1. ReptilesBlade
    Offline

    ReptilesBlade New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2013
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Overland Park KS

    Help me write my life story and get off disability.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by ReptilesBlade, Apr 11, 2014.

    Hello.

    I am making this topic because I want a little help focusing on writing a book about my life surviving with a complex heart and lung condition. I was born with what is known as tetrology of fallot with pulmonary valve atresia in 1982. I was the third person ever treated for the condition and the first to ever survive. My lungs are also half the normal size with all circulation to my right lung being artificially created with what is known as a BT Shunt.

    I have always wanted to write this book just to tell my story and give whatever help I can to those who are going through something similar, if only to let them know that someone else has gone through it before them and survived. I have had a few false starts thus far but I feel I am finally ready to pull this off.

    I am disabled and while I was able to work for a number of years I am no longer able to hold down a traditional job due to my condition degrading. My last attempt ended with me getting three different jobs within three months only to be able to work for 3-4 days and then have to recover in bed for the next week each time. I am sitting at home taking care of the housework on Social Security Disability while my wife works and goes to college in order to pay most of the bills. I cover rent and a few of the utilities and her income has to cover everything else including health insurance for us both. I want to try and make it easier on her, pay off a few past due medical bills, and have a little bit of a savings like a normal person.

    I figured I would start off about my earliest life and memories growing up in a trailer park in the woods outside of a small Midwestern town with my mother who had to support me, my sister, and my manic depressive abusive father. I intend to include both the good times and the bad because there were honestly and equal amount of both. I would then move onto entering school and truly beginning to understand and being forced to come to terms with how different I was from everyone else. As one example there was the event where I blacked out due to heart complications in early first grade during recess which directly lead to me being banned from recess and gym forevermore and instead spending that time in the library. Many of my early childhood memories are filled with the hours I spent there exploring the world through books and the early Apple IIe computer systems that were available to me. In hindsight there is no wonder I grew to be a nerd who spends most of his free time playing video games or reading even at the age of 32.

    There would also be a chapter on my teenage years which improved remarkably when my mother remarried to a wonderfully nice man who adopted my sister and I as his own. His family is mostly gone now but they were all wonderful loving people. I especially grew close to his father, an elderly southern man who passed away in his mid 80s that had spent his life working himself to the bone for his family on a cotton gin and who never met a stranger. There is still an ongoing joke in the family. "How many stories can an old man of 86 tell you? One! Over and over and over again!"

    Then of course there were my twenties marked by sadness, depression, and thoughts of suicide. The catalyst for which was an inability to have an honest chance to earn a living during my early twenties and to find a woman who would accept me due to my health even when I was fully employed in my mid and late twenties. Overall age 20-28 was a very dark time for me and frankly I almost did not make it through it. Even though the worse of it was over when I finally met the woman who became my wife when I was 28 from then on I have dealt with my further declining health and learning to deal with spending what should be my most productive years in a forced early retirement.

    That is what this is, a final attempt to resist this forced early retirement while I still might have even a remote chance of doing so. My wife is an English major with some writing and editing experience and can and will act as an editor for this book to ensure that the quality is there. Once complete I figured I would sell it as an ebook first but try to get it published shortly after completion.

    Any help, insight, or advice you might have would be greatly appreciated. I have never done this before but I really want and need this to succeed.
     
    Augen Blick likes this.
  2. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    Hi ReptilesBlade :) I also got sick when I was 33, and decided I could no longer cope with 60+ hour weeks. I too felt stopped in my prime and felt like I just wasted over a decade of hard work and education. I'm better now, but it'll be a while before I could physically tackle a full time job. I'm very sad to hear how difficult it's been for you financially. I am lucky, my husband has a well paid job, and we have free healthcare, but even with that, we struggled to keep our business afloat in the recession etc. So I went back to my old love - writing. I started writing short stories about a significant part of my life. It wasn't sad and depressing, but if that's a topic you want to explore, go for it. Write some stories, see how you feel. I realised I really love fiction, so I started writing it, together with some opinion pieces, after the shorts and then moved onto novels. I'd recommend you keep an open mind about the topic. Autobiographies, especially depressing ones and about people who aren't celebrities, don't tend to sell. I don't mean to discourage you, of course, but keep an open mind about fiction. It sells much better, you can create your own world, have sequels, that is where the money is. Not in the first book, but in all the others. Best of luck!
     
