’t have a good enough reason to not write something new. Maybe this should be the project I take on?

      Thanks for your help 🙂 You got me thinking from a different angle …

  2. That is indeed a dilemma, Kate, and I wish I could help with the answer. You’re the best judge of what you can/should do, though.

    As for me, my most difficult choice has to be about a story that I can’t tell.

    When we’re young, we do…well, let’s be honest: we do stupid things. We’re ruled by a sense of immortality, that we’re indestructible, physically and emotionally. We think very little about the future, or what ramifications our actions may have on other people, especially the people we love. We forget that moments of passion can have repercussions far outweighing any fleeting sense of pleasure.

    We don’t stop to think about what it means to lay a temporary key upon a well-wiped, faux-mahogany bar…or what it means to pick it up. No matter what happens over those next two, ten, twelve hours – no matter what we tell ourselves, or the friend meant to be our cover – our lives change with that one decision. Quietly, perhaps, in hidden or muffled ways. But irrevocably.

    So, I wonder: If I could go back, and change that moment, change that story, would I do it?

    I’ve asked myself that question many, many times, over the years. I still don’t know my answer.

    It comes down to your point about risk, I suppose. Risk can be a dangerous thing, to be certain. But it can be equally as wonderful, opening you up to possibilities, excitement, and joys you might never have known otherwise.

    There’s always going to be those two paths: the you that chose yes, and the you that chose no. Which one is “right”?

    I wish I knew. I really, really do.

    • Hey Mayumi,

      Sigh, yes, it is a brain teaser for sure. The part of me that remembers every time I have ever turned down opportunities and ultimately regretted it is telling me to try the book. The other part of me–the logical, sensible side–knows how difficult it would be to fit into my already stretched-thin life. Plus, there is no guarantee with it. Even though I’d be helping out the inn with PR/Marketing, no one has hired me to write this. It would be all me, all my risk. The question is, would it be worth the fight?

      Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. I’ll have to mull your questions. A thought that I would propose you consider while you are doing your own mulling.

    Yes, this is a quick-turn-around project. The up side of that is, if you choose to give something else up (or postpone) to do this project, you know you’ll be able to get back to it in a year.

    In your shoes, the question I’d be asking myself: Is there anything in my life that it would be worth giving up or postponing for a year so I can do this project? Would my other projects (esp something postponed) be improved with this experience.

    Also, I’d look into seeing if I could arrange a regular “kid exchange” with some friends. Tuesdays your house, Thursdays their house, or something like that. It can create mountains of time. In our house part of the afternoon you either nap or read (or write). You don’t want to nap? You can read, no other choices. A nice busy morning and then mandatory “quiet” time for about 2 hours. For younger kids (like my 5 year old) it’s one hour of reading and one hour of coloring/mazes/worksheets/connect-the-dots.

    I hope this is helpful, or at least gives some useful ideas. Do let us know what you decide. 🙂

    • Hey Shannon,

      That’s a generous way to look at the situation actually. I hadn’t thought of it quite like a temporary conundrum. I just saw it as a big, unscaleable wall to be reckoned with. But you’re right. Perhaps there is something in my schedule that I could put off for a while to make room for this. Off the top of my head, the one obligation I have that could be whittled down is the blogging–as much as I hate to say it. But I know I log in about 25-30 hours of blogging each week. This includes commenting on blogs as well as maintaining my own, plus Limebird. But blogging, man, without the blogging the writing is affected negatively.

      I really do have to think this one over before I make any commitments.

      I will keep you updated. Actually, Wednesday afternoon I have an appointment scheduled to tour the inn. That will help me figure some more questions out, I hope!

      Thanks for the good advice.

      • I’m glad it was helpful. Remember, life isn’t always all-or-nothing. Maybe if you limit it to 25 hours a week? Maybe some weeks its a little less, others it’s the same. Some weeks that’s 5 hours of writing.

