continued from July 21…
After Hillary and I decided on our book’s subject (the breast cancer journey) and the tone (not heavy!), we went back and forth about how best to get her thoughts from inside her head into my notebook.
At first, we thought it might be a good idea for her to use iPhone’s built-in voice recorder to log her thoughts. I scripted an outline for her to use so that she had some kind of structure to follow. I didn’t want her to feel like she was just rambling aimlessly into a microphone. Plus I knew that if she had an outline to work from, it would be easier for me to translate her thoughts into notes that I could eventually edit into a book.
Hillary is not shy by any stretch. So I wasn’t too worried about her recordings sounding awkward or about her feeling uncomfortable recording private thoughts into an
iPhone. But after 3-4 weeks of NO CONTENT, she admitted to me that it felt too weird talking into a recorder about her breast cancer odyssey. I’m glad she shared that
with me, but looking back, I think that was my first clue that this project was going to be a challenge. I learned that I was going to have to continually tiptoe around her, understandably, wildly fluctuating feelings. I felt up to the task.
Next we played with the idea of her writing longhand into a journal and then scanning the journal pages so that she could email her journal entries to me. I didn’t know this before we started, but I quickly found out that Hillary is, er, how can I say this nicely, uh, well she’s “technically challenged.” And that’s a gross understatement.
So the scanning idea was a “no-go.” Now what?
Since I was living in an apartment only 10 minutes away, instead of trying to transfer her thoughts digitally, I was able to drive to her house with my laptop, take her journal into a quiet room, type her current entries (verbatim) into a text file, and then return to my apartment. Before going home, Hillary and I met briefly to discuss any outstanding issues that needed resolving.
My goal when editing her journal entries, was to render her thoughts as lucid and cohesive as possible without skewing her intent. I kept that goal in mind as we muddled through our process for the next 5 months. Finally, I had a structure in place that was starting to take on the shape of a book.
At several points during our journal/meeting process, Hillary’s health unfortunately interrupted our flow. Writing into her journal just got to be too intense for someone struggling with the realities of breast cancer. I knew I needed to be as patient and compassionate as possible. We were writing about an extremely delicate subject and, remember, she was kind enough in the first place to take me in when my confidence was at an all-time low.
I remained confident though in what we were trying to accomplish, simultaneously knowing that the longer our process took, the more we were prolonging any potential marketing opportunities. (October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month remains our publishing target.) Daily, I felt like I was walking a tightrope between being compassionate and practical.
Thankfully, Hillary’s health is improving and we’ve been able to not only finalize most of the mundane chores of writing a book, but also successfully collaborate on the creative parts. The fun stuff!
To be continued…