THE NON FICTION "HOW TO" BOOK, & HOW NOT TO DO IT!
I'm sitting around combing cats out of my hair, the great writer who can't write cuz I gotta make the rent and buy 11 cats and four ferals a shore dinner and I get this email from an Indiana internet lady's lovelorn advice writer wannabe. An ole pal btw.
Dear Anita. I'm going to do a non fiction book about something I'm an expert on. BAD MEN Here is a sample page. Critique me as I need the money. The Greek Mother in Law sits on my daughter and I can't even come over for holidays. My grandson needs me. I gotta get a million dollars fast! So here it is: BAD MEN, A TUTORIAL.
" INTRODUCTION: Every time a woman accepts behavior that is considered in our society to be unacceptable, i.e., rude, inappropriate - or worse - she is not only telling the person treating her like that that it is 'okay', but she is also fortifying the idea that she will continue to accept this as the 'norm', or, her 'norm'. You are actually
teaching the person or persons involved to treat you in that manner, whether you realize it or no. In my job answering letters to the Online Love Advisor, I've seen a thousand girls do variations of the same thing. I myself have experienced a half dozen of these devastating user men...."
I BLINKED? That's the first page? I shot her an email" Kathie, YOU SOUND LIKE A TEACHER IN DRIVING SCHOOL. Or rather, It has the tone of A HIGH SCHOOL SEX EDUCATION CLASSROOM
if not outright "CHURCH LADY" It's PREACHY. (But let me read on.)
"This does not apply strictly to partner relationships - this applies to whoever may be victimizing you by treating you in an unacceptable, inappropriate manner - whether it be an employer/supervisor, relative, former partner, 'friend', acquaintance, neighbor, whoever. However, for this book we are limiting our parameters and focusing on male/f emale relationships - more specifically, 'bad boys and bad behavior' from them. These 'boys' as I refer to them - are in actuality 'men' who act like boys. These are you could say "Peter Pan" men - or, more to the point "Peter Pan" men gone bad - because, as we know, Peter Pan was a good 'boy'.
Let me elaborate - Peter Pan men are men who never reached full maturity - for one reason or another. My feeling is that a good many of them were either coddled and spoiled by their Mother or Parents or they had a lot of women in the household catering to them. Thus, they grew up with an 'air of expectancy' or 'false sense of entitlement'. They started to think they were 'God's gift' to women - probably to the world in general. These men LOOK like men - but t hey are actually like 14 year olds trapped in a man's body. They are not only emotionally stunted - their characters never had a chance to develop. When everything is done for you - or taken care of for you - and people rush to make everything 'okay' for you - they don't give you a chance to build character. Character is what is formed when you problem solve for yourself - when you weather storms/problems and come up with solutions - work towards those goals - with that comes integrity. Don't look to these men for any of those qualities.
I recall the saying I used to hear growing up - "Look at how a man treats his Mother - because - that is the way he will treat you". I used to believe that - and, for the most part, maybe it is true; however, I have see n some instances (even close to home) where it was not a good thing that the guy was coddled and catered to. He grew up a Master Manipulator - especially towards women. And, I believe, that makes them have less respect for women in general - because the y can pull a lot of crap on a woman - and still get away with it. And, the more you allow it, the more you send the signal that it is Okay with you. It just stands to reason, doesn't it?
If you are involved with one of these so-called 'bad boys', please f ace the fact that they are never going to change. They are dysfunctional - therefore, they (will) operate dysfunctionally. You will always be wracking your brain to figure out why they acted one way or another. Bear in mind they are usually self-focused , self-absorbed.
It's not about how they treat you - it's about how you treat them. There's the rub. It's usually a one-way street. This is where manipulation comes in handy for them. If they need you - or want you for something - they will say or do for the time being what it is they know you want from them. But, that will be short-lived. Pretty soon you will be back in the same vicious cycle. Too often, however, we women wonder what we did - that caused
them to treat us in this manner. Thinking like that is not only counter-productive, it is playing into the dysfunctional behavior of the Peter Pan man.
