Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Process for Producing My Memoir




Three weeks have passed since I posted the announcement that I’d asked nine readers to assess my recently completed convent memoir. I’ve heard from four of them. By the end of the month I hope to know what the others think about the story. Today I’ll detail how I got to the fourth draft that I sent them.
      In my last posting, I explained that I began the memoir back in July 2014. By October, I had a first draft of 65,000 words. Everything was there, I thought, except for the ending. It didn’t share itself with me.
      I decided to take a month off. In that way, I might come back to the manuscript as if