        In case this is helpful, esp in summer, sometimes I double everything I cook for a few weeks. It doesn’t take much more time/effort. Then I have a few weeks “off” cooking and I get more time (and that’s when the kids get reheated pancakes, freezer waffles, and cereal for breakfast. In summer, you can just plop down a bunch of fruit and call it lunch too 🙂

        One other thought, I forget how old your kids (more than one, right?) are, but get THEM to help you. Mommy wants to work on this book and it’s really important, so how can we all help? Well, I don’t want to give up time playing with you, but maybe if you clear the dishes and put your clothes in the washing machine, we can make it work (plus maybe a small bribe). I do that sort of thing with my son. He’s uber-helpful 🙂 Maybe a fun day trip when the project is over. If you can get them to help you set a goal and meet it, you’re giving them a serious life-lesson in teamwork, goals, and priorities. 🙂

      • Oh dear! I’ve got more thoughts 🙂

        I waste hours each week “blogging” when I’m not really blogging. I’m sure you’re more efficient, but I find if I set a time (e.g. 2-4 PM) as my blogging block, I’m much more disciplined. It also helps me if I decide before hand if I’m “reading/commenting” or working on my own blog. If I do the later and I finish early, I get extra comment/read time. 🙂

      • Shannon, you are full of ideas. You have a ready-made post right here, didn’t you know??? 🙂

        Yes, I’ve already recruited the kids with chores and I’m teaching them how to cook (they’re 9 and 7) so we make dinners together. I’m killing two birds with one stone–time together and they’re learning a life skill. Brilliant! I like your idea about cooking in big batches. I will definitely do that.

        Blogging. Yikes. I have to do something about the blogging. I have been thinking about this issue before this project proposal came along anyway. But I think you’re right. I need to set a block of time somewhere and dedicate it to just blogging. Thank you for the extra ideas. They are really coming in handy. 🙂

  4. What a different project, indeed! I’m going to skip over my experiences to give you some things to consider if you haven’t already.

    This sounds like a great idea, but I’m really concerned about their time frame. What exactly is the start of the 2013 tourist season?

    I’ve researched a number of historic properties as part of my day job, and it is a time-consuming undertaking. Frankly, I’m not sure one person could do the research and then write the novel in that time frame. I think you would need to first trace the families who owned the property (deed research) if this hasn’t already been done. Then you’d want to look for any local histories that mentioned the families. Were they farmers? Businessmen? Immigrants? Are there other records that could help, such as probate documents (like wills and estate inventories — great for putting some ‘props’ in the story).

    That information could give guidance for a story line. But it would make things much easier if some of that has already been done.

    A collaborative effort might be an option. If some research has been done, it could give you a start on ideas for the novel and outlining a story. Someone else could then do more research to see if they can find more facts for you to weave into the story (fictionalized as needed).

    Ann raises some great points to think about. Will this help you move forward in the direction you want to go?

    Let us know what you ultimately decide to do!

    • Hey JM,

      Tourist season on the seacoast is June. So we’re talking less than a year. All things considered, I could probably write a novel in that time plus revisions. I don’t know how the publishing end would go. I wouldn’t have time to query agents, obviously. I could self-publish. There are local publishing companies, very small ones, and they would be a possibility. However, what is their turn-around time? That needs to be considered.

      As far as research, I will know more after Wednesday when I take a tour of the inn. Since having written this post and now, I did decide that if they want me to do heavy research, then I will decline the project. There isn’t any feasible way to do all of that research and write the book in less than 11 months. I’m hoping that they are looking for light fare, with the central focus being the inn and fictional characters who live or work there.

      Yes, Anne did raise some good thinkers! I will have to figure that out, because admittedly, I’m torn over that question.

      Thanks for the helpful info regarding research. I know nothing about deeds or things like that, so even in that area I am out of my comfort zone.

      I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

  5. Hi
    I think you should give it a shot and maybe ask if you can’t get it done for the 2013 season they will agree to let you do it for the 2014 season.

    The hardest thing I ever has to do was to decide to self-publish my first book. I did it and it was a difficult project, but it turned out wonderful. And I have since published 5 books, one a year, in the series. If it weren’t for my husband encouraging me, I never would have done it. But I am oh so glad that I did.

    BTW mine are historical fiction too but for teens.

    • Hi Dorothy,
      That’s a good idea about asking to do it for 2014. I guess it does depend on how deeply historical they want it to be. I have a tour scheduled for Wednesday, so that is a question to bring up.

      Wow, historical fiction for teens. That would be fun stuff to write, I think. I remember loving loving loving John Jakes’ North & South trilogy which I read when I was in high school. I gobbled them up and were in fact one of the reasons I wanted to be a writer.

      Thanks for commenting!

  6. Ohh, exciting, and also very tricky! If you’re not sure how you actually FEEL about it (practicals aside) – have you ever tried the envelope decision thing? When you have a difficult decision to make, write down the different options available to you on separate pieces of paper, so in this case it would just be ‘Write the book’ and ‘Don’t write the book’, put each one in an envelope and ask someone to muddle them up and hold them out for you to pick one. Tell yourself that whichever one you pick is the decision that you have to take. Try to not imagine how you will feel, just do it. Your first feeling when you open the envelope and see what the decision is likely to be your true feeling about it.