    Augen Blick likes this.
  3. jannert
    Offline

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,772
    Likes Received:
    7,280
    Location:
    Scotland
    Are you planning to write fiction or non-fiction?

    If it's fiction you're writing, you'll need to tell good stories. Whether they come from your imagination, or contain a character who is in a similar situation to yourself, is up to you. You won't get any particular attention because of your physical condition, so your stories will need to be as polished and absorbing as anybody else's.

    I'm reminded of the English author Rosemary Sutcliffe, who was crippled and housebound for most of her life—child and adult—and never married and was cared for by her mother. Although she was sealed off from the 'real world,' Miss Sutcliffe wrote fantastic historical novels that sold in the millions. While her style is outdated, and she tended to resolve her story problems a bit too neatly at times, I am totally impressed by her ability to 'think' herself into the characters she wrote, and to create believable scenarios and settings for them to move. She not only made a living as a writer, but she made a very GOOD living as a writer, and her books are still in print.

    Stories need to have a beginning, middle and end, a central conflict, resolution of that conflict, etc etc. It's not enough to just tell your 'life story,' however unusual it may be. You will need to study what makes a story work.

    If you're writing non-fiction, of course, you have a bit more leeway as to how you present your situation.

    Many people will be interested in reading about you, especially if your life has been unusual. The trick is to think of an angle. What is the most important thing you would like readers to 'know' about you? What is the most important thing you would like readers to know about your condition? How should they feel when they close the book at the end? Will they walk away with the desire to learn more, or maybe even get involved in helping people in similar circumstances? Will they learn that people are people despite handicaps? Will they learn that even a person with a severe handicap can have a good life, if they find the right person to share it with?

    I would say to maybe just start writing and don't worry too much yet. But be aware that eventually you'll need to focus and tighten your approach. Don't worry overmuch about getting it 'right' from the start. Just write for a while and see what happens.

    It might help to 'tell' your story to somebody you know, as if you were talking directly to them. Or maybe target your story at somebody you wish would understand.

    I would caution against dwelling too long on unpleasant childhoods, maniac depressive fathers, etc. It's enough to let us know what that was like, and that it was part of your past. However, that's not what makes your story unique. Lots and LOTS of people deal with this kind of dysfunctional upbringing. I'd say focus on what made your life unique. What special things did you do to survive and learn? What were the specific obstacles that you faced BECAUSE of your physical condition? These are the kinds of things a reader will want to know.

    Just write and see what comes up. After you've got a few chapters' worth, then maybe show it to your wife to get help - if you need it - with grammar, punctuation, etc. Then maybe post some of it here on the forum for feedback. But above all, think about it yourself and see how you feel about it after you've written some of it. You may very well have generated lots of ideas you didn't have at the start. That's when writing becomes fun.

    I have no doubt your personal story can be very readable, and interesting. An autobiography of somebody whose life has been very unusual is always bound to sell, if it's well-written. See what you can do, and good luck!
     
    Augen Blick, 123456789 and FrankieWuh like this.
  4. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't see your story working as fiction, as it's intensely personal and to inspire others facing such hardship it really needs to be written as a memoir or an autobiography... which is what i assumed you had in mind...

    i've helped many memoir/autobio writers with their life stories and did rewrites on two memoirs, one of which involved a battle with a debilitating disease, so if you need any help/info/advice along the way, you can always reach me with a click of your mouse...

    unfortunately, however, a single book of this type has little to no chance of getting you off disability... the market for such books, which is narrow to begin with, is flooded with both traditional and self-published stories of overcoming illness and other life challenges, so it's highly unlikely you will make enough from sales to replace your income from
    disability payments or a salaried job...

    i wish you the best of luck and success with your book and in life...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
    Augen Blick likes this.
  5. ReptilesBlade
    Offline

    ReptilesBlade New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2013
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Overland Park KS
    Thanks for all the encouraging words thus far.

