Monday, February 6, 2012

Nurse Log Books - Gayle Forman Event

A couple weeks ago, Gayle Forman (If I Stay and Where She Went) came into town for a book festival. Her presentation was a little unconventional. She discussed three entire books she's written that will never see the light of day. They're living in the cemetery of her hard drive. She calls these Nurse Log Books.

nurse log - a large decomposing tree trunk that has fallen, usually in a forest; the decaying wood provides moisture and nutrients for a variety of insects and plants
The books she's written between the ones that have actually gotten published may not ever be loose in the wild, but they aren't without purpose. They led her to the books that have gotten published. She says as a writer, you always have to be working on something, and sometimes you have to write the wrong book in order to write the right book.

Do you have any nurse log books? I'd say the first "complete" novel I wrote was definitely one. It's mostly junk, but it was like one giant exercise in writing. I stretched my writer legs on it. It was my 5k leading up to the marathon.

Bullet Points of Interest from Gayle Forman's presentation:

-If I Stay was actually her third published book, but it's the first one anyone paid attention to.
-Never intended on a sequel for If I Stay, but the characters would wake her up at 3am saying, "What have you done with us?"
-If I Stay was inspired by a family of four that she knew that all died in a car crash. The 8 year old lived longer and was life-flighted. She was struck by that, wondering if he knew his family was gone and chose to go with them.
-She never thought If I Stay would have done so well. She's still shocked that this thing she wrote in the corner of her family room is read by people all over the world, and she gets emails from readers in places like Indonesia.
-If she had actually set out to write a book with a message to teens about how fleeting life is, it would have failed.
-As a writer/author, the only thing you can control is what you're writing now. You can't control who reads it, how it does, what happens with the movie, etc. 


  1. These are fabulous tips! Thanks for sharing your notes. I haven't read If I Stay, but now I must.

    I do have a nurse log, several actually. I like the thought of them feeding my imagination and giving me courage to continue.
    Catherine Denton

  2. Great advice. I really like her books and I like what she says about the nurse log. It is so true.

  3. Wow, that is such awesome advice! And I love the term nurse log--that's exactly how I view the first couple of books that I've written. So glad you got to go hear her speak!

  4. I have a few nurse logs too (great term)! One I turned into two other books: another nurse log and a book that will get published this year...go figure.

    Love Gayle Forman's books. So lucky you got to hear her speak.

  5. wow, she made great points. And I have a couple nurse logs.

  6. Amazing. She sounds like a very intelligent person. I would love to see her some day! That's great about the books that will never get published. I often forget that published authors have books that never made it and never will.

  7. That's really great advice she gave. It's reassuring to know even great writers have these failed books as well. I haven't read her books, but I know how much attention If I Stay got.

  8. First of all, I love Gayle's books. Second, I think we all have at least one nurse logged. I also have 3 (though one I am bringing back as a collaboration and rewriting it). You can only control what you're writing now. I like that;)

  9. Wow, what a great idea! I do have one of those nurse log books festering on my computer. I love thinking of how it lead me to write the next ones. Very positive.

    I loved If I Stay...

  10. Thanks for sharing! I have several "nurse logs" and I think Gayle is absolutely right that writing a wrong book can often lead you to writing the right book. Great post!