The Author Journey: About the Book I’m Working On
Over the past few months, I’ve been penning a blog post series here on Money@30 chronicling a book project I’m writing. In previous editions, I’ve looked at how I was preparing myself to write as well as sharing the successes and stumbles I’ve encountered while trying to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were). Nonetheless, up until now, I’ve been pretty vague on what type of book I was writing or what it was even about. So, to kick off this month’s entry, I wanted to tell you more about my upcoming non-fiction book Props That Eat.
Introducing Props That Eat
Several years ago now, my main source of income was working as an extra on several television shows and movies. Among the sets that I had the chance to work on during this period were Glee, Community, American Horror Story, The Big Bang Theory, and Super 8 among others. While these gigs weren’t as glamorous or well-paying as one might think, they did allow me to continue living in Los Angeles — and, pertinent to this post, provided me with what I think are some truly interesting stories.
Thus, I figured it was about time that I collected some of these tales into a non-fiction book that not only paints a portrait of what it’s like to be a Hollywood extra but also highlights some of the lessons I learned from this time in my life. As for the title, Props That Eat, it borrows a phrase I’ve heard more than a few crew members use to describe background actors. As you may surmise from that, not everyone is such a fan of extras, which can make the entire set dynamic a bit interesting at times. So was this reputation warranted? Well, you’ll have to wait a few months to find out.
With Props That Eat, I’m hoping to capture a similar tone to my first book The E-Ticket Life. While that work was meant to share how various trips to the Disney theme parks shaped my life, this one will look at how such an odd profession helped make me who I am today. I’m also hoping that the book will be both humorous and poignant — a coming of age tale from a damn near 30-year-old (at the time). There’s plenty more I could share about specific stories or how my experience on one particular show was akin to a second round of high school but, for now, I’ll leave it at that and move onto some of the challenges I’ve encountered while developing this idea.
Challenges I’m Facing with My Book Project
Towing the line on personal stories
Oftentimes when we’re telling stories, we make ourselves the protagonists and pay little mind to how other “characters” are perceived by the audience. Well, that can be an issue when you’re talking about real people — and could be especially problematic when some of said individuals happen to be famous. Having no desire to write a gossipy or salacious book, I’ve had to be very cautious about how to approach some on-set stories. On top of that, I’ve been considering how I can communicate that stance to readers early on lest they expect a tea-spilling extravaganza.
It’s also worth mentioning that, across some of the shows I’ve worked, I signed non-disclosure agreements. At the time, my understanding was that these were meant to prevent plot leaks but, in hindsight, it’s very possible that I’m technically not allowed to discuss anything about what happened on those shows. Oops. Therefore, it’s probably in my best interest to avoid anything that could reflect negatively on the production and keep the focus on myself.
“You had to be there”
Another concern I’ve had as I start writing out of my chapters is that no one will actually care about the stories I’m presenting. After all, just because I think they’re funny or interesting doesn’t mean that they’ll play to outsiders — a phenomenon many a storyteller has encountered, inspiring the phrase “I guess you had to be there.” Obviously it’s one thing for a storytelling session to bomb in person and another for a reader (who likely paid money to read my book) to be bored out of their minds with each passing page.
So what’s the solution here? Well, I don’t quite know exactly, but it will likely mean lots of peer review. Specifically, I’m hoping I can show my rough drafts to some people who were indeed there to see if they can offer any additional detail or color and then asking other friends to look at them with fresh eyes. At this point, I just hope I still have a book after all of these notes eventually come in.
Ebook or physical?
As I’ve previously written about, there are several reasons why one might wish to make their book a digital exclusive instead of creating a print edition. Yet, as I write this, I’m not yet sure which route I’ll choose. Personally, I do love having a physical copy of my book and it’s really not that much more work to produce one… but will it really make sense?
Currently, I think the final decision will come down to length. My arbitrary page requirement for creating a paperback is 200 pages. Thus, if my finished manuscript comes in at more than a few pages shy of that, chance are I’ll just make it an ebook. However, if I do surprise myself and exceed that threshold, I’ll likely do both a digital and print run. In fact, I’d really love to create my first-ever hardcover edition for one of my books — although I shouldn’t get ahead of myself.
As I continue to chip away at my manuscript, I’m excited to share a little more about what I’m working on. At the same time, it feels good to also highlight some of the unique and yet universal struggles I’ve been having with this particular project. In any case, thanks for joining me for this update on the journey — hope to see you again next month!
Also published on Medium.