Looking for Debbie's books
and her work with teens?
Click here

I’m writing this on the train back to Amsterdam from Paris. Well, actually I’m on a train from the Dutch city of Breda, which I got to from a bus I caught in Brussels due to a train strike in Belgium. Anyway, my long journey back home from my creative retreat is giving me time to focus on this week’s installment of Writer Unplugged, so that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I’ll start, as always, by reporting in on my goals from last week:

  • Devote a minimum of 4 hours on my WIP – YES
  • Follow my week-by-week schedule for my author site leading up to my Doable launch – PARTIALLY
  • Conduct 3 more interviews for the Doable Interview series – YES
  • Compile a list of contacts to send to Beyond Words for book mailings, as well as draft a personalized letter to accompany books – NO
  • Stretch Goal: Edit the first Doable Interview Series video for sharing next week – BEGAN, BUT DIDN’T COMPLETE

And though it was a light work week because of my solo getaway, here’s a look at my time tracker [CLICK TO ENLARGE]:

Week 6 Time Tracker

Overall, I’m feeling recharged, focused, and ready to get down to business, which is exactly what I hoped for when I left town last Thursday. While in Paris, I walked countless miles (I do so much biking in Amsterdam, I’d forgotten how good it feels to walk a city), saw a bit of art, revisited favorite spots, napped nearly every day, ate a diet that consisted primarily of bread and chocolate, and spent a fair amount of time thinking about my work-in-progress.

But let me get to specifics. Here’s an update on where things stand with my two primary writing projects, the WIP and the launch of Doable.


Though I did very little actual writing—about 800 words—my retreat was in many ways all about my work-in-progress. Being alone for upwards of five days and interacting with no one save for the occasional waiter who had to endure my butchered French, gave me lots of time to process and think and ruminate. But more than anything, I think in a way I was creating the space for the project to live and breathe.

Do you remember how in the movie Footloose, Kevin Bacon as Ren MacCormick gives a great speech at the city council meeting about how there’s a time for everything…a time to sing and a time to weep and a time to mourn? He concludes by passionately stating, fire in his steely blue eyes, “See, this is our time to dance. It is our way to celebrate life.”

My solo time was kind of like that. It was my WIP book saying, It’s MY time to shine. Make room. I’m coming in.

And you know what? I’m ready.

How about you? Have you made not only the physical, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual space for your book to be conceived and gestated? If you haven’t, I encourage you to think about how you can give your book the room to come in.

In addition to formally welcoming in my book, I did make some more tangible progress on my WIP. Here’s what that looked like:

  • Began reading my big binder with the printed chronology I wrote about last week. As I went through this, I numbered each “entry” so I could eventually index all the material by themes and categories, which will help me more easily find content when I’m writing. Also—I kept one of my new notebooks and a blue ballpoint Stabilo pen next to me as I read each entry, making notes about anything that came up for me, ideas I’ll want to explore further, and additional anecdotes that might illustrate a point. I also began making the list of categories I mentioned above. These won’t necessarily be the themes around which I ultimately organize my book, but for now, I think it will be helpful. FYI—I’m nearly a third of the way through the chronology, which leaves me in early 2011. I’m just starting to get to the juicy stuff…
  • I began reading Marion Roach Smith’s The Memoir Project, which I’ve had loaded onto my Kindle for months but haven’t been ready to open until now. If you’re not familiar with Marion Roach Smith and you’re interested in writing memoir, I highly recommend checking her out, as she knows her stuff and her website features some great free resources. The Memoir Project is full is writerly wisdom, but what I’m digging on at the moment is the algorithm she teaches: This is an X as illustrated by Y. For example, an editor I once worked with had an essay published in The New York Times this past weekend, and the algorithm for her essay might read something like this: this is an essay about a father’s love for his family as illustrated by the story of a pair of geese on a farm in Maine. Get the point? Before you ask, no, I haven’t figured out my algorithm yet. I have a list of many things my book is about, but I haven’t figured out its core theme. That’s on my plate for this week. And when I figure it out, I’ll let you know.
  • Marion Roach Smith also talks about the importance of taking writing seriously enough to make it happen, every day, for a minimum of 45 minutes. I’m going to take her advice and earmark one hour at the same time each day to actually be writing, even though I’m still in the organizing, structuring, and outlining phase. Likely much of this material won’t make it into the final book. But some of it will. And the rest of it will no doubt lead me to the good stuff.

The Doable Launch

I’ve made slow and steady progress here, with the majority of my launch-related work this week focusing on the Doable Interview series. I conducted a few more Skype interviews and started editing the first video. The first one in a project like this is always the most challenging, since so much of it is figuring out how it will work. I like this part as well, but it’s time consuming. With that said, I plan to release the first video by the end of this week, and continuing prepping the others so they can be released one per week.

My other focus has been on going through my old files from book launches of previous books, gathering names and contacts of the various media outlets / blogs / radio stations, etc. that I’ve written for, been interviewed by, or who covered my work in the past. I’m surprised, and more than a little saddened, at how many of the teen girl-focused websites and organizations on my list— well-intentioned websites and publications aimed at informing and inspiring young women—are no longer in existence. But that’s a conversation for a different day. In the meantime, I’m going to continue this work and try to wrap it up this week so I can get it off my plate and Beyond Words will be ready to mail out finished books in early December.

Writing Goals for the Coming Week:

  • Finish going through my chronology binder and making related notes
  • Write one hour per day on my work-in-progress
  • Finish reading The Memoir Project
  • Figure out my memoir’s algorithm
  • Complete the list of media contacts for Beyond Words for book mailings, as well as draft a personalized letter to accompany books
  • Post the first Doable Interview Series video for sharing this week
  • Reach out to more women about interviewing them for this series

* * *

I hope you enjoyed this installment of Writer Unplugged!  If you aren’t already on my email list, I encourage you to sign up below so you don’t miss any of the series!

sign up