Your ‘How’ Is the Story: Your Writing Process as Media Angle or Speaking Focus


Photo by Ian Schneider, from Unsplash.

A few years ago, my work brought me into contact with three family histories, all of which involved a staggering amount of work, dedication, and personal flair on the part of the authors. And all three were quite different from each other.


One was the book of a project management client who spent over 12 years researching and writing about his family tree, going back 13 generations on one branch. His final tome was over 900 pages, the largest book I ever helped someone publish.


The other two took a similar approach to writing their family history — they fictionalized it — but with distinct approaches. Marc Savard, a history buff and orchard owner from Door County, Wisconsin, novelized his family genealogy over several generations with sparse descriptions but rich historical context that displayed his own wealth of historical understanding.


Miguel “Mike” Villegas is an IT security exec from the Los Angeles area who wrote the cinematic, Family Honor*, lush with detail, about an arranged marriage that took place in his family in Mexico City not all that long ago.


In reviewing bookselling event options with Savard and Villegas, one obvious concept for author events was making their process the focus of their talks. How and why did they turn their genealogy research into a novel? How does one research ancestry across centuries and across oceans? What are some considerations in fictionalizing one’s family history?

Other examples of process stories originating in authors I’ve published that were used as the basis for media stories and/or public programs:

  • Creating high-end photography books

  • Turning blog posts into a book

  • Self-publishing an audio book

  • Publishing with a university press

  • The ins and outs of working with a co-author

  • What I learned capturing oral histories for publication

  • How I wrote and published a book as a 14-year-old

For you

How can you can speak authoritatively to interested others about your writing process?

  • List any process elements of your own book writing.

  • Have you noticed if any items on your list have generated particular interest in those you speak to?

  • Consider if there’s one or more process stories that you can create whole author programs around.

  • Use the best process hooks you’ve uncovered as the basis for media pitches and interviews.

  • Even if you can’t or don’t create a process-based event, keep in mind that many in your audiences will be interested in these things. Add some process anecdotes to your boilerplate talk.

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