View Full Version : First Post. A question for a writer brand new to the game

06-22-2008, 07:44 PM
(A part of this I also posted in the newbie section)

Greetings, everyone. My name is Patrick Moran. Iím 37-years old and from Buffalo, NY.

Iím an aspiring writer. Yes, perhaps 37 is old to be an aspiring writer. Truth is after getting married and having children, I had to do the kind of jobs I hate (not write) to pay the bills. I still do that but at this stage of my seemingly unfulfilled life, I feel like I really want to give what I have a passion for a chance and throw my name into the writing hat.

Iíve never had a book published before. In fact, Iíve never even attempted to have a book published before. I have a limited background in journalism. Iíve written for a few sports magazine, and I was the head writer for a local sports weekly magazine in Buffalo covering the Bills and Sabres.

At any rate, Iím very determined to write a non-fiction book. The book revolves around a boxer who never lost a fight, but suffered a brain injury that effectively ended his championship title dreams.

Iíve lurked on this site for a few weeks and checked out some others, but this one was far and away the place where I would feel most comfortable posting and asking some questions along the way.

Iíve completed the research for my book, written the synopsis and begun an outline with my chapters. I should also note that I have the blessing and cooperation of the subject to do the book, and Iíve also scored interviews with many of the prominent parties involved as well. I even have a couple of heavy hitters in the boxing world who have pledged to endorse the book when it is completed and hopefully published.

I guess my question would be what advice would the experts here give someone who is writing a book for a first time?

I'm thinking that I should write and complete the book, at least most of it before I even think about a book proposal or query and trying to hook up with an agent.

I don't have any significant writing experience or qualifications. However, I think this book is going to be really special. Having said that, I dont think anyone is going to take an unknown's word for it, so I'm thinking I'm probably going to need the finished or just about finished product in-hand before I can start to try and shop around.

Am I correct in this assumption?

aka eraser
06-23-2008, 12:08 AM
.... so I'm thinking I'm probably going to need the finished or just about finished product in-hand before I can start to try and shop around.

Am I correct in this assumption?

Hello Patrick and welcome to the Cooler. I have a hunch opinions will vary. I'd advise writing at least three or four chapters before starting the query rounds -- more if you're the least bit uncertain about your ability to write a book-length ms.

Good luck.

06-23-2008, 01:30 AM
Thanks for taking the time to comment on my thread. I appreciate it.

06-23-2008, 06:15 PM
I second eraser. Write several chapters, so you've got something to shop around. You don't have to have a completed manuscript necessarily (you're dealing in non-fiction here, so the rules are just slightly different). I'd also start working on a proposal for it, just for in case (as a pal of mine says). You'll find the proposal often helps you "wrap your head around it" to give you a clearer idea of where you're going.

Then there are all those questions about agents and yadda yadda, but for the moment, get a few chapters under your belt.

Just my opinion, of course.

June Casagrande
06-23-2008, 07:38 PM
No, 37's not too old to start writing!! It's too young to write off dreams.

I agree with the others: The standard process in the industry is to write a proposal. (I think there's a post in this forum with a sample proposal.) That's what publishers expect to see.

06-23-2008, 08:21 PM
Excellent points.

06-24-2008, 03:25 AM
Agents and/or publishers of non-fiction always look at the author's credentials. Your experience as a sports journalist certainly helps, but think about whether it's possible to include more. Assuming you have his written permission to do so, can you link up the name of the actual boxer with yours in the proposal? Maybe co--author or consultant? If his name and story have a particular meaning this can only help you. The more you can involve him and the other heavy hitters you refer to the better (you also must have their written permissions) .

Just a thought.

06-30-2008, 04:30 AM
Just a quick note,
I'm 3 years ahead of you age-wise and will publish my first book this year (fingers crossed) and I'm aware of others who've first published in their 60's so don't worry about your age one bit.

As far as writing, yes keep an eye on these boards, look at previous posts, subscribe to the newsletter, find a blog or two to follow too. It will help you learn, but also give you a sense of community which I find invaluable. I also recommend you do the same bit regarding the publishing industry along the way, along with improving your writing skills.

Blessings on your project.

07-03-2008, 06:10 AM
39, first book coming out in two weeks. Here's my advice:

Start writing the book and start writing, blogging or doing something else to build your credibility and platform (how well you are known). Even if other people will do an interview or vouch for you, it's not the same as your own audience. Maybe resurrect your sports writing or begin commenting at other boxing blogs. At minimum, join a writer's group to get feedback on your craft.

One more thing - be prepared for the long haul. You say you want to do this now but what about when you are up until midnight while the rest of the family is sleeping or you have to miss a family vacation, etc. Are you truly that passionate about the subject? Writing the book is only one part of it - the rest of your time is spent promoting it and handling the business of writing a nonfiction book.

Good luck!

07-03-2008, 06:48 AM
Kimmer raises an excellent point, one I think you really must consider: "...be prepared for the long haul."

You have a lot of work ahead of you, and while your proposal and manuscript will decide whether or not you are picked up by an agent or publisher, they are far from the only things you will have to do.

Let's assume everything goes great and your book winds up being published. Given all you have to do, plus the minimum of one year lead time the publisher will need to produce the actual bound book, are you willing to devote the next two to three years to your project? And remember, we are assuming you don't encounter any major obstacles along the way. Needless to say, only you can make such a decision, but as Kimmer said: "...be prepared for the long haul."

