Diary of a non-fiction book: week 1 – the story so far

A few weeks ago (on or around 12 June in fact, so it was longer ago than I thought), I was editing a book for lovely-already-boss and one chapter in particular gave me the germ of an idea for a book proposal of my own. I had a very quick think about it, and came up with another five possible topics within the same broad subject.

I bunched together the three most likely topics – one for Birmingham, one for York and one for Pontefract, all confectionery – and fired off a very quick email to see if the idea was already being covered.

Lovely-already-boss liked the idea enough to reply straight away, let me know they didn’t have anything in the pipeline, and forwarded my message to his also-lovely-boss. And also-lovely-boss said yes, to flesh out a full-blown book proposal. (Hurrah!)

The next few weeks were mostly spent navel-gazing with me wondering (a) where to start, and (b) what to include. In case I had a spurt of inspiration, I bought some multi-packs of the confectionery in question with a view to including samples with the proposal.

As the weeks progressed, I did finally sort out what to include and the order in which to present it … and every week we scoffed the new multi-pack contents between us.

Finally, on 13 July, a Thursday, I had a proposal I was happy with, and on the way back from the supermarket stuffed two lots of three samples each into two envelopes – one for also-lovely-boss and one for already-lovely-boss – and pushed both packets through the main door. This, of course, left us free to polish off the rest of the samples with a clear conscience.

The proposal was three pages, consisted of around 785 words and should have included at least one sample chapter – authors completely new to the publisher are required to provide the first three sample chapters. I thought that if they’d still like a sample chapter they’d let me know, and I could work on that next.

I didn’t hear anything for a few days, so on Tuesday morning, 18 July, I sent electronic versions to each party asking if they’d received their packages intact, i.e. no one else had nicked the samples.

The next thing I saw, on Facebook, was a photo-post by also-lovely-boss giving me full marks for making the proposal stand out. I thought that might be his way of letting me know all had arrived safely, but he apparently thought it was such a good idea that he had to share it. And he’d only received it that morning.

At 6:23am on Wednesday morning, 19 July, I received an email on my phone from also-lovely-boss (there’s a fairly new baby in his household, so this was probably par for the course), thanking me for the proposal, congratulating me on the samples, and making a formal contract offer. Without the sample chapter(s)! (Hurrah!)

By the middle of the day the contract had arrived and I’d printed off two copies.

I was in the midst of two other jobs, an editing job that was late and a proofreading job that was due in on Friday 21 July. So I got both of those out of the way before quickly reading through the contract.

I also made contact with the first organisation in question, and by the end of the day had been granted access to their archives. She’s given me some dates where they’re not available, so now I have to select a few dates that I can go down and spend the day in Birmingham. When I do this, I’ll probably take the dog with me but drop him off at my parents’ house so he’s not left on his own for too long.

Before altering a specific section, I checked with lovely-already-boss that it would be all right, and he agreed. Then I initialled each page and signed the end of both copies. And on Thursday 20 July, dropped them in, again on the way home from the supermarket.

Last Friday, then, I sat and worked out a schedule for the coming weeks.

There are fourteen chapters in the book, and I’ve dedicated a week to each of the chapters for research. We have a week’s holiday in September, but this will take me right up to the beginning of November … and that means I should be ready to write draft 1 at the same time that NaNoWriMo 2017 starts. My deadline is 1 March 2018, so a completed first draft by the end of November could mean an early submission.

Today’s jobs, then:

  • arrange those dates when I can visit the archives
  • write draft 3 of a short story (I want to still keep the short material ticking over)
  • write and schedule tomorrow’s diary post
  • start a new client edit

The rest of the week will mean researching the topic for chapter 1.

If there’s anything specific you’d like to know about the process, then do let me know. Otherwise, you’ll be getting a diary for each weekday I work on this.