I personally know a 'Peter Pan' man. (Kathie, we ALL DO! Puhleeze, keep your own love life out of this book! Masquerade them as a case study! stay invisible.) Jimmy is a shame. He's bright, articulate, well-educated. But, he was spoiled by his Mother and apparently catered to and because of her behavior it morphed him into a controlling, manipulating, deceitful 40 year old 'Peter Pan' man. Still today Jimmy is what they call a "Mama's boy". She is the only one who gets respect from him that I can see. She can only blame herself for how her son turned out. He borrows money - then takes no responsibility in paying it back to the kind souls who went out on a limb to lend it to him. He doesn't care what he put them through. He's done with them - he got what he needed - no w he's moving on. It doesn't matter who you are - as long as you aren't his Mother - he would never
do that to her. When he is confronted by people who he owes money to, he ducks, he ignores, he avoids. He is usually reckless with his money - he is ou t of control with his life in general. He usually has a big ego
which only belies the fact that he is insecure. My experience with these type of men is that they are also arrogant and cavalier in their attitude.
If you have one of these men in your life - run, don't walk to the nearest exit - if that is at all possible for you to do."
Good information there, but it's squished together of course like a hundred different concepts, each of which deserves its own paragraph. A barage of info, dense as iron, in a single, huge brick. You're shooting the final deductions likea machine gun so I'm running from the bookstore at this point and I left your book on the pile.
GIVE US l00 smaller tales, each with a specific masculine malady each mounted like a stone in a setting so that each becomes a fascinating drama. Create a visual millieu, colorful places, details that have the specifics
of the people, their look, their habits, their locale. I don't mind dialogue, humor, or the girl being a total twit and not seeing what's going on, not getting it. That gives it color, comedy, and makes us identify. THEN, save a small brick of synthesis for the LAST PARAGRAPH and no more. We got it by then. And give each chapter
a title, BOY ON THE BEACH, or THE PETER PAN MAN.
Or here's a fun TITLE: DOORMATS I HAVE KNOWN or PATHETIC GIRLS and the MEN WHO USED THEM.
Then when you the 'therapist, the beacon, the journalist the DEAR ABBY come in at the end, after you've SHOWN us the insanity of this girl's life, cut the palaver to the minimum at the end. No preachy tone. NO VICTORIAN language.
In that piece you sent me I guess it's the doormat syndrome book.
You start with paragraph after paragraph about yourself.
Your opinions, your credentials, then your first story is about
YOU! EEK! We're not ready for YOU to strip! Try some of your
clients first. If you tell us too much about your own horrors, your
viewpoint, thoughts all seem to read as a reactive mind, even neurotic,
a touch of rage and ego. Not entertaining, We can' swim into
your water without feeling we were trapped by you and are in your ego game.
So don't talk about your opinions, background --nothing. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO
PROVE anything. The fact that your book is in shop, your photo on back, and
under photo, 'internet journalist Kathie, etc and some bio facts.. that's
enuf! DO NOT START by putting bookcover info in your first chap or intro!
Start with the most readable thing of all. A SOAP STORY about a GAL WE
INSTANTLY vibe with who's up shit creek.
SAMPLE: Tammy was a divorced forty year old brunette who had raised her daughter
solo and now with her daughter married, was ready to date. she was not only was
beautiful, having lustrous black curls to her back she had a breezy seaside
apartment with a view of the FLorida keys that would make Hemingway drool.
She;'d earned it working for the phone company for twenty years.
Her boyfriend Jake kept his apartment in town as their relationship wasn;t
fully cemented being still in its first few months of delicate stepping and
nobody had made a verbal commitment but most nights, Jake came to her house
for dinner and the inevitable would happen. He'd stay the night.
They had their ritual. She'd undress him before dinner. He was a highly
paid Porsche VW mechanic who came home greasy and Tammy would soak, spot
and then launder his overalls and even scrub his back while dinner cooked
and he had an iced beer. She'd give him his blue or plaid trunks, the only
Jake wardrobe that had migrated to her apartment in any number, and they'd
dine on her balcony watching the skiffs coming in from fishing for tarpon
and talk about going down to the pier to buy some fresh fish but usually
they were in bed before prime time tv. then they'd watch Law & Order
together in bed.
