Help suzzer write this !@#(@#@#&&& book

Well it’s taken 3 months but I’m finally happy with the first 3 paragraphs of the “meat” of my book - where the actual trip starts. Ultimately I think it was worth it as I had to answer a lot of basic questions about what I’m trying to actually say and what the tone is going to be. I even went back to Baja in the meantime - which was essential to clarifying some of this stuff.

Chapter 3 - The longest journey begins with the first beer.

Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety.
Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.
I have tried prudent planning long enough.
From now on I’ll be mad.
― Rumi

I first “discovered” the Baja peninsula on our giant wall map in Mrs Howe’s 3rd grade classroom. I daydreamed, why does the Gulf of California not even touch California? That’s weird. What’s the water like in the gulf? Is it brown and muddy or blue like the ocean? Wait - that long bony finger of land is also called California - Baja California. What the heck is that thing? Do people even live there? If so it must be really weird living on such a long skinny piece of land with water on both sides. If you live at the bottom does it feel like you’re on an island?

Yet somehow despite exploring the US and Canadian West as a hobby for the last 20 years, I had failed to learn the answers to most of those questions. To my great shame, in all that time I’d never made it further south than Ensenada. There, barely 50 miles down the 800-mile long peninsula, was to begin my great unknown, the first leg of my trip. It was finally time to take the excellent Baja Adventure Book off the shelf from which it silently mocked me for 17 years.

I would ultimately discover a rugged landscape where nature is still winning; where water and arable land are in extremely short supply, yet breathtaking beauty is as abundant as oxygen. I glimpsed how a place so hostile to basic human needs could still inspire a mysterious ancient people to produce some of the world’s most impressive cave-paintings. Through a series of what I’ve coined “Baja moments”, I came to feel a kinship with the artists, writers, adventurers and dreamers who have been drawn to Baja for centuries, if not millennia. Like writers before me, I will make a valiant albeit flailing attempt to bring life to these mystical, numinous moments–which by definition cannot adequately be expressed in words–that speak to something inside me I will never fully comprehend.

But before we can get to all that existential stuff, I had plans to meet up with my buddy Gramps in Tijuana for a few beers.

It still needs a lot of tweaks but at least I don’t feel like ripping it up and starting over like I constantly did for months.

Anyway I figure this can’t be any more onerous than the gym log threads - so hopefully you will indulge me pasting stuff here every now and then. I hope it will be motivating.


Have you read Ken Jenning’s Maphead? He ha s moment that’s very much like the first paragraph.

No I’ll put it on my list.

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Maybe you can sprinkle in a few of your buddy Gramps favorite conspiracy theories just to add a little flavor.

Sorry if this was explained elsewhere, but is the book about Baja travels specifically, or is this a chapter in a book about all of your travels?

Baja is the first section of the book - which covers my road trip through Mexico and all of Central America.

I think your writing is generally pretty good, but you definitely need an editor; “I daydreamed, why does the Gulf of California not even touch California?” doesn’t make sense (you daydream ABOUT things, you don’t just daydream them) and that “Like writers before me” sentence just needs to be dragged behind the barn and shot - it’s an awkward departure from style. Do you have ambitions of publishing the thing, or do you just want to write a book?

Thanks a lot. I appreciate the candid reaction. I do have an editor, my defacto sister (we grew up in the same house as kids) who edits books for a living - big ace in the hole for me. She’s already given me some great advice - but not on this part yet. Also this is a very rough cut.

“I daydreamed, …” was an attempt at a unique turn of phrase that probably fails. However - I really struggled to get across in a compact way that I was daydreaming in class and looking at the wall map when I “discovered” Baja, and then the rest follows. Feel free to take a stab at that (anyone, please). I think I have a mental block.

“Like writers before me” is an attempt to sneak in the fact that I’m going to be quoting a few writers throughout the section on Baja - but yeah I don’t like it either. My original draft of this tried to list those writers as well as sum up some of the historical stuff I plan to include from Baja. But that was just godawful - it felt like a 4th grade book report, and it went on and on and on. I feel like 3 paragraphs is ideal for an intro like this.

I feel the intro to Baja is tremendously important to get right and be grabby and interesting and unique - as it’s the first part of the meat of the book. I like this draft much better - as it’s shorter and only punches the main theme - the Baja moments - while hinting at some other stuff. I’m not super worried about the stylistic stuff as I’m pretty hard on myself and I will be going back and refining and refining - and then my editor will be pouring over it. But I agree it’s very rough.

As far as the book - I’m trying to write a Bill Bryson book, but in my voice with my inner monologue. I’ll never have his incredible vocabulary or diction - but maybe I can make up for it with my weird takes on the world. Much like Bill Bryson, I accept that my first book will probably be all over the map (I think his first book - about his and Katz’s trip to Europe as college kids - sold nothing). So maybe it will take the 2nd or 3rd book before I find what works and what doesn’t, and refine my style. And that’s ok.

