I’ve been a freelance writer for 36+ years, focusing on health and wellness books. My latest book focuses on the steps I took to recover from multiple losses. Four family members died in 2007 and, thanks to grief work and introspection, I created a new life. So many people asked me how I managed to do this that I listed my recovery steps on paper. These steps became a talk and the talk became a book.
My current publisher was interested in this grief resource, and I sent the manuscript to the executive director. The company has a collaborative agreement with another publisher and she forwarded the manuscript to this publisher. Three months later, the manuscript was returned to me with dozens of editorial notes written in the margins.
For example, one notation said the manuscript was too emotional, a comment that stunned me. Death is emotional, especially the death of a child. The editor also wanted me to eliminate some stories and add footnotes. I wrote this guide for bereaved people, people who need reliable information and need it fast. Footnotes would turn the guide into a textbook.
Last, the editor thought my style was too personal. During my grief journey, I’ve given workshops at several national conferences for the bereaved. I tell personal stories so workshop attendees know I’m not just talking the talk, I’ve walked the walk, the same journey they have taken. Plus, people remember stories more easily than they remember statistics.
I came to several conclusions. First, I will let myself be emotional about grief. Second, I will stick to the self-help format because I’m not a textbook author. Third, I will see this guide in print. What did I do? I followed the suggestions that strengthened the book and passed on the others. The guide is in production now and will be available in two months.
You may be writing a grief resource now, a story for children, a book for teens, a self-help book for adults, or a novel based on your life story. While you’re writing, questions may come to mind. Is my writing good? Am I being honest? Will my book help others? I encourage you to be yourself. Consider the suggestions you receive from others and then follow your instincts.
Though you may have to revise your book several times, it will get better with each revision. At the end, you’ll know you did your best, documented family history, identified problems, found solutions, and shared your grief journey.
Grief is emotional and always will be. Writing your grief story from the heart will touch those who read it. Someday, maybe years from now, you’ll read your book again and say, “I’m glad I wrote that.” Future generations will be glad you wrote it as well.
Your book is for today, for tomorrow, and family members you will never know. Good luck on your writing journey.