    Another suggestion here, would they consider maybe having a collection of short stories rather than a novel, or are they completely set on having a novel? If it was a collection of short stories, then obviously several people could do them – perhaps you could be overall in charge of procuring the writers and stories, but only write one yourself?

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Oh, I love that envelope idea. Because I don’t know truly how I feel. I love the idea of it but it scares me too.

      I have a tour scheduled for Wednesday. I can ask them how they feel about short stories vs novel. That’s a good suggestion. Thanks!

  7. I could write a lot on this, but it lies beyond the realm of writing, and incorporates a rather serious side to life. Let’s just say tripling one’s workload at the very time one loses the ability to work is not wise. 🙂

    One thing I’ve learned is to know I have capability limits in terms of work processed and generated. I’m prolific when in writing mode, because it’s free form and flowing and idea generating. When I edit, my meticulous self emerges.

    What matters: a) follow your heart; b) scope out your priorites to see if it fits; c) test run your commitment – an idea has to excite, inspire, and drive your forward such that you cannot wait to spring out of bed and get fingers typing; and d) have confidence in what you decide and see it through.

    Best wishes!

    • Hi Nelle,

      I like how you laid it all out like that. You took out the fluff and gave me the straight shot. Most importantly for me as a writer is that I do have to be excited about the project. I don’t work well with projects that aren’t interesting to me, and I will give them up. Confidence is going to have to be drummed up from somewhere, because I certainly don’t have a whole lot of it. But that is partly why I’m telling myself there is a reason this came to me. Maybe it’s a test from the Universe (if you believe in such things; I do) and I should do it simply because it is going to be tough. But fitting it in? As I mentioned above, I would have to restructure my schedule. With kids? Right.

      Thanks for the advice. I loved it! 🙂

  8. That does sound scary…but so intriguing and cool as well! I’ll be interested to see what you decide. Scary, for me? Hmmm. Trying to market my book scares me to death. It’s daunting.

    • Hey Char,

      Yes, I would be scared to be in your shoes, too! That’s a different ballgame altogether. But I see you, Char, as being so cheerful and bright and positive, that I bet when you think it’s hard, you’re handling it with a lot of grace.

      I will keep you posted about my decision. 🙂

  9. I think it sounds like a difficult choice! Shannon has some excellent ideas, and the others bring up some important points. On the whole, it sounds like something I would want to think long and hard about passing up on. How often do people walk up to you and ask you to write a book for them?! Such affirmation 🙂

    As for the amount of research, how many people walk into that inn knowing the detailed history of it? Wouldn’t most of them like to hear quaint little ghost stories, or a great tale about how the building came to be here instead of over there, or how someone lived there and spied during the war? Research is important, but I don’t know as I would go into property lineages and such, I mean you did state the the pamphlet will detail the history, and that your friend wanted a fiction writer for the novel.

    Jim brings up a very important point: what IS the start of the 2013 season? Also, do they want a Harlequin Romance type of thing or a novel with completely fictitious characters? A non-fiction work would require huge amounts of research, someone always still has family in the area and you never know what might offend them. Good luck with your decision!

    • I’m such an idiot. Sorry I meant to type JM not Jim!

    • Hey Neeks,

      Haha, it was a nice compliment to be asked. Even if I end up turning it down, the idea that someone thought of me at all means a lot to me.

      You know what, you are probably right about the amount of research. I might be able to get away with just a small time period during a national crisis, like civil liberties or women’s rights or WWII, and use the inn as the setting rather than making the inn the main character, so to speak. I will have to get more details about exactly what they’re imagining for the story.

      Ha! You might have given me a story idea. A war spy…hmmm.

      June is the official start of tourist season, although July and August and September are the busy months. I definitely know they’re looking for a fictional novel (possibly a novella, which had been mentioned in passing).

      Oh, you read my mind. One of the first questions I had was whether there were family members who still lived in the area. They might be generations apart from the original owners, but still. It’s a valid concern, and one I will be sure to investigate!

      Thanks for some great points. 🙂

  10. Do it, do it, do it! Oh my goodness do it!

    • Haha. Okay, Robin! How can I resist such enthusiasm?

      • Your assignment (should you chose to take it) is much more interesting than one I was asked to do. The history of a trucking company who is celebrating their 50th anniversary. Geez. Snoze fest.

      • No way, really? Did you even do any research to see what about the history is compelling enough for them to ask that of you? Maybe you could turn it into a novel like I am. 🙂

  11. I’m with Neeks. Maybe they don’t want a major production in terms of the historical details. You could pull out one interesting part of it and build a fun little story around it. Wait until you get the specs on this at your meeting — “novel” might mean something else to them than it does to you as a writer. Could you have ready three or four story ideas that you’ve come up with and have them choose? That would give you control. You could also tell them you only have so much time to give them per week due to your other writing projects. I say go for it, but have your terms laid out and be in charge of the project for your and your family’s sake. It could be fun!

    • Hey Darla,

      Yes, I like the suggestion Neeks made also, and now that I’ve had another day of thinking I’m leaning more and more towards doing it. I will be sure to go to the meeting with a list of questions and pow-wow!

      Thanks for your advice!

  12. I think you have to go with your gut on things lie this – do you want to do it and feel passion for it? Do you believe that you can do it and do it well? But mostly, is this something you want to do? If it, then go for it, don’t have any regrets!

    • Hi Victoria,

      All good, tough questions. They really are the ones that will tilt the scales, and I will be mulling over them in depth this week. That’s right, no matter what I decide, I must promise myself no regrets!

  13. Wow. I am hyperventilating just reading about your quandry! haha! I am curious to see what you will decide.

    • Hi Eliza,

      Haha, then let’s hyperventilate together. I will know more after tomorrow, as I have a tour scheduled. Posting this has actually helped me a lot in making some tough decisions already. I appreciate everyone pitching in with advice and encouragement and helpful guidance.

      I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for swinging by.

  14. Oh wow! I probably can’t offer any better advice than anyone else here, but that sounds like it could be a lot of fun! Good luck on your decision.

  15. Go for it. You may surprise yourself. Aaaand look at all the opportunities. You never know who will stop by the Inn.
    Blessings – Maxi

    • Thank you, Maxi. That’s actually a great way to look at it. There are more ways to branch out with this opportunity than not. Thanks for the encouraging note! 🙂

  16. Kate,

    I’m having wordpress issues, I didn’t get a notice for your reply to my comment 😦 I’m glad my ideas are helpful though. I should probably try them some time…

    Also, awesome on teaching the kids to cook. In college I had to teach at least 4 people how to – get this – boil water. This was a well-respected private university!

    My son will be learning to do his laundry in the next month, once he’s 6.

    • Hey Shannon, in response to your great pick-up over my use of “will” — that was a total slip of tongue, er, finger, lol. I should have typed “would”…maybe my subconscious is telling me something! As of yet, I have not made a firm decision.

      Cooking has been an adventure. I should actually blog about it, because I think it’s something all parents should take the time to do with their kids.

      You and I must be cut from the same cloth. I taught my daughter to do her laundry at the age of 5! My son is learning this summer, although it’s taking us a little bit longer to actually stick with the plan. Somehow, he always gets out of it. Hmmm.

  17. This sounds wonderful. If I were you I’d jump on it. Jump, I say!

    • Thanks MK, I love the encouragement I’ve been getting from all you lovely friends! 🙂 I haven’t decided yet, but I am seriously considering to Jump! as you suggest. I’ll keep you posted.

  18. What a lovely idea! I can understand your reluctance though. I mean… Its certainly possible to get it all done in that time frame, just do long as you don’t expect to eat or sleep. O.o
    Just kidding!
    All the same, it IS a big undertaking so I hope you come to the best choice for you.

    I’m trying to decide if I can regularly contribute to a magazine and a publishing blog at the moment. I’d love to but the twins are a real time sink. I lovely one of course, but any writing like that is going to take a lot of planning. So I kinda know how you feel.

    • Hi Ileandra,

      Wow, that sounds like a wonderful opportunity–a magazine and a publishing blog? In addition to your personal blog? That would be a huge time commitment, but an outstanding opportunity. Gosh, that’s a tough one. Is it something you can do from your home, or do you have to go to an office?

      Well, good luck with your decision. I hope you come to the right choice for you, too. 🙂

      Thanks for swinging by.

      • Thankfully I’d be able to do both jobs from home, but it would mean I’d be very, very busy. Not sure where I’d fit in any of my own writing if I were to take on both. Still really want to though… still trying to make the choice.

      • Well, good luck in making that choice. It’s a tough one, I know. Definitely keep me posted. 🙂

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