Got a Facebook message from a friend of mine the other day. She wanted to write a book about her and her husband's transition into The Army Life—he joined recently. She wanted to know what I thought and if I could offer any advice.
I've heard this several times over the past couple years, mostly from people who knew I was writing and publishing my first book. Some were close friends, some were complete strangers, and all—as was I once upon a time—were a little delusional about what their book would become. Like them, I'd once believed my book would sweep the nation, inspire change around the world, and make millions as a Hollywood blockbuster.
Who knows. Maybe one day. I still dream. But for now, no, that has not happened.
I am still thrilled I wrote it, for multiple reasons. But here's what I told my friend, about hers. Here is our exchange, slightly edited. As always here at BrandonSneed.com, I don't know how smart or helpful my advice actually is, so I hereby waive all liability for reading and then following said advice. But also, as always, it is what I know right now to be most true.
I've done a lot of thinking lately and with all the transitions [we] have made into Army life, I have been thinking about getting more and more into writing and maybe possibly starting a book. I know its not an easy process and a long one at that but I wanted to consult you and find out what advice you might have.
Re: your book on Entering The Army Life — I'd definitely encourage you to pursue that, if for no other reason than recording one's life is an immensely rewarding experience. I'm trying to do better at that. It proves we lived, we dreamed, we felt, we existed.
Will it get published? Honestly? Probably not. There are tons of people out there writing books based off their lives, and maybe one percent of them get published. It's no reflection of you or your story and in no way should be taken as a negative thing.
It. Just. Is.
That's life in publishing. God only knows how certain things make it all the way to publication. And the worst part is clowns like politicians and celebrities become bestsellers just because everyone knows who they are and so lots of people buy their book, for better or worse. (And usually it's worse.)
I would say try to write some essays based off your book that you can submit to magazines, newspapers, literary journals, etcetera. That's the best route. Write shorter pieces, capturing specific anecdotes or moments that speak to the grander whole—the impact of your transition into Army Life. Submit them to whatever publications publish such things. You will get rejected. Possibly only once or twice, but probably two or three dozen times. At least.
The Mike Williams story that just came out in ESPN The Magazine? That was the 27th idea for a story that I sent them. And then it went through five different drafts, the final of which we were polishing two days before it went to print.
So, yeah. Not to be discouraging, but I just wanted to be honest. And I hope I haven't talked you out of writing the book. You really, really should. You and [your husband] will love to look back on it one day. Your kids will be absolutely enthralled by it. And your grandkids? Forget about it. You'll be heroes. Legendary.
So go for it. Just see what happens. Seriously. That's like, my life motto. I just do things and see what happens. Yes, I wrote a story about a giant in a wheelchair that'll be read by millions. I'm really, really happy about that. But before him, there were failures upon failures upon failures. And I regret not a one of them.
Anyway. Rambled a lot there. Sorry about that. Hope it helped a little. Feel free to ask about anything, anytime.
Picture from ehow.com.