I have to admit, I find my book project a bit daunting. It’s larger and more complex than any book I’ve written before, and when someone I respect asked if I thought it might be over ambitious, I had to ask myself whether he might be right. But then again, I have to do it anyway.

Today’s challenge provides one way to test whether the story has legs without having to struggle through the whole 90,000 (or more) complicated words of it. Without entangling myself too much before I even start.

#DareToExcel Challenge #9:

Sometimes big ideas daunt us because of their big-ness.  Instead of trying to “publish” your project in full form, how could you test it out on a smaller audience? Maybe even behind-the-scenes?

  • Define the prototype–what you actually will create at a significantly reduced scale; allow for messiness, allow for mistakes and imperfections
  • Define what you’re testing for
  • Invite a few people behind the scenes
  • Invite feedback

In the words of Lean Start-up author Eric Riess, then decide whether to move forward and persevere to publish the big project or to pivot toward a different project

I’ve actually done a little bit of this already, sharing the story and structure of the book with a few select people. I’ve gotten very positive responses and some important questions to ponder. I’ve learned that the story is important and needs telling, not just for me, but for its audience as well. I’ve learned that just because the protagonist and her struggle is based on me, doesn’t mean she is me, which means I can fictionalize it, freeing me from a lot of anxiety around how to map my life to the story without making it feel forced. But I have more to learn. To that end, I will:

  1. Create a short treatment of the book–either a plot summary, concept teaser, or short story
  2. Test for proof of theme and concept, whether people find it valuable, and if the complex structure works
  3. Share it with a select 3 to 5 individuals to start (I already have 3 people in mind)
  4. Where possible, follow up with a phone call to gather and discuss feedback; where phone doesn’t work, I’ll use online chat

I’d like to have the prototype complete by the end of July, but with everything I have going on right now, it will more likely be mid August.

Regardless of the results, I know this story must be told, but how it gets written and what form it takes are still in flux. Who knows, it could turn into a screenplay, a series of quilts with associated poems, a blog series, a travelog, an online self-help workshop… perhaps even more than one of these over time.

In this world of endless possibilities it can be easy to get lost. This prototype idea seems like a great way to define one small concrete part–an anchor to still the drift, a cornerstone, perhaps, upon which the rest can be built.