What Tammy didn't notice was ... she spent weekends alone. Jake her cute
'significant other' had a very sneaky game. He would wait until the
three-day weekend was upon them - then he would cleverly initiate an
argument about some insignificant thing -- doing this on Friday. One
particular time it was over a bottle of soda - Why hadn't she bought the
good brand, why always the GENERIC. Wasn't his scotch and soda important to
And somehow he'd really get a rise out of her so she'd say something tacky
and he'd instantly react and storm off. What Tammy didn't know, that he
would then go to join his paramour Linda the barmaid for their three-day
fling - and he'd do it guilt-free!
Tammy was too naive at the time to realize it was a very methodically
planned outing. She was not even aware that he was cheating on her. She
actually agonized over how she could have handled the situation
differently, not blown up when he accused her of being cheap where his
pleasures were concerned. If only she'd known.
Tammy wasted another six months on Jake until one Saturday she went down to
the city's main beach parking in the pay lot, wishing she could have found
someone to share the 5$ fee. She was alone and depressed and threw her
chair on the sand, sat and put on her dark glasses.
To her horror, she instantly spotted Jake the mechanic hauling the blonde,
big bust barmaid in and out of the waves, bouncing happily, butt grabbing
at one another intimately and laughing and kissing.
You got to hand it to Tammy. She sat on that beach staring until Jake and
the barmaid emerged from the surf and trudged toward where she sat. Jake
suddenly caught sight of his work week squeeze.
What happened then surely belongs in the annals of male wiliness.
He...? etc. GIVE us a robust finale here. LIke.... oh I don't know.
The next day Tammy prepared a bill. Laundry, meals, generic soda. Sex, meal
cooking all of it, totaling $4,000.00 etc. She took him to Judge Judy's court for
it. Something HIGHLARIOUS! .
This they will read --riveted, entertained. CANNOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN.
Chapter after chapter of how the gal got snookered. Kathie, BOOKS are about
entertaining someone. FEEDING their pleasure hormones. Not big words, not
me mine I. ---EVER!
Just start the movie moving. Be sure that you Stay out of it. The director
writer gets huge profits if it sells. so don't stand in the foreground,
hovering, imposing your story or persona as it will not sell, it will make
us NOT buy teh book.
Does Hitchcock go stand in front of the camera during FRENZY? or THE BIRDS?
Well, Hitch does but Does he talk about his credentials? Does he give
opinions? NO. Straight to the story. One telling vision after another, all
very visual, too.
I am very happy you are looking it over and giving me advice - that is
what I wanted - but what I don't have a handle on is that this is not a
novel or a colorful story - I can only tell from my viewpoint and
perspective - and give those little emails of women who have sent me
their problem and their pain - it's not that anything is one complete
story....I'll try to see if I can give it a different slant but I don't
see how.......if you go to www.dearpeggy.com this is what she does and
she has had a best selling book on this subject which has been reprinted
for publication several times - and I think it's more or less on this
order......I'll see what I can do....
Here is one of my most read and visited articles that I wrote for my
site on XX(name) online.com - which subsequently ignited the heartache in so
many women who then wrote me telling me about their heartbreak and their
battle scars - asking me for my opinion and my advice.... \par this
tells me that there is a lot of heartache going around in relationships
- and that betrayal such as this hits us at the core of our being. As
far as I'm concerned, aside from the death of a loved one, there is no
greater hurt than to find out your 'significant other' has been seeing
someone else. \line \line If you read my article of about a month or so
ago, entitled, 'The Ultimate Heartburn - Infidelity', you would have
noted that I mention there was a newspaper columnist who ran an ad on a
website saying she was a married woman looking to have an affair with a
married man, just to see how many responses she would get. Faster than
you could say "I did not have sex with that woman", about 60 married men
had replied to this bogus ad. This columnist was absolutely
floored. My personal opinion of married men who cheat is --
to kick them to the curb - the sooner the better. Of course, you have
other options if you feel that you cannot live without the lying cheat.
