Posts Tagged ‘sex’

Healthy sex

April 29, 2012

Having completed a chapter for each decade of a woman’s life, I’m now turning my attention to the chapter dealing with the health issues that can affect sexual desire. Everything from a medication for high blood pressure to the invasive treatments for cancer can impact (read, diminish) a woman’s libido.

I gathered up almost 20 surveys that mentioned health issues and summarized their concerns for Dr. Whelihan. She sent me 1,500 words about those conditions, in relatively general terms. Now I’m phoning the survey takers for more specifics on their problems, and during a future work session, Mo and I will tailor her responses to each woman’s health concern.

I’ve returned to peruse some of the book’s opening chapters (written a year ago), and I’ll eventually edit each one so my voice stays consistent throughout the book. Something I didn’t anticipate on a long project like this is how much your voice and style evolve during the process. To keep each chapter sounding consistent, you have to continually edit.

Instead of creating a separate health chapter, I decided to segue into the subject from one of those early chapters, titled “A Day in the Life of the Doctor.” It introduces Dr. Whelihan through a “visit” to her office, and sets the scene for how she interacts with patients about sex.

One reason for this adjustment is the realization that many books deal with treatments for sexual dysfunction; very few deal with the subtleties of female sexual desire — and so that’s where we want to keep the focus. We don’t need to venture too heavily into sexual healing territory.

Our agent is still busy pitching the book to publishing houses. So far we’ve been rejected four times. I’m not feeling particularly devastated by this. I think the book is tremendously marketable and so does Maureen, so we remain confident. Plus, I was told that “The Help” was rejected 60 times before it found a publisher, which consoles me to no end.

Our rejection letters, which the agent forwards to us, are generally encouraging. However, one letter said our focus was too broad, and that we needed to hone the material down to a more specific age group. I understand the impulse that drives this suggestion, but I respectfully disagree. I think when you’re talking about sexual desire, whatever age group you leave out will have every right to raise their hands and proclaim “What about ME?”

What could I tell them if I excluded them from the study? “Sorry. Didn’t think you mattered.”

One way to address this concern would be to self-publish the book and market each chapter separately as an e-book. If a 20-something woman for instance cared only about her decade, she could pay $2.99 or whatever for that chapter, and not have to purchase the whole book. But then, isn’t she going to want to read the 30s chapter … you know, to check out how sex is going to be in the near future?

And say that reader is in her 60s. After she reads her decade’s chapter, won’t she be curious to read the 20s chapter to see what women her daughter’s age say about sex?

These are the aspects of marketing I ponder. And though I remain convinced people will want to read the entire book, I am very open to the idea of selling chapters individually online. It does make a lovely kind of sense, because it’s an inexpensive option to owning the book. Maybe someone buys their decade, is intrigued, and comes back for the whole book. Who could argue with that?

Meanwhile, Dr. Mo and I are giving the agent additional time to market our book on a more conventional track. I have no idea how many rejections it will take for us to abandon traditional publishing and embrace self publishing. I guess it depends on what future rejection letters say and how we come to feel about the whole process.

Do my readers have thoughts on this? What’s the magic number? How many no’s do you think we should collect before we merrily go our own way?

I’d be interested to hear … as you know, I’m learning as I go!

Longest. Chapter. Ever.

October 31, 2011

While summer’s woes kept me from finding a productive writing routine for my 30something women, a challenge of a different sort emerged as I leafed through the 47 pages of notes I collected while interviewing ladies in their 40s about their sexual desire. Every single sheet held such relevant, riveting content that the trick was deciding what I could leave out.

Not knowing what else to do, I just set sail on the chapter in the same fashion as I have for all the others. The process of coming at the decades from both ends (i.e. I started with the gals in their 90s, then went to the teens, then back to the 80s, then the 20s etc.), means I have left the most well-represented decades for last. I call the 40s and 50s our “fat decades,” because 300 women in their 40s filled out our survey and 290 50somethings. Compare that to 11 women in their 90s and just 27 teenagers and you can see why my moniker fits. (Since our surveys come from gynecological patients, it’s hardly surprising that women this age are heavily represented.)

Anyway, early this month, I began writing this chapter like all the others, thinking I’d finish in a week if I maintained my usual pace. At two to six hours a day (with six being amazing for me, admittedly), I can generally see the light at the end of the tunnel before too many days have passed.

Wrong. Deeply wrong.

After five days, I’m still just scraping the best stuff off the surface of my notes. At 10 days, I’m into the meat of things, but nowhere near the end. At 12 days, I experience a bit of panic because I still can’t see how the chapter will end.

