Try Something New (From What You Normally Write) — Non-fiction, anyone?

At a writers conference about 15 years ago, one speaker encouraged people to attend workshops at the conference in which they had no interest, in order to learn new things or experience from a different POV. Learning new things means stepping out of your nicely taped together box, but always well worthwhile–for the good or the bad. I am always learning new stuff.

I’ve worked on a sort-of sequel to my first book for about three years. I call it “a sort-of sequel” because it merely follows one of the characters from the first book over to a new location. Of course, this was going to be a breezy book to write. However, it was interrupted by craft-learning stuff like reading more books and doing other workshops on character and plot, and knowing if I worked with paper I would have dramatically tossed my several-times-revised first draft into the air to start from page one. The writing and revising of this book was also interrupted by family life stuff, like trees breaking down our house, cancer (for son 3,000 miles away) and stroke (for me). But hey, this sort-of-sequel is one of my babies. I didn’t have the heart to desert it.

Working alone, I must give myself my own book goals and deadlines. One thing I’ve learned is that my stunningly fabulous cover illustrator (wave to Charlie Volneck, along with a wink to Samantha Bell) is very, very busy (who isn’t?) and so I must plan on giving Charlie a four-month lead to when I expect to publish a book. Usually I’m off on my next book while I await her cover for my finished book. This was not the case for my sort-of-sequel. Miss Speedy-Pants Artist got the fabulous cover to me in only a couple of months. In the meantime, I’d discovered some major corrections needed in the plot of my baby, knowing it required some deep revisions. Also in the meantime, I’d been invited to be a speaker at a local writers conference at the end of March. In my bio for the conference, written last fall, I wrote that I have five books published, fully expecting this baby to be well out of the writer’s womb before the conference.

Did I mention deep revisions?

(Of course, there is my ABC colouring book and my adult thriller for which I thankfully used a pen name for, and my motorcycle tales. So five books published wouldn’t be a lie, just not books I’d like to wave in the air claiming.)

So, five weeks before the conference, in order to honor my five books published in my bio, I came up with this brilliant plan to write a non-fiction. I’d never written a non-fiction before, but for in my pre-writing and during-writing work, I spend more hours researching my historical fictions than I do actually writing-revising the story. I have about ten times the information of the era and place than ever gets into a book. Creating a short non-fiction as a companion book for the sort-of-sequel which will come out soon would be a breeze.

HA! Did I mention that I’ve never written a non-fiction book before?

I got my seven chapter titles down, outlined the important points to put in each chapter, pictured what illustrations or photos were needed for each, researched formating of a NF book (there are many), went to my good-ole-library and looked at some and took out a gazillion NF books for kids, and came home collapsing into a bawling puddle, sobbing, “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!”

Tantrum over, I not only pulled myself together, but the companion non-fiction book for my sort-of-sequel — which will be out soon.

I’ve not only learned something new, I’m back to being so in love with my baby that pushing it out of the writing womb will be a breeze. (Hm. Where have I heard that term before?)

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