The most important thing to me is actually writing this thing. Every other goal doesn’t really matter much if I don’t actually write the damn book, right? So to that end it has to be fun for me to write, which means I have to just throw everything I am thinking against the wall. I know a lot of it won’t work and will either come out in the editing, or help me understand what works and what doesn’t for subsequent books.

Input from this thread as well as some friends I’m bouncing drafts off of will also be really helpful to learning what lands and what doesn’t. One big lesson from my standup days is you can think a joke is the funniest thing in the world, but you never know until you try it out. Conversely a throw-away line that you were just using as a segue can sometimes get huge laughs. I had a whole joke about muff-diving etiquette that did pretty well, but the biggest laughs always came at the end when I said “Miss Manners hasn’t gotten back to me yet.” - which to me was just a throwaway to transition to the next joke.

Ultimately I hope to write a book I think I would love to read. That’s all I can do. I love to read Bill Bryson books, and they do pretty well, so hopefully there’s some chance at crossover there. It should be funny, compelling, and informative - in that order.

If I like it and it never sells, that’s ok. I know a lot of lucky things have to happen for any new author to get discovered.

My mom has actually corresponded with Bill Bryson a few times. She wrote him out of the blue right after 9/11 to tell him that Walk in the Woods was the only thing bringing her joy and allowing her to laugh. He sent her back a long heartfelt letter. Once the book is written I plan to “shoot my shot” and have my Mom send a copy to him.


I’m totally pulling this advice out of my ass, but I’m thinking you need to write a lot of shit down fast. It may be ridiculously short in places, you may blather on about something that might not seem worthwhile at first, it may totally suck or maybe just half suck. Then rewrite that.

Just seems like being hung up at the level paragraphs and sentences at this point is going to keep you (someone admittedly and apparently not tremendously prolific at this) from getting very far.

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I actually already did that for most of Baja. I took my blog and expounded on it. But I do need to add in the stuff I researched, historical, the authors I want to quote, etc.

So now that I’ve at least got something I don’t completely hate for the first few paragraphs of Baja I should be able to move a little faster. I know what you’re saying - but getting stuck on those paragraphs helped me clarify what exactly I’m trying to say. What is my main theme. So I think it might have been worth it.

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She has a point.

Well I like getting “Mrs. Howe’s 3rd grade classroom” in there to give it some realism/immediacy. But maybe that doesn’t work?

Maybe a preceding sentence about Mrs Howe or her classes to give some context for what follows.

Well she had a Hawaii fetish and if we earned enough WOW points during the year, we got a luau at the end of the year. Not sure that’s relevant though.

She also told us Hawaiians dealt with birth defects by dropping the baby into the ocean and “Isn’t that just a beautiful thing?”. I have not confirmed if Hawaiians actually did this.

Btw I have no idea if it was in her class that I had the moment of wondering about the Gulf of California. But I feel like it happened in class at some point. Not really important. Although my daydreaming and ADHD is a bit of a recurring theme in the book.

I start this class tonight

Hopefully I get a lot out of it.

Course Outline

  • Learn why discipline and a writing practice help writers complete projects
  • Develop practical tools to combat procrastination and writer’s block
  • Commit to writing over a six-week period and learn how to sustain your momentum
  • Identify ways you can structure your life to make room for regular writing sessions

This speaks to me.


I think you learned Spanish, as well as a lot about people and culture along the way; are you including that as a theme? It seems like a big part of who you are – enjoying being non-American when not in America, escaping from middle America to become a political person with a completely different world view from that of your cohort. Did it just happen, was it a struggle, did you have enemies or foils (middle America itself? Chiefs Planet?) who wanted to stop or reverse your progress?

What are the other themes in the book? Looking through some Bill Bryson reviews, here are some:

  • the journey is the destination
  • humor, including humorous characters
  • interesting language
  • detailed observations
    What else?

I agree with Microbet that you should be cranking out pages of material. That’s the way past any blockage. Write anything, whether it ends up in the book or not. Write say four chapters without editing over a period of a few weeks, and then spend a day or two on each chapter noticing/remembering what you missed (maybe referring to your photo library, if you have not already), and forming it to fit your desired thematic impressions.


I first “discovered” the Baja peninsula while daydreaming to our giant wall map in Mrs Howe’s 3rd grade classroom. I wondered - why does the Gulf of California not even touch California?

Anyone like this better? The only thing that weirds me out is it sounds like “jerking off to” something.

It flows a bit better. One bigger thing is I’d drop the whole paragraph from “like writers before me…”. Don’t tell me you’ll tell me existential stuff and tell me you’re operating in a tradition of blah blah blah. It sounds self-important. Don’t tell me what you’re gonna tell me, just tell me. It’s the story of your travels, let us discover this stuff with you.

Also, maybe don’t get hung up on getting this intro right. Write some hundreds more pages before coming back to it. It will give you a better idea of what you’re introducing and a more experienced perspective on it.

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Thanks yeah I’ve moved on from the intro, but I still go back and read it every now and then. I’ve changed some more parts of it.