This is an email response I wrote to an acquaintance who, having survived a personal crisis, was debating turning some of her writings into a book. I thought my response to her questions might prove helpful to other folks out there debating if they should write a book.
Strung together journal entries won’t work. They might make for a blog, but not a book. To write a book you have to write a book that is clearly a book and adheres to all the conventions and requirements of being a book. This is a shit-ton of work and will take drafts and time and sweat and blood until it’s either good enough to submit or you give up. As one of my writer buddies says: One of these will happen first.
Unless you’re Whitney Houston’s daughter or the guy who cut his arm off with a pocket-knife, no publisher or agent will be interested in talking to you until you’ve written a manuscript. Since you’ve never written a manuscript, how good that manuscript is will be all that matters. So. Go to your bookshelves and look at all the novels or memoirs or inspirational/self-help books that you’ve read and loved, pick the appropriate format for your story, then start to create a manuscript along those lines. Set a high bar. It will have to be as good as your favorite books on your shelves, the ones that changed your life. As for what angle to take or how to approach it – that’s on you. It’s your life, your book, and your vision. No one else will care to tell you how to approach it, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be right since it’s your (highly personal) story to tell. Some jackass might tell you it must be second-person haiku but in your gut it’s a first person memoir. Which are you gonna write? Also, people who have experience don’t necessarily know what’s right for you. Your job is to have vision and to realize that vision in ink and paper in a fashion that will make that particular order of words on the pages the one in five hundred collections of words on pages that an agent will stake his or her livelihood and reputation on that month. And then that an editor, from the agent-culled collections of words on pages, will pick from worse odds to stake even more on. This may sound discouraging, but if you’re really a writer, it won’t matter. If you’re really a writer, you don’t have a choice anyway. Be bold and venture forth. And good luck.