In a recent conversation with my dad, we were chatting about book marketing and ideas on how to get the word out about my recent book, Who Left the Cork Out of My Lunch? He’s kind of a marketing guru, with a outside-the-box, creative bent. After an hour or so, as I gathered up my hastily written notes, he announced, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I think it’s time.”
They say everyone has a book in them. As Dad and I began to explore the idea, my mind started whirling. He’s had quite an interesting life (successful business owner, philanthropist, 4-5 wives, extensive world travel). We also have a shared passion for writing, and he’s got great stories to tell. It’s generally acknowledged throughout my family that my writing style comes from the paternal end of the gene pool, so I gave him the same advice that worked for me four years ago.
“You should start a blog,” I said, “It’s a great way to test the waters and see what people respond to.”
“How do you do that?” he asked, “What’s your process?”
I explained that the mechanics of posting are fairly general, but the process is unique to each writer. Many Laugh Lines posts came to be using the following method:
1. Spend the day researching potential topics, finally concede defeat, and spend the rest of the day watching mating giraffes on YouTube, waiting to get a Big Idea.
2. Crawl into bed, then sit bolt upright at 3 a.m. with a fabulous, three-glasses-of-wine-induced concept for a hilarious essay that had you laughing in your sleep, which you don’t write down because you don’t want to come out from under the fluffy, warm duvet. Besides, you know you’ll remember it because it’s too hilarious to forget.
3. Snuggle in and go back to sleep.
4. Wake up later and realize you have no freakin’ clue what woke you up three hours earlier. Nooooo!
5. Take a hot shower, rummaging through your entire repertoire of memory games, trying frantically to retrieve your nugget of creative genius, to no avail. Halfway through your conditioner, tiny snippets begin to wander back. Not wanting to lose the Great Idea twice, you shout for Hubs to bring a tablet and pen to the bathroom right now. Scramble out of the shower, covered in soap suds, and barely avoiding a broken ankle from skidding on the linoleum, you start scribbling everything you can recall before your next bout of early-onset dementia kicks in.
6. Throw on Hubs’ old t-shirt and fleece pants, because they’re the first items you grab, and dash down the hall to your computer to start typing a rough draft that has you cracking up the entire time because you’re just so damn funny.
7. Finish the draft and go have breakfast, so you can come back to it with fresh eyes. Ernest Hemingway instructed his students to “Write drunk, edit sober.” Not literally feasible at 5:00 a.m., but it grasps the essence of writing. Get it down on paper in any clumsy way you can, then go back and edit the crap out of it.
8. Finish your breakfast, then back to the computer to re-read the gem that’s going to launch your new career as a best-selling humor writer, and realize it’s not quite as good as you thought. Okay, it sucks. Take a deep breath as your mind visualizes a half-dozen alternate careers to explore, because the chances of ever getting paid for this drivel are only slightly greater than winning the lottery. Twice in one day.
9. Walk away. Go read a book, do the laundry, or play with Winston, the neighbor’s pot-bellied pig. Give yourself time to decide whether it’s worth continuing to edit, or should be simply deleted so your suckiness is wiped from the universe, never to be exposed again.
10. Return two hours later, determined to bring the post back up to its early potential, and start the editing process again. This basically involves redoing the entire essay. Copying, pasting, deleting, adding, and rearranging until you start laughing again, feeling that little flutter in your stomach that you get when you’re nailing it.
11. When you feel like it’s proofed and ready, save it as a Draft and give it a week or so to “gel” before you click “Publish.” There have been too many times, especially in the early months, when I rushed to publish an essay that wasn’t quite ready, that would have been so much better if I’d waited a few days, allowing for last-minute surges of creativity that would have taken it from “Cute post” to “I spit my coffee out all over my keyboard laughing at this.” For me, it’s worth the wait.
12. When you’ve truly done all the editing you can and your mind has already moved on to the next post, click “Publish.”
13. Spend the next 24 hours incessantly checking your Dashboard stats, making “BOOM” fist bumps when a Facebook “Like” comes in, you get a comment, or someone shares your post on social media. Or, even better, you get a new subscriber. Or, the Holy Grail of writer validation, your book sales go up, resulting in uninhibited, goofy happy dances in your driveway. But there will also be those days when you’re lying on the couch in a fetal position, with a box of wine and Cheez-in-a-Can, because it’s tragically clear that your post was only read by your mother, some random guy in Sri Lanka, who now wants to friend you on Facebook, and a gerbil (if his profile picture was accurate). And the gerbil wasn’t impressed.
14. But no matter what your stats were, now is the time to get back on your computer and give back. The next several hours are spent reading and sharing posts from other writers. Blogging is a fast lesson in karma. You get back at the level you give. So cough up some comments, retweets, or shares, and/or buy the book.
15. Repeat for each blog post.
As I wrapped up my verbal tutorial, Dad said, “I’m almost 80. We’re gonna need to speed this up. How about we write a book first, then back into the blogging thing? We can do it in your spare time.” We?? WTH, I gave him the midnight to 2 a.m. slot.
We’re co-authoring his new book right now. Pending publication, 2017.