Stop me before I write again

About three years ago, I went on a long day hike in Olympic National Park without a backpack or telling anyone where I was going. Then after a two-month recuperation following my search and rescue, I started to write a book about the entire experience.

If I ever try to do that again, please stop me. Please.

Once upon a time, books were works of art that were painstakingly written or copied by scribes, one letter at a time. Then in 1439, Johannes Gutenberg invented a mechanical printing press that allowed several identical copies (hand copied books weren't identical) to be produced at once.

The system hasn't improved much since.

Anyone who has tried to get a book published would even argue we've taken a step backwards.

Getting "Lost 65.5 hours in Olympic National Park: a cautionary tale" into print has been the most frustrating experience of my life short of wandering in the wilderness for three days and nights. OK, I went the self-publishing route (which I should have done 15 months ago) but it still has been frustrating.

I finished researching and writing "Lost 65.5 hours in Olympic National Park: a cautionary tale" in February 2007, about 14 months after I started.

The writing process was great, although it dragged on a little too long for various reasons.

I spoke with or conducted full-scale interviews with a half dozen Olympic National Park staff, two U.S. Coast Guardsmen and the owner of the bloodhound used to track me, plus numerous friends, family and co-workers.

I also researched the difference between mirages and hallucinations, national search and rescue procedure, medical terminology, U.S. Coast Guard helicopters, lost hiker behavior, wilderness survival statistics and even the number of the stories in a 245-foot building (about 20). It was a reporter's dream assignment.

Then, after 27 chapters and 43,000 words, I declared it done and tried to get someone with a writing background, later anyone, to read it over.

The first person I asked was one of the principal players in the story. He eventually decided the book brought back too many memories of the job he was working during the period described in the book, which was the worst experience of his professional life.

Next was an actual published author who gave me a lot of good advice about the book publishing industry. Then she got too busy with running her small business.

A couple of people who knew I was writing the book offered to take a look at it. I never heard from them again, at least not about the book. I even had one person offer to do it for money. OK, I thought, that will work. I proposed e-mailing two or three chapters to see how things went. I never heard back from that person either.

I finally went ahead and self-published on, prematurely as it turned out. (Thank goodness for print-on-demand.)

Several revisions followed. Changed the cover. Changed the title page. Added a copyright page. Figured out how to insert page numbers. Removed most of the song lyrics. Changed the longtime working title, twice. Found mistakes no one had spotted.

It was at this point I managed to run across a kind co-worker who read it over and noted where I had left out words or repeated words or whatever.

I made those corrections.

Now it's finished, finally finished, I think I'll stick to my singing.

Brian Gawley is the city, political and health reporter for the Gazette.

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