    This is meant to be non-fiction. Though I hope to write fiction eventually. I have always loves sci-fi and fantasy.

    I have not had much time but do plan to type up a more detailed response. But this will have to be good enough as this is the best I can do on only a little bi of time tonight and a cat blocking half the computer screen. Why he does this I don't know. He just does and he never goes away.

    Would it even be possible to make say $15k from it? That is the most I can make on disability in a year and still keep getting Disability. It would effectively double my income and certainly be enough to just help me feel like a decent functional person again.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    i don't see how... certainly not in one year, anyway...

    the sad fact is that you will most likely have to self publish it, since autobios/memoirs by comparative 'nobodies' with medical/physical/mental problems who want to tell their story of surviving same are 'a penny a hundred' [marked down from a dime a dozen] nowadays, when anyone with a computer can turn out a book and put it up on kindle, or nook, or get it into print with createspace, lulu, or whatever... which means paying publishers won't be interested in your book unless 1. you are a brilliant writer of exceptional talent and 2. your story is so totally different from all the others of the ilk, that it's a guaranteed bestseller... neither of which are likely to be true, sorry to say...

    so, first you have to write the book, right?... most beginners take a year or more to just complete a first draft, which then may take another year or more to edit and polish into a final draft that can be printed as is... when you are finally ready to put it out there, you can sell it as an e-book without it costing you a penny, but to get people to buy it, you'll have to put a low enough price on it that they'll be willing to pay it, for a book by someone they've never heard of who's written in great and gory detail about awful stuff most folks won't have the stomach to read about, no matter how affordable it may be [at more than $.99, you won't get many sales other than to family and friends] ...

    even if you can get some sold at $10, it would still mean you'd have to sell 1,500 to meet your goal, which i can't see happening...

    on the other hand, if you can actually find a publisher willing to take it on, you still have to write it, edit and polish it, which will take the same amount of time... and then, from the moment you sign the contract, it usually takes from 18 months to 2 years, before the book will be out in bookstores and on amazon, ready to be sold...

    and, when it is sold, you will only be paid a small percentage of the retail price per book... and again, sales are minimal for this type of book, and it would have to sell in the tens or hundreds of thousands, for you to make $15k from it... which, if even possible, would take several years...

    i wish i had better news for you, rb, but that's the 'awful truth' writers have to face...

    love and consoling hugs, maia
     
    jazzabel likes this.
  7. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,564
    Likes Received:
    3,561
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Have you read Dave Eggers's A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius? It's a memoir and brilliantly written, and I think one of the reasons for it having sold so well when it was published was the writer's ability to entertain while he makes you cry if not on the outside, at least on the inside. Similarly Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes became a hit, combining a similar formula of humor and tragedy. If you read a few acclaimed memoirs/autobiographies, see how the writers have divided their lives into chapters and sections, what their angle has been etc. that might help you to find the tone and where to start. Not saying you should copy or imitate them, but those were two successful memoirs by nobodies who could write very well and engagingly. If you can learn to write like that, perhaps you'd be able to find a publisher, too. Self-pubbing is also a good route, but while it gives you full autonomy, you have to also promote it yourself.
     
    Augen Blick likes this.
  8. Augen Blick
    Offline

    Augen Blick Member

    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2014
    Messages:
    43
    Likes Received:
    25
    Location:
    UK Manchester
    What an inspiring thread.

    Well I am by no means in any position to offer any writing advice. I just wish you all the best.
     

Share This Page