But, then, be forewarned that repeatedly you will most likely suffer
more of the same. It will be just a matter of what your personal
threshhold for pain is - before you decide that you do not want to throw
away another good year to wait and see if he's going to live up to his
promise to be faithful to you . Why do men cheat? It's a deficiency deep
within them - it has nothing to do with you.\line \line These men have
issues - deep-seated issues. These issues are not going to go away in a
month or two. Sure, they got caught and now they are on their best
behavior. But, how long will it last? until you start feeling
comfortable - and look the other way -- then, one day -
whammo.........you're back to where you started from. The phone rings -
the person on the other end just listens to you while you say 'hello'.
No response. You finally hang up........wondering. Then, you quickly
dismiss it. To ponder it too long might bring back unpleasant feelings
and memories. \line \line I was involved in a long-term relationship
once, long ago, where my 'significant other' would wait until a th
ree-day weekend was upon us - then he would cleverly initiate an
argument about some insignificant thing on Friday; one particular time
it was over a bottle of soda - and off he would then go to join his
paramour for their three-day fling - guilt-free! Oh, I was too naive at
the time to realize it was a very methodically planned outing. I was not
even aware that he was cheating on me. Silly me, I actually agonized
over how I could have handled the situation differently. Ladies, this is
not normal. It's not normal to have to 'rehearse' how you will behave
ahead of time; or to rehash what you could have, should have, said. And,
sometimes, just for effect I guess, he would throw my nicely sliced pot
roast with all the trimmings, up against the wall. Who was left to clean
up the mess - both emotionally, mentally and physically? me, of course.
\line \line The heel is just looking for the 'hair in the egg', so to
speak. He's waiting to pounce on just the right moment when he makes you
feel like - it's your fault! so that, y ou can be the one to feel guilty
while he's off having a wild time for himself. Some of these
philanderers are so adept at lying, deceiving, manipulating, concealing
- it just comes as second nature to them. They're not suffering - you
are the one who is.'
You have a lot of good material here. OK, let's try to salvage this.
MAKE SHORTER paragraphs. Trust me on this, Break it
every place you can and give us a breather. People are daunted by
thick paragraphs. NO THICKER than a SANDWICh, ever!
And let's see this again. Shoot it back to me, fixed. Cmon, get to work.
HECK, you've got to get the GREEK MOTHER IN LAW off the throne
of your family, Retrieve your daughter and grand son. You have to get
invited to their parties. Make them stop speaking GREEK at the table. That
is going to take mega bucks. So you've got to write this sucker and sell it.
But make sure that WE THE READER are NOT the one who is SUFFERING
when you write about suffering women. EH?
Frankly Kathie, as we have to wade thru the thick purple prose and what's more,
the reader wasn't there, we never saw the details of that
life, we never SAW her watching in horror as she finds out that JAKE HAS this
gorgeous busty blonde CHICK who's in a bikini in front of our eyes. We
weren't present. We can't judge. ALL WE have is your ranting voice using
victorian terms and frankly, YOU JUST SOUND ANGRY, BIASED self
important, --repeating 'me the therapist, me the journalist.'
Sure you're fighting a syndrome but you are raising a flag reading NO
MORE DRINK like Carrie Nation. That was boring too. Maybe not in 1880
but it is NOW, today. IF CARRIE NATION could have shown video of one
sloppy drunk beating his wife and kids up at two am when the bars
closed, shown a close up of her eyes purple, puffed up like nectarines,
bloody lips, kids unconscious, CARRIE WOULD have done more in thirty
seconds to achieve a booze ban than she did in decades of parading,
picketing, carrying banners, yelling speeches to crowds.....JUST ONE
LITTLE economical THREE MINUTE U TUBE VIDEO.
We're in a media world. Kids have short attention spans. Give us 3 minute
clips of each girls' life. NOT pontifications from a lovelorn editor. That
is ultra ultra boring. And your responses in victorian sentences? YAWN!
