Theoretically, I finished writing the first draft of the book proposal this week. Theoretically, because it's possibly the worst thing I've ever written. I know, you'll say, "Kimber, that can't possibly be true. You're just being hard on yourself." Yes, you are correct. And, it's still the worst thing I've ever written... and that's okay. In Isabelle Allende's "Paula," she gives her students the assignment: write a bad novel. Think about it. At the end of the semester, you've written a bad novel, but it's still a novel, and it's better than you think. I've written a terrible book proposal, and it's probably not as bad as I think. Maybe.
Perhaps you're wondering, what could be so awful about writing a book proposal? Most of it I got through fine, who I am (Kimber, no "ly" please), why I'm the best person to write this book (duh, cause it's a memoir, and no one else can write a memoir from my point of view about me?), who the audience is (everyone who picks it up, thanks to the super glue I slather on the back cover), and how I intend to promote it (by flinging copies of it into the crowd during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade... oops, sorry, I wasn't aiming for your head!).
No, what really tied my metaphorical undies into a knot was the chapter outline, the twenty page detailed synopsis of the entire book. After recovering from the annoyance of having to write it at all (I've already written the book! If they want to know what the book is about, they should read the book!), I discovered there is a formula for writing the chapter outline: "Chapter One, Flying South, 14 pages. The chapter begins by revealing the lead character's penchant for eating raw goose eggs. The chapter continues as the reader follows the protagonist's early morning forays for geese nests. The next part of the chapter describes a particular morning when the protagonist discovers a huge hoard of warm freshly laid eggs, and the ensuing battle with an angry goose mother. The chapter concludes as the reader belatedly realizes the lead character is an adolescent Renard the Fox." I kid you not. Who writes well when every sentence begins with "The chapter..."?
Writing like this sends me into post-traumatic stress, from my first year of law school when I learned legal writing. Before I went to law school I imagined that I was a good writer, but just a week into my law school career I was quickly disabused of that quaint notion. The legal formula goes like this: "The issue in this case is..... The rule applying to this case is.... The analysis of the rule as applied to this issue is.... The only possible conclusion drawn from this analysis is...." Seriously. A sharpened pencil sent directly through the center of my forehead would be less painful than having to write like that. I was terrible at it, at first. Then I got good at it, and guess what? All of my writing started to sound like legal writing. I could write a love letter: "The issue here is how deeply I feel for you. The rule is that love is blind. The analysis is that if love is what I'm feeling, my love for you is blind. The conclusion is, I must be freaking blind to love you!"
Only after many years away from my last legal brief, do I feel I've finally retrieved my writing voice from the corner dustbin outside the legal writing classroom at Boalt Hall School of Law where I crumpled it up and hastily abandoned it in my eagerness to become a newly minted lawyer. And now, I have to remind myself... the book proposal serves the book. No one expects me to write that way, I don't have to change my writing to do it. Just a format that serves the overall purpose of getting the book out there into the world. It's all going to be okay.