Fortunately, I had breakfast the next day with a helpful friend. When I  poured out my problem, she suggested a solution that — while not ultimately workable — pushed me to think about the problem in a whole different way, thereby enabling me to see how I wanted to close the chapter.

I went home from our breakfast and worked all afternoon. The next day was a Saturday. I wrote for 4 hours. Ditto Sunday. Ditto Monday.

Still the chapter was not complete. I felt like I was in some weird circle of hell and no matter how much I wrote, I would never, never find the end of my chapter.

It’s not that I was unhappy with what I was writing. The material was fascinating and I kept finding new commonalities. And I wasn’t engaging in excessive procrastination: I was working daily. And yet — the chapter was like the Energizer Bunny; it kept going and going …

Toward the end of the month, I took two days off for a short trip with my Mom, who had arrived in the midst of my angst for a week’s visit. (She happily read books on my sun porch while I struggled to write my own in the front room.) Finally, with a last burst of energy fueled by those relaxing days, I was able to finish the chapter by month’s end. It clocks in at 32 pages, a full 10 pages longer than its closest competitor.

Even though it took so long to finish, I didn’t lose faith in the material or my process. And I reminded myself that women in their 40s are a huge part of the market for this book; I don’t think they will grow weary of reading their contemporaries’ stories and insights about what creates and sustains desire, especially in long-term relationships. That’s the heart of the book, and I wanted to stretch out and treat it as such.

No way to know if I’ve succeeded on a grand scale, of course, but Dr. Mo read it yesterday and proclaimed it chock-full of amazing stories and insights. (Tidbit: It turns out that four of the eight women who gave in-depth interviews for this decade had participated in a threesome. For the 40s decade, that’s a pretty significant number. So of course, an entire section is dedicated to those stories.)

Though I would love nothing better than to rest on my laurels and celebrate finishing the Longest Chapter Ever — which unfortunately followed the Slowest Chapter Ever — I cannot. It is time to throw myself into the 60s. With 193 women surveyed in this decade, I’m aiming again for eight in-depth interviews, though I bet I’d settle for seven.

And now I have to wonder … will I be able to write the 60s in a week, or will their stories once again force me into overtime?

One decade a month

January 17, 2011

If I’ve talked to you recently about my book, you understand this post’s title. If not, here’s the quick version.

Every month this year, my goal is to write a chapter about one of the decades in women’s lives and what affects her sexual desire during that time period. It shifts with every decade, to no one’s surprise, and we want to chronicle the major influences (love, feelings of security, stress, children, exhaustion, physical impediments, etc.) and track them throughout a woman’s lifetime. The survey provides statistics and trends, but the interviews will give the book its stories, its characters, its life.

I started with the teens: Our youngest survey respondent was 15, but we began collecting surveys a year and a half ago, so all the women are older now that interviews are actually occurring. I chose the teens because only 27 filled out our survey — it’s a small number and I can get it done in this short month. (Short because I didn’t get home from Texas till the 4th and then didn’t get my routine put back together for a week after that.)

When I told an astute journalist friend I planned to work my way on up through the decades, he wryly commented that I needed to interview the 90-year-olds next. Point taken. February shall be the month for the oldest of my ladies. And won’t that be an interesting juxtaposition for my overtaxed little brain, struggling as it is already with surprise from the teens’ revelations? In fact, I’ve decided to interview additional teenagers in order to determine if the few I’ve met are typical or atypical. (No, I am not going to spill everything right here. You shall be required to BUY THE BOOK.)

Meanwhile, I struggle with questions of whether to renew my search for an agent or just keep plugging away at the actual book. I fully realize that an agent is crucial, that it’s a seminal relationship for a writer. I know it will take trial and error to find a good one. So I shy away from that work because I’m trying to really plug into getting chapters completed — lock, stock and barrel. Why can’t I be better at multi-tasking? It doesn’t seem like making both things happen would be impossible if I’d just apply myself.

The other thing looming for me is to do more than a cursory search for women’s conferences in this part of the country and then make myself available to the people who book them to talk at said conferences. A well-connected, book-world friend told me recently that publishers love writers who’ve already spoken publicly about their work.

Well, it’s easy and fun for me to talk about this book, so I figure I’ll make some inroads in that direction this month as well. If women at conferences react like my Mom’s book club did over the holidays, I’ve got it made. I sat down to share with the ladies some of the findings from the survey and within three minutes, the 65-year-old woman on my left exclaimed, “This is WAY more interesting than book club!”

Ma’am, you have no idea.