Saturday, November 24, 2007

picking away

So, the book. The book is coming along. Here's how I have it roughly structured so far--it's still very early (this phase is akin to organogenesis, if you want to pull out the old pregnancy metaphor again), so don't hold me to it later. But here's how I think it'll pan out. There are going to be roughly nine chapters, plus or minus one. Hopefully, before each chapter, there will be a comic strip, partially to set the chapter up, but mostly because I just like the idea of having comic strips in the book. (Still have to see that my publisher is on board with this part, though. I don't think it's a huge deal to include illustrations, but who knows, maybe it is, printing-wise.)

I am working on the writing in a piecemeal fashion. It's not going to be like Atul Gawande's stuff in that his book is more like a series of essays. (Excellent essays obviously, but they can be read as standalone pieces, and in fact, many originally were. It feels presumptuous even mentioning such an accomplished writer anywhere near my own, but he's the name that most people are familiar with, so just for a frame of reference.) Mine is more of a narrative over the course of medical school and residency, but it's not 100% linear, so I feel OK skipping around. Like last week, I was thinking about something that happened that I really want to get down, even though that particular story would appear late in the book. So I just wrote it and have it saved as a separate file so I can plop it in at the appropriate point. And some parts of the story have already been written, for the proposal and whatnot, so I just have these little chunks floating around, waiting for me to write the parts that fit in between. It's not a murder mystery or a thriller or anything like that, so I don't think that this skipping back and forth is going to be to the detriment of the finished product. (Also, I'm not too worried about getting the plot and characters confused, because it's, you know, non-fiction, so I can pretty much remember who said and did what when. Until the premature senility sets in.)

In terms of the tone of the story, I think that the blog gives you a pretty good taste. I mean, I'm going to be explicit in saying again that the book will not consist of recycled blog entries (I mean, maybe one story or two will sound familiar, but if so, they will be rewritten for the book version). Basically the flavor is going to be a first-person narrative of the humbling and occasionally absurdist nature of medical training, in which ordinary people are put into extraordinary situations--between the big, career-defining moments and the small war stories that get told at 3:00am--and how through it all, we learn to become the kind of doctors we want to be. I can't promise that it's going to be wall-to-wall laughs ("THAT KID WITH A BRAIN TUMOR DIED! HA HA HA!" No, not that) but I think you can kind of see that there is humor and ridiculousness to extract from many situations. And barring anything else, I can always laugh at myself.

Anyway, I hope this answers some questions. I'm trying to find a day to meet with my editor (that sounds weird, "my editor") for lunch, so that'll be fun. Because believe me, I have some questions myself. Like, "How does this all work, anyway?"

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