A Los Angeles Times blog asked 25 writers to disclose their resolutions. They mostly fell into two groups: doing more of something or less of something else. While most New Year’s resolution-makers resolve to cut out eating junk food, several writers vowed to cut out the Internet, watching TV and watching porn. Get the gory details here.
While one writer wished for the demise of ebooks, another vowed not worry about the dismal state of publishing. Some resolved to read more. Most vowed to write more.
If you vowed to write more, what will you write?
Will you write your memoir this year?
In my blog post on writing memoirs, I announced that this is the year of the memoir and shared some tips, idea starters and reality checks.
Or perhaps you will write a project book this year.
Writing coach, Rochelle Melander, explains the project book and gives great tips on how to begin your own in the following post from her blog. [Learn more about Rochelle below the post.]
The Project Book
by Rochelle Melander
In 2002, when Julie Powell began her Julie and
Julia blog project, cooking 524 of Julia Child’s
recipes in a single year, the project book was a
fairly new idea. The Julie and Julia book was
published in 2005, and Sony pictures made it into
a movie in 2009. Today, the market is flooded with
project books that cover a huge variety of topics.
Just this morning I happened upon two that I’d
never heard of before: The Toaster Project: Or a
Heroic Attempt to Build a Whole Electric Appliance
from Scratch by Thomas Thwaites and The Feast
Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and
found my way by keeping chickens, foraging,
preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on
$40 a week) by Robin Mather. As a reader, I love
project books. They give me the chance to live
vicariously through another writer’s experiences.
What is The Project Book? The project book is a
written record of a writer’s attempt to conquer a project.
The project book can fit into a number of genres: memoir,
essay collection, how-to, or self-help. In My Year with Eleanor: A Memoir, Noelle Hancock tells the story of her year trying
to live out Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do
one thing every day that scares you.” Throughout
the course of the year, Hancock tackles a bunch of
her fears and chronicles the most interesting
including diving with sharks, doing stand-up
comedy, and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. In
cookbook/memoir/essay collection, Make the Bread,
Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Cook
from Scratch—Over 120 Recipes for the Best
Homemade Foods, Jennifer Reese wrote about testing
the value and wisdom of cooking a variety of
popular foods at home (like hot dog buns and
Worcester sauce). Reese evaluated each food item
based on three questions: *Should you make it or
buy it? *How much of a hassle is making it? *How
much does each option cost?
How Writers Create Project Books. Many writers
who do project books begin their venture solely
for their own well-being. Some writers create
their books after the project is done. Other
writers work on the project in public, via a blog
or video diary. For some of those writers, the
blog gets enough attention to attract a book deal.
Late last year, the Penguin Group sent me a review
copy of River Jordan’s book Praying For Strangers:
An Adventure of the Human Spirit. Jordan began her
project with a New Year’s resolution: to pray for
a different stranger every day for a year. At the
beginning, she had no intent to write a book. In
Praying for Strangers, Jordan recounts what
happened when she started living out her
resolution. Some of the stories give the reader a
vivid glimpse into the lives of the people Jordan
prayed for. Others share the challenging events in
her life or tackle a topic like “the shape of
prayer.” In the last chapter of Praying for
Strangers, Jordan shares her hesitation to write a
book on this experience: “And the most personal,
private part of my life, forever and ever and
truly, is my private relationship with God and my
prayer life. And here I am baring my soul on paper
and revealing what I consider to be most intimate
part of my creation.” (pp. 317-18)
On the other side of the spectrum, Gretchen
Rubin’s The Happiness Project book began as a blog
about her quest to find more joy in life by using
the happiness interventions recommended by experts
in positive psychology. Cami Walker’s book 29
Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life
also began as a blog. Cami, who has multiple
sclerosis, tried the spiritual practice of giving
a gift every day for 29 days. Both the blog and
the book include stories from readers who have
also been changed by the 29 Gifts project.
Are you Ready to Tackle a Project Book? Here are
some questions to ask yourself before you start
working on your project book.
1. Is the project worthy of a book (or would it
be a better article or blog series)? Project books
recount the author’s attempt to master a skill or
practice, sometimes with humorous missteps. But
the best project books do more than chronicle an
adventure. They also cover ideas, themes, and
issues that have universal appeal to readers. For
example, NPR lauded Thomas Thwaites’s The Toaster
Project for collecting “ideas as far-ranging as
medieval metallurgy, sustainability, mass
production, and our ‘throwaway’ consumer culture.”
Use the following questions to determine the worth
of your potential project:
+Who is my ideal reader?
+In what ways will this book appeal to my ideal
+What are 20-30 topics I can cover in the book?
2. What is my plan for completing this project?
Most of my New Year projects crash and burn before
January is over. Last year I vowed to meditate
every morning before getting out of bed. I even
thought I might blog about it. After several weeks
of sleeping through my meditation tapes, I gave
up. Clearly I did not plan well. Before starting
your project, use these questions to create a
+How do I plan to do this project? Include
information like: How many days a week will I work
on the project? When will I work on it? What will
I do during each time period?
+What tools, supplies, or support people do I
need to make this project a success? How can I get
what I need to complete the project?
+What potential barriers might prevent me from
completing the project?
+How will I overcome them?
+How will I measure my progress on the project?
+Who can be my accountability partner for this
3. How will I record my experience with my
project? In tackling a project book, it can help
to have some thoughts about how you will want to
write about the project. Use these questions to
determine your plan:
+Will I write about the project in a private
journal or will I blog about it?
+What type of a book can I imagine writing about
this project—self-help, memoir, how-to, essay, or
+How might my journaling or blogging translate
into a book at the end of a project? (Most books
that begin as journal entries or blog posts need
to be rewritten to fit the book format.)
Next Steps. So are you ready to take on a project
and write about it? If you’re still not quite
sure, read a few project books. Imagine yourself
in the writer’s place—could you do a project like
this one? If not, what project would stir your
imagination? Start taking notes. Who knows—the
project book might be your very next adventure!
Your turn and a chance to win, Praying For Strangers.
What’s your favorite project book? Leave your comment on her blog
On Thursday, she’ll hold a drawing and give one of you her copy of
Praying For Strangers by River Jordan.
Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It) is the 10th book authored by Melander who teaches professionals how to write fast, get published, establish credibility and navigate the new world of social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com and sign up to be a member of her Write Now! Mastermind class for professionals at http://www.writenowmastermind.