A Book and a Question

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Here’s my new book! And before I go back to posting entries on Maine towns and history, I’m going to answer a couple of questions I’ve gotten from people as I’ve been working on this book over the past couple of years:

When you sit down to write, do the words just come to you? Is it like the book writes itself?

I wish. It’s interesting to me that people who don’t write often have this notion, and I can’t imagine where it comes from. Certainly the process never works this way for me. When I was working on my Bar Harbor book, the process went something like this:

Find a possible story. Do as much research as I can on the people and places associated with the story. When I’ve found out all I can, I tell myself that the next day I will take all my notes and start writing. The next day I start writing. And about halfway through the first sentence, I have more questions. And I go back to researching.

At some point, I tell myself “That’s it! You aren’t going to find any more about this, and even if you do, the six hours of research it will take to find out that her middle name was Jean is not worth the trouble!” And then I make myself write. And the words come out really slowly. Sometimes one at a time. Or sometimes in something more like lists of events rather than paragraphs. The rough draft sounds choppy. And really boring.

But slowly something starts to emerge that seems kind of interesting. and in the rewrite process I try to bring that out.

Do you make a lot of money on these books? 

No. I’ll be lucky if I cover my expenses for all those nights at the Central House and dinners at Testa’s, blueberry ale from the Atlantic Brewing Company and gourmet olive oil and balsamic vinegar from Fiore.

And here’s the unasked question, the question they feel it’s not polite to ask. The one that seems to imply I must be crazy:

Then why do you write?                                                                        

Well, it’s not exactly because I’m inspired to write them. And it’s not for the money. But there’s a sort of satisfaction from feeling like I found someone’s story and told it for a new audience. And when someone says they’ve read my book, that’s just about the best thing I’ll ever hear…

Other writers out there — why do you write?

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About Luann Yetter

Luann Yetter is the author of Bar Habor in the Roaring Twenties, Portland's Past and Remembering Franklin County, all published by the History Press. She is a writing instructor at the University of Maine at Farmington. She has had a life-long interest in social history beginning with a steady diet of Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a little girl in the Midwest. She now lives in an 18th century house in a small town in Maine and loves to "time travel" when she writes.
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2 Responses to A Book and a Question

  1. Barb damren says:

    I remember when you were researching for “So You Think You Know Maine” was that the beginning of writing books for you? It sounds like you are having fun with the research! Barb

  2. Luann Yetter says:

    That was the beginning! It was a crash course in Maine history and culture. And then I wrote a history column for Sun Journal and that led to the books…Now that I’ve lived in Maine for a few decades I feel a little more confident writing about it!

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