This is a guest post from my pilot blogger friend Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. She writes the excellent Fear of Landing blog and when I read her great new e-book You Fly Like a Woman, I asked her to tell me (and you) about the process of creating it.
I have written some essays, a collection of anecdotes. I’ve wondered if I should turn them into a book. I’d like to turn them into a book.
Since releasing my e-book You Fly Like a Woman last month, I’ve heard a dozen variations on this theme. The real questions are: What’s the difference between my scratch pad and your book? How do I move from one to the other?
It took me a few years but it shouldn’t have done. I struggled for a long time not knowing how to move forward.
I started with a stack of notes. I used these to write a number of blog posts and polished a few into magazine articles. I began to wonder if I had something bigger.
Friends who enjoyed my stories commented that I should collect them all into a book. I had a lot of raw material already. It sounded like fun. I created a folder on my computer and put everything into strict date order, including the blog posts and excerpts from the articles. I had an incoherent mess, full of odd details and missing important facts. Nothing like a book. Now what?
I broke this down into a three-stage process. First, I decided to see how many words I could write about learning to fly. I didn’t worry so much about good or bad or making sense of the narrative; I just wanted a large pile of words.
Second, I pulled out my course books and read the key sections. I wrote down every memory brought up by the text. I built an outline of the individual lessons required for learning to fly.
Finally, I set aside an hour a day for a month and wrote more. I wrote everything I remembered and how I felt, even if I’d written about it before. I wrote about my changing perceptions about the experiences now as a pilot. Then I expanded again, focusing on description: the differences between the airfields, the scent of petrol in the morning. I tried to recall the facial expressions of my instructors, the other pilots, the waiter where I ordered lunch every day. Anything that I could dredge out of my memory got written down, whether it seemed important or not. I focused on how the events should connect to each other, which reminded me of missing moments I hadn’t yet written down and so I wrote more.
In the end, I had about 25,000 words. It was about as close to a book as a bag of flour is to a loaf of bread. But I had something to work with and I was ready to start writing.