I’ve been working on my book Street Song for seven and a half years now. The question writers get asked most often, and that they dread the most is, “So when’re you gonna be done?” That’s hard to answer, but I thought I should let you know where things stand.
I don’t have a contract for the book yet. I’m currently in the process of putting together a package for my agent to show publishers. For nonfiction books, a typical package includes an outline, two sample chapters, and a few pages giving a broad overview of the work. My approach is slightly different. I’m working on three opening chapters, a chapter that describes my first days as a street singer, and then another chapter on my first days on the street as a homeless seeker. I have yet to create the final outline, although that shouldn’t be difficult. I’ve created so many preliminary outlines, and I know how this story goes. I lived it. The reason for three opening chapters is that the first two are extremely short. The third carries most of the weight of opening up the story. The two street chapters are essential to the tale, so I want to include them. I’ve finished chapters one and two, and I’m on track to finish the third by New Year’s Eve. I’ve done preliminary final drafts (can there be such a thing?) of the two “street” chapters, so I don’t anticipate them taking a lot of time. My aim is to have the package finished by April 1. I should have it done before then.
As I expected, this is turning out to be the most interesting part of the work. Everything I write now matters, and it’s easier—nay, vital—to deepen my involvement. Scenes that I put a lot of work into in early drafts have been dropped entirely, and scenes that I passed over lightly in the early drafts have taken on greater importance. You don’t know until the work gets down to the wire what you’re going to keep or to lean on. So I’m enjoying the work more. I hope that once I have a contract in hand, I’ll be able to fairly fly to the finish. It’s amazing what a deadline can do.
Happy New Year to everyone!