Day Zero: What I had to decide before I started writing…

It took me a long time to get started on this project because I wasn’t sure if I had anything new to say. There were/are a lot of books out there on eating disorders and even more memoirs, so why should I add to the ever-growing pile? But I had even more questions to answer before I put words down on the page so let’s back up…

Before I began writing, throwing everything I had at this project, I needed to know:

1) Is there a need for it?

2) Do I believe in it?

3) Am I willing to do anything to get my book into the hands of readers?

The answers were: yes, yes, and yes. Once I had ruled on these questions, I had no problem stripping everything else away from my life to chase down that first draft.

1) Is there a need for it? Before I left my dwindling spare time in the dust to begin writing, I had to see a need for my story. Like I said, there were already countless books on the shelves dealing with similar themes. Many of the stories I read when I was struggling mirrored my own disordered behaviors, but the authors’ physical image so greatly differed from mine that I often questioned the seriousness of my illness. While these stories compose a very real part of the eating disorder community, they are not the average image of an eating disorder. Not all women/men who starve themselves are emaciated, some aren’t even thin, but what they all have in common is a very serious disorder. If you’ve read my pitch for F.I.N.E.* at www.melissa-henry.com, you’ve heard me say that eating disorders are about physical evidence and that at a size 10, 12, 14, I didn’t have any. Feeling I didn’t fit into society’s image of what an eating disorder should look like hindered my recovery. Rationally, I knew I couldn’t be the only person who had ever felt this way and so it became clear that this story could potentially begin to fill a very real void.

When you have a partial manuscript in hand and are ready to start querying agents, this is the million dollar question so figure it out early.

2) Do I believe in it? I knew I had to believe in my project because if that intensity didn’t come through, I couldn’t expect anyone else to get excited about it. It’s similar to a job interview. If you interview with a prospective employer you must make them understand that the position they are offering is the one for you, the end-all be-all, your dream job. They have to know that you believe in their company, their work, and that you will join the company softball team. When you believe in your product, whether it is your skills as an employee or your 300-page opus, there is no halfway.

3) Am I willing to do anything to get my book into the hands of readers? A baseball nut I am not, but when I was deciding how much to throw at this project I thought of Babe Ruth. 714 home runs and 1330 strikeouts. I know, I know, it’s a tired quote but it still rings true: “swing for the fences.” I realized the only way I was going to be disappointed in the outcome of this project, published or not, was if I didn’t give it everything I had. I may not be a baseball fanatic but I do play poker, so maybe we’ll change that to “I’m all in.”

In future posts I’ll tell you how I zeroed in on my goal and found the time to make it happen. We all have busy lives, kids and parents to take care of, real jobs that pay the bills, but I’ll show you how I made it work.

What questions are important to you? I’d love to hear how you decided to start writing or what questions you’re still trying to figure out before you open that first Word document and start tapping away.

Up next: Too Busy to Write: How I found the time…

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