07-03-2008, 11:13 PM
If it's in your heart, you've got to write it. If you write it, and you know there's a market for it, you should get it published.

That being said, as others have already pointed out, you don't have to write the entire book before looking for a publisher. However, you really should make sure you have enough material for an entire book, a typical nonfiction book might start around 60,000 words, or might be less, or might be more depending on the subject matter.

It sounds like you're already off to a good start: you have parts written, you have interview subjects, you even a platform of sorts (written for sports magazines, that's very good).

My advice: keep writing. You're a busy guy, you must set a schedule and daily word goals. In my own experience, I've found writing nonfiction easier than fiction (although others will disagree with me). That is, you have all the research laid out in front of you. You take that research and write it into a book. As you write and revise, it goes from "research materials" into "coherent book."

It will take a while. But age is not a factor. I wrote my first book (see avatar), similar in how you are doing yours, when I was 30. I didn't have kids, but I was married and working a full time job.

Then, start researching possible agents and write a query letter.

And as always, post samples in SYW for feedback.

Good luck, and keep writing!


Penguin Queen
07-04-2008, 02:00 PM
<...> I'd also start working on a proposal for it, just for in case (as a pal of mine says). You'll find the proposal often helps you "wrap your head around it" to give you a clearer idea of where you're going.


I would very much second that.
Ive found with a travel narrative I've been working on for the last several years that my biggest challenge was to give the thing a shape, a story arc, in a way. With a biography thats obviously easier, but even so, I think structure is of vital importance; and writing your proposal you will have to put into words exactly what happens, what you want to say with the book, who you think of as your audience... lots of really important stuff.
My travel thing is about 2/3 done, and I'm working with a mentor now who is helping me look at all this stuff Ive not even thought of before, and I'm finding it tremendously helpful.

07-06-2008, 05:58 AM
Really solid points. Thanks to everyone and I will certainly soak in everything that you guys (and gals) took the time to write.

Thanks again.

07-08-2008, 07:52 AM
Re: Long Haul, I support what the others are saying. To get my book in the printer's hands by late June, I began a leave of absence from my full time job that started in January when I only had a first draft done. Four versions later thru early May, an editing/proofing in May, and graphics design in June, has just now allowed me to breathe for a day or two as I march onwards to the promotion and marketing of the book. Had I not left my job (planned return in October), I'd probably be working on my 3rd version. I have averaged easily 60 hours/week on this book "Order On The Court" - an inside look at pro beach volleyball.
- Tom

07-08-2008, 08:11 PM
I'm looking forward to reading it when it comes out. I'm a fan of all sports books

07-08-2008, 08:16 PM
I would second that you need a full outline, proposal and 3-4 chapters. You may not need the full book but it wouldn;t hurt.

I am curious what kind of 'angle' you are giving the story? The ending relates to the great fatal flaw of boxing, but might be a bit of a downer for the usual buyers of boxing books?

07-08-2008, 08:56 PM
Hi Patrick, and welcome to the Cooler! You'll find a wealth of info here, as well as a lot of kindred spirits, I think. Glad you're here!

Unlike sports, there's really no such thing as "too old" in the writing field. In fact, sometimes that is a plus, because you bring more life experience to your project--and maybe even wisdom, if you're lucky. ;)

I wrote my first book at around age 49 (nonfiction). It was a pinnacle experience just writing it, but I also learned so much about the writing process and profession, too. That book is still unpublished (in need of revamping, actually--it was a workbook that needs to be a hardback), so I'm going to try to concentrate on passing along some tips that will hopefully contribute to a different outcome for you. (I'm assuming traditional publication is your goal here.)

Most publishers, I've found, will tell you they don't want to see a completed NF manuscript; in responding to your query they will usually ask for a book proposal. If you want, go ahead and write some chapters--it may let you see more clearly where your book is headed. But then take a pause and do that book proposal. Writing a book proposal will help you to define the audience, purpose, and message of your book--and that will help you stay on target when you get back to writing it. Some books that helped me with this were:

*Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write (Elizabeth Lyon)
How to Write a Book Proposal (Michael Larsen)
Write the Perfect Book Proposal (Jeff Herman)

You'll find some differences of opinion among authors and publishers, but you'll also find consistent threads about what is expected. One thing that truly was an eye opener for me was the fact that with nonfiction books, especially, the promotion/marketing/endorsements part of your book proposal is incredibly important...it's a reflection of the way publishing has changed over the last decade. It is a business--and the industry is struggling, and they want ample evidence that they will get a return on their investment in you. You will be evaluated for your 'platform'--your connections and access to an audience for your book (eg. if you're on the speaker circuit, if you have access to radio or TV spots to promote your book, etc.) If your book is about someone famous, that will help immensely, of course.

In writing your proposal it's also necessary to consider the publishers you're thinking of submitting it to; check out their websites, guidelines, etc. Some of them have very specific instructions about how they want them done, and you'll have to make adaptations to fit those. (And get a copy of Writer's Market, to find out who wants a query first, or who wants a manuscript with no proposal, etc.).

For writing the book itself, I gleaned much useful info from this book:

The First Five Pages (Noah Lukeman)

The industry is swamped with submissions; editors don't have the time to give someone's book the benefit of doubt in that first perusal. This book stresses the importance of those first five pages--how to write them (and the rest of your manuscript) in such a way as to keep an editor reading. He goes over common manuscript errors (eg. passive writing), and the book is concise and immensely readable.

Hope this helps, and looking forward to seeing you around here.