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Question
Dear Susan,
I want to write a non -fiction book about my experiences with Alopecia.  It is a condition I have had since I was 5 years old and I am now 35.  I have a lot of stories to tell about my experiences growing up with Alopecia, how I was bullied and treated by people and how I have learned to deal with hair loss.  I have turned the situation to my advantage and now have around 30 differnet wigs!  I want to tell my story to help and hopefully inspire other people with Alopecia.  How do I start?  What form of writing should I use?  What makes a book easy to read?  I would appreciate any help you might be able to give me.
I hope to hear from you soon.
Kind regards,
Michelle Chapman

Answer
Dear Michelle:

The first thing I would suggest is that you examine your material carefully. Do you have enough to support a whole book? How long do you think this book will be, 50,000 words? 80,000? How will it balance - that is, how many words will be devoted to the condition itself and how many to your experiences with it? Look at it from a publisher's point of view: who will buy/read your book? What kind of market can you count on? People who suffer from Alopecia may buy, but how many people is that? If you decide to try to publish it, you must be prepared to convince a publisher that the market is large enough to earn a profit over expenses, and expenses are high.

The second thing I would suggest is that you consider condensing this down into a magazine article. It would make a good, tight article, with a large market - many magazines publish personal-experience pieces. Get hold of a recent Writers' Market and see how many there are. I believe your chances of selling to a magazine are fairly good, whereas the chance you might sell such a book are dismal to none - that is just my opinion, of course.

If after all my discouraging predictions you still want to write the book, here's how to start: buy yourself a pack of 3x5 cards and on each one, list an experience you had as a result of having Alopecia - good or bad. As you are writing these out, you may see a pattern emerging that will suggest to you a way to structure (arrange) your material.

The question of "what makes a book easy to read" is much too broad in scope for this answer. If you want to come back and ask specific questions, I will do my best to answer. If you have trouble with that, let me know and I will do what I can.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my "straight 10" record over 140+ questions!

And good luck with your book.  

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Susan Rand

Expertise

I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at http://pygmypress.com, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.

Experience

I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

Education/Credentials
BA degree in Written Communication

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