But her text went on:
"I was involved with two of these 'serial' cheaters in my life. I don't
miss the pain of being in those negative, destructive relationships one
iota. Yes, they made me wiser - they also made me older - in the respect
that I wasted many years of my life on each one, thinking, or hoping,
one day they would change. I realize in hindsight they were both
deficient in a main ingredient needed as a building block in a
relationship -- values. They were deficient in character, good
character. They did not have the value system that I did. In my book,
lying, cheating, manipulation and deception are not qualities you want
to see in your 'significant other'.
BORRRRRRING if that is all you offer, kathie. You can CLOSE THE CHAPTER
with your analysis but don't make it the meat and potatoes as it isn't.
It's dry. GIVE US THE MOVIE FIRST then play JUDITH CRIST
"So, the bottom line here is - you don't have to put up with it. If you
do decide to stick it out, however, jus t be forewarned it will be a
bumpy ride. Are you willing to invest years of your life in this
roller-coaster relationship? if so, that is your prerogative. If you
have children, then it is somewhat understandable. But, don't feel you
are locked in to taking the abuse - and, make no mistake about it, it is
abuse. When your partner is hurting you - and they do not care about
your feelings, it is abuse. And, it is seldom a 'one-time' fling
situation. But, you might beat the odds and turn your situation around ,
if your partner agrees to counseling. Without it, I don't think there is
much of a chance.
Heck, I know of a couple who work together, sleep together, are each
married to other people, but have been going to counseling for their affair
for over ten years! how is that for being hypocritical?
They go to counseling - together - for the sake of - their individual marriages.
How is that for insanity? It's a true story. Who are they kidding, anyway? What is the point?
MY ANSWER: I DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE POINT IS but you sure could
have used that VIGNETTE in an interesting STORY rather than wasting it.
This was just one of my articles t hat I put up on my website which
apparently radiated like a beacon to hundreds, maybe thousands of women
who read my article and wrote about their individual heartaches to me.
Here is an email I received on my website:
Hi Kathy, Your article on cheating husbands is right on. After 27 years of marriage I am almost
divorced from this louse. I only found out about him/his cheating two
years ago. No, they do NOT change. We-loyal and faithful wives are
simply the heel's safety net. They use people, primarily women, as
objects to be discarded. But, they always want "mama" at home,being
good,while they do what they want, when they want, with whom they want.
I stuck it out two more MISERABLE years trying to salvage the
relationship...my advice is the same as yours: KICK THEM TO THE CURB and
the SOONER the better!! Older but wiser, P.B.
Getting back to accepting bad behavior - which you should know is
another way of tolerating abuse, a fact which one of the
visitors to my site said she had never realized until reading my column
that it is a form of abuse. A resounding 'Yes', it is, both mental and
emotional abuse (at this point we are not talking about anything
I DID NOT WAIT TO READ HER ANSWER ON THIS, assuming it would be as boring as everything she had sent me. I answered her myself:
"Dear BEACON: a NEWSPAPER columnist HAS TO HAVE THESE dreary LIMITS on a COLUMN in a morning paper. But you can't follow those patterns, deliniations. You don't have to do that! You want to draw folks who pay 21$ bucks for a book THEY ARE NOT GOING TO PAY FOR A NON FAMOUS ABBY's BOOK WHEN IT sounds JUST LIKE A NEWSPAPER columnist."
She was silent.
WELL I didn't hear from my writer friend for a while. Then one day she came back telling me how her daughter and son in law abused her, how the Greek Mother in Law led them in this war of evil, and how she needed to see her grandchild and they didn't want her around, and on and on, how she had to write the SELF HELP book and get rich and get some respect so she could see the littel grandchild enough to prevent him turning toxic like the others.
I answered: The literary marketplace has moved on. the best sellers need a verbal edge.
clever, witty, incisive, modern. PEOPLE GET TIRED OF YAH YAH WORDS BLAH BLAH
The words today must provoke tickle factor, every single paragraph needs a good ticklet
REREAD my criticism again. BORING is not happening. there' s no money in boring
do boring you .. end up spending years writing and get no sales.
WHERE IS THAT WIT? SENSATIONAL VIEWPOINTS
Read Malcolm Gladwell's three books. The library has them. A brainoid. LONG ON SMARTS.
That's the other thing, if you are that smart, you don't need dry wit.
But I've an idea, LET YOUR LADIES' LETTERS (Her oneline EZINE gets her a lot of LOVE AND SORROW MAIL, ) let that mail inspire you to handle the different kinds of abuse out there. But here's the trick. PUT THEM ASIDE. Just REMEBER what the writer's problem was. AND HANDLE IT THIS WAY.. Easy Breezy.
"Maisie was easy. She'd been giving free samples at cowboy bars for two decades. BEAUTIFUL but the lunch
meat was getting old. Her guru told her to try a MAN FAST. NO DATING, NO COURTSHIP, NO BARS..."
See, right away you have a MATTHEW MC CONNAUGHEY MOVIE PLOT We can just see THE RENEE CHARACTER trying not to see men, promising her guru not to be a slut any longer. And we want to see the path to the cure. WE WANT TO BUY THIS BOOK. KIDS today need a tight, witty interesting, plotty
APPROACH.. The book has to be an utter controversial sensation for today's youth to cough up 23$ for it. You were writing as if it were 1912. YOU ALSO had a STRAITLACED kind of CARRIE NATION FERVOR
and that's a turnoff too. LOOSEN YOUR GIRDLE, gal!
SHOULD I TELL MY OWN HORROR STORIES?
Well, rather than say at the front that your drunk mother put you in a tub and forgot
you and told you to stay there or she'd kill you, find a girl with similar
horrors and add that one in.
DO I GIVE MY OPINION?
No. Opinions are boring After you do a lot of chapters and we've accepted your many vignettes as
people who 'got it,' discovered how to cope. How to extricate themselves from bad patterns,
you want to put it over in the end? WHY I DID THIS BOOK?
I mean seriously do you want to tell your secret? MY MOM was an abusive drunk, tell it
in front? YOU COULD but then it makes you look as if you had some BIG BIAS.
Some potato to roast. Maybe later you go on oprah or phil and tell the audience why you wrote the
book ..horrific drunk Ma stories, by then you're famous, it's good copy,
sells more books. But not front and center before your 20 episodes of horror
stories. I feel it's much simpler than you want to make it.
just tell the stories of a dozen women you are GOING to find
on your ONLINE ADVICE COLUMN,, ABUSED WOMEN.
TALES OF FAMILY DYSFUNCTION. each original. non are fictional
they are all real as you met 'em online.
Just do try to avoid giving advice. NOT EVER ADVICE to these babes, per se.
You can point out that 'they're still treating people as IF they were the
abuser, and intepreting anything told them that sounds mildly
critical as mom was so horribly critical and attack prone...
so you're recollecting the same injustices all your life.
You can point it out. but opinions are cheap and kind of
tedious. like dipping your pen in lead paint. toxic, boring
Best tell the end of the story where we see how they solved it.
SO ask readers for horrors and solutions. That's the ticket.
No opinions, no 'this happened to me,'
keep it impersonal, masterly STORY TELLING.
read isaac bashevis singer short stories. he maintains that tone
VERY occas. it's a real lst person voice story that seemed to have happened to him.
but most of his stories are third person impersonal. wildly interesting!
Ode to a writer whose work I hacked
NEITHER THORNY NOR BRUTAL my edits
I JUST WANT THE GOODS TO MOVE!
Feel that good editors need credit
We get writers into the groove!
PROSE has to be stripped down and readable
like a speedy train flipping by.
The brain must compute the car's content
at the speed of the fast running EYE.
No faltering glitchy words blotted.
No 'what's this crap that I read?
I want people's brains sayin' "I GOT IT!"
Your pages to the AGES should LEAD!
The proof of the puddings the ACTION
How your readers later SHOW UP.
You're grooming the genius of tomorrow
from today's grimy young PUP!
She didn't laugh. She didn't answer. A week later I got an email. "NEVER WRITE ME AGAIN. I do not know you." I found it amazingly easy to do that. Too bad. I really wanted to see that Greek Mother-in-law unseated by all the millions Kathy would have.
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