Writing Other Duties as Assigned

One of the reasons Tom and I did not volunteer at a national park this last summer was because I wanted to finish writing a book.  I always have several outlines for books going but it seems like I never have time to write them.  Or, I start writing them, do about 100 pages, and run out of enthusiasm for the project.  One of my bucket list items is to submit a book to a publisher.  Notice I didn’t say get it published.  I may not be able to write a publishable book.  Actually getting a book finished and in good enough shape to submit seems like a doable goal.

Death Valley 2015

I have been pretty disciplined this last year about writing my book “Other Duties as Assigned:  Seven Years as a Full-time RV Volunteer in the National Parks.”  That is my current working title.  I finished the first version version of the book in August.  It is ten chapters, one on each of the national park sites where we volunteered, with an introductory and concluding chapter on living in an RV full-time.  I would like to say it was fascinating and brilliant.  But I also like to tell the truth.  It was long.  The first version was over 1,000 typed, single-spaced pages.  Despite having lots of pictures, I felt this was probably more than most people wanted to read on the subject.  And, honestly, it was boring.  We did this, we did that, we went here, then we went there.  Yuck.

On to the second version.  The second version retained a lot of stuff from the first version, but it was shorter and more focused.  Instead of including everything, including the fixing of the kitchen sink, I cut out a lot of the extraneous travelogue.  I focused more on the parks and what we learned while volunteering in them.  Although I felt like I was ruthless in cutting out stuff, the book was still close to 800 pages long.  I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  Was it time to find a literary agent?  An editor?  How do you even go about hiring a person like that?

San Juan Island 2017

Jackie, my wonderful daughter-in-law, offered to read it.  According to John, Jackie is a pretty good editor.  I sent her three chapters.  I’m not sure how much she actually read, but she immediately pinpointed a couple of glaring problems.  First, the entire book is written in plural, which makes it feel like a royal wanna-be.  The first chapter used “we” 637 times.  Secondly, there were too many facts told in a boring way and not enough story.  Jackie was absolutely right in both of these observations and having just these two things to work on sent me on to version three.

In the third version I have been working on varying my sentence structure more and telling the story from a more personal point of view.  Chapter one only has 400 “we”s now.  Although the book doesn’t have much dialogue, I have been trying to tell more story vignettes.  I have also been trying to get each chapter down to 50 pages or less.  That would give me 500 pages to submit to an agent or editor or publisher.  Half the book told (hopefully) twice as well.

Fort Frederica 2019

I just finished the third editing of chapter six.  Originally, my goal was to have the book submitted to an agent or editor by January 1 but other things have come up.  I suppose I’m not as serious about my writing as I should be.  I let plenty of things interfere with my writing time every day.  But I feel like I am in the home stretch and I’m determined to get it submitted to someone soon.

Does anyone have any advice on getting a book published?  I am really hoping to go with a publisher instead of self-publishing, although there isn’t any shame in self-publishing.  Have you tried hiring a literary agent or editor?  I don’t expect “Other Duties as Assigned” to hit the best-seller list, but I feel good that I have stuck with it and am still working on it.