First, An Admission: I’ll come clean up front. This is a review of a book for which I am a contributor. Is that weird? Hope not.
In fairness, I’m one of fifty-four contributors. And fifty-plus of the others are best-selling authors, editors, teachers, or well-known publishing industry leaders, and no few are many of those things. Me? No, none of those (yet!). Yeah, I ended up in excellent company. How’d I get so lucky? (I pose the question rhetorically here, but the roots of my answer can actually be found in my essay in the book, Community Comfort).
The Book Itself: I’ve said from the very beginning that there is nothing like this book available. Most writing and publishing books are fairly segmented and/or focused on a particular aspect of the writing journey, or on the business of publishing. The scope of Author In Progress (AIP) is uniquely unprecedented. It covers everything from one’s first ideas and tentative steps into writing fiction, all the way through being published, and beyond.
AIP’s breakdown is easy to understand and follow. The parts are: Prepare; Write; Invite: Improve; Rewrite; Persevere; and Release. The segments beautifully correspond with the steps of most writing journeys (including mine), which allows one to home in on their own special interests and needs. But I must say, reading the book from front to back provides the best overview of the entire journey from conception to publication that I’ve seen. It’s one of those craft books you’ll want to keep close-to-hand in your work space. I’ve already reread certain essays that motivate or inspire me in a specific way. It’s very handy that way.
I’ve read Writer Unboxed almost daily for about eight years now, and I’ve got to say—boy-oh-boy did the contributors step up for AIP. Every single essay is strong—among the strongest ever offered by each individual contributor. I have a few favorites, but I’m not going to single them out, because each reader will find their own favorites. And because they’re all so wonderful.
If Only I’d Known! My wife and I were just talking about the days after I finished my first draft, in June of ‘09. “Man, remember how clueless you were?” she said, laughing. At the time she asked, “Now what?” I shrugged. “Send it to someone to read, I guess.” (My sister Marsha turned out to be the poor “someone” to struggle through—Thanks, Marsh!)
At the time I’d read almost nothing about the craft of writing fiction or the publishing industry. When writers mentioned the need to rewrite, I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. Did they mean actually writing the same story all over again? I couldn’t imagine it then. I honestly had no idea what I was in for. And it was a struggle. I’m not just talking about finding my way to getting a manuscript in shape, and finding my way through the submissions process. It was a struggle coming to terms with everything that being an artist who wants to make their work public entails. It’s about so much more than the work itself, or the industry. It’s about you, the artist.
Over the years, through all the sleepless nights, the days of allowing self-doubt to creep in and usurp my work time, I’ve often thought, “If only I’d known then what I know now.” I think the best gift AIP offers to someone new to writing is that knowledge—the awareness that you don’t just sit down and write till “The End,” send it in, and wait for the praise and paychecks to arrive. AIP demonstrates, better than any resource I know of, that the writer’s journey is more about the transformation of the writer than anything else. And I’m so pleased and proud to be a part of offering that gift to those just beginning the climb.
Hail to the (Editor-In-) Chief: As I mentioned, for this review I’m an inside player. So I’d like to take advantage of my unique perspective, and take a moment to praise the one person whose creative vision, energy, and personal magnetism made AIP the wonderful resource that it is. I’ve often said that Writer Unboxed’s Editorial Director Therese Walsh is the sun in the WU universe. She drew each of us into her orbit, and she provides WU’s warmth and light.
The importance of Therese’s vision for AIP, and her guidance to each of us, and her boundless energy in assembling it into a whole, cannot be discounted. I can only speak for my own experience, but T patiently guided me—through several complete do-overs, then to a transformed and polished version of my third or fourth concept—to what you see in the book. I’m guessing that others struggled less, but that her shepherding was critical to each and every one of us. Talk about a herculean effort!
Therese has done more for writers than anyone I know, and it starts with her personal dedication to empowerment. WU is what it is because of her. And the same goes for Author In Progress. She has my eternal gratitude, and she deserves the gratitude of everyone who appreciates WU and/or this book.
How Appropriate… that I should become a published author with this book. It’s so fitting. WU has made me who I am as a writer. And to be a part of that same journey for even one other writer is a privilege and an honor. In closing, as Mama T would say, Write On!
So, do you have your copy of AIP yet? If not, why not? Click here, and make it happen! (It also makes a fine Christmas gift for the writers in your life.)