What I Learned from Writing My First Book

The Rev. J. Dana Trent and Fred Eaker in their clergy robes at Sri Venkateswara Temple in North Carolina. A memoir of their Christian-Hindu interfaith marriage journey will be published by Upper Room Books in fall 2013. Photo credit: Franklin Golden.

After a four-month marathon of writing and editing, I have submitted the Saffron Cross interfaith marriage memoir manuscript to my editor, Jeannie Crawford-Lee of Upper Room Books.

The first-time author journey was full of lessons. Here are a few:

1. Start early. The first chapter of Saffron Cross (Indian Honeymoon) was written and submitted with the book proposal last November. But, typical to the non-fiction market, the remaining chapters had not yet been written. Contracts were signed in late April, which gave me the summer to complete the book. I made the deadline, but with important lessons learned. Start earlier and work more hours up front than you think you should. It will give you time near the end to put the manuscript aside, breathe, and return to it with editorial objectivity.

2. Be prepared for an emotional roller coaster. Producing a creative work of any kind can be exhausting. With memoir writing in particular, digging into your life, relationships, and in my case–religion–is an arduous task. Connecting with your future reader requires crafting carefully chosen scenes from experiences that can be tough to recall and wade through. Jump in and hang on; the reward lives in perpetuity.

3. Practice self-discipline. Remember those New Year’s Resolutions? Usually mine have puttered out by Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. But what I learned from the first-time author experience is that I am capable of self-discipline.  On the days I was teaching or consulting, I squeezed in at least one to two hours in the early morning or before bed. On my full writing days, I worked on Saffron Cross for four-to-six hours. I logged all of my hours on my calendar and and tried to beat my best time each week. After a few weeks, even I was astonished by my own discipline. It proved to me that if I set a large goal and break it down into what I need to do each week, I can accomplish my dreams.

This is just the beginning of the journey, friends. There are edits to be made, suggestions to incorporate, and proofing to be done. But, this is one huge milestone along the way. I’ve proven to myself that I can do it. You can do it, too!

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