Five Down, 95 to Go

March 01, 2011

I have a confession to make. I want to write a book. I’ve got a title, some chapter headings, an introduction and a vague idea of where I want to go with it. But I don’t really know anything about writing a book. Magazine articles, short pieces for the internet, blog posts, yes—books, no. So I’m educating myself, starting with a book called Chapter After Chapter. One of the recommendations the author makes is to read 100 books similar to the one you want to write. I’ve begun that project by exploring the world of blogger/authors. I thought I’d share with you five books by bloggers I’ve read recently:

My Formerly Hot Life, Stephanie Dolgoff. Blog: “You are not the young, relevant, in-the-mix woman you used to be. But neither are you old, or even what you think of as middle-aged. You are no longer what you were, but not quite sure what you are.” Dolgoff examines the major areas of a Formerly’s life, and how they have changed and are changing. Her conclusion: it’s not so bad to be a Formerly—but you won’t know that until you become one.

Living Oprah, Robyn Okrant. Blog: Is it possible to discover one’s authentic self by following someone else’s ideal? Okrant attempts to answer this by doing everything Oprah says to do on her TV show, in O Magazine and on her Web site. This book entertained me, while making me glad I wasn’t taking on a project like this. (The control freak in me would have had a nervous breakdown.)

The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin. Blog: This is one of my favorite blogs, and I’ve mentioned the book here before.

It Sucked and Then I Cried, Heather B. Armstrong, otherwise known as Dooce. Blog: Armstrong’s book chronicles her struggle with mental health issues while trying to care for her infant daughter. Dooce is incredibly successful as a blogger, and was featured this weekend in the New York Times Magazine.

Life is a Verb, Patti Digh. Digh is not primarily a blogger, though she does have one ( I happened to finish her book right when I was preparing this post, and I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you. The 37-day time frame came from Digh’s experience of her stepfather’s death: he died 37 days after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She writes, “The time frame of thirty-seven days made an impression on me. We often live as if we have all the time in the world, but the definite-ness of thirty-seven days was striking. So short a time, as if all the regrets and joys of a life would barely have time to register before it was up…. What emerged was a commitment to ask myself this question every morning: What would I be doing today if I only had thirty-seven days to live?

These books give me hope. If they can do it, why can’t I?

I’m going to keep exploring the world of blogger/authors. Any recommendations?

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  1. I think you've made a HUGE step forward by sharing your "confession" here with us today—BRAVO!!

    You're familiar with the old adage, "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly."

    You can read, you can study, you can go to conferences, and you can read some more.

    You can also put some words on paper.

    Begin. Now. Be willing to do it badly. Just start

  2. I'm lousy at writing because I just don't have the patience to do all the ordering of one. My daughter can jump in and write anything and so fast it's a wonder. She never liked the idea of an outline while that's just where I start. Without an outline I'd feel like you do without a list - totally disorganized and getting more so. I'd say with some chapters already in mind you need to come up with an end and see what other chapters you need to fit that result. Sounds like this is just where your list-making could come in handy and be relevant. You can read one hundred books but hopefully you'll start writing before you work your way through them all. Good luck. You do a great job on your blog, why not a book?

  3. Laure--It's scary putting a dream out there for all to see, as I know you know. I have already begun writing, but reading "the 100" is already helping me figure out what I want the book to be (and not be). The structure of these books is educational, too.

  4. Timaree--I always hated outlining in school! I prefer to do it backwards: write something, then make an outline of what I've written! That helps me see where there are gaps in the information or where things are in an odd order. I think I can put my list-making to good use in other ways, though! I have already started writing--who knows how long it will take me to read "the 100." (Thanks for your encouragement!)

  5. Scary shmary!! Jump for joy that you have a dream!!
    Okay thats the first point.
    Second, I am in awe of people who can put pen to paper and transport me into a tale. There are so many "formula" books these days; ones that are gone from your mind the minute you turn the last page. But for me the ones that stick are those whose characters are 'real'; where you just know that the authors have woven bits of their own experiences into the text.
    And you see now I am rambling which is why other write and I read.
    The suggestion I wanted to make was to maybe look into joining a writing group. Most of the people I know who write do this. Not sure how it works but it might be less isolated and give you immediate feedback as you go along with your writing.

  6. Possum--That's a good suggestion--I'll probably look into that once I get a little farther along.

  7. Hi Kathy! Sorry I've been off the internet so long. I think its been a good six months, not counting checking FB on the phone. I'm in the process of getting back into blogging and catching up on others' blogs I've been missing.

    Kudos to you on wanting to write a book. Everyone here has good ideas. As far as organizing your thoughts, drafts and research, have you ever used Evernote? Find it at

    It's like an electronic brain. Scan, type, take a photo, clip a webpage or image, and it stores it all into whatever notebooks you desire. Best of all, the internet version syncs with any computer version (download it to your PC or Mac for the offline reader version), or your phone. Take a photo or write a note with your phone and throw it into Evernote. I'd be lost without it. I save all kinds of art articles that I don't want to print off (don't want to declutter the house and who has time to file it away in a filing cabinet?).

    Here is one author's take on how he used Evernote to create his book:

    Let me know what you think of the site and if it will work for your writing needs. In the meantime, happy writing!

  8. Krista--welcome back! I've missed you. Thanks for the information. Laure Ferlita likes Evernote a lot and has recommended it to me--guess I'd better check it out! I'll check out the Tim Ferris link, too.

  9. That's really exciting! I'm not a writer and find writing very difficult, but I appreciate people who do have the talent and patience (and thank goodness for them!:) ). I think a number of people have successfully gone from blogging to writing books--it's a good way to fine tune your skills and really think about what you want to do and get feedback. I know there have been a couple of authors who have food blogs who have written books--Orangette and Julie of Julie/Julia fame. I've read Orangette's book, which I thought was really well done. It looks like you've got a good start!

  10. Danielle--Could have fooled me! You write a pretty interesting blog post.:) (You're also what every writer needs: an avid reader.)

    I've read Julie/Julia, but not Orangette's book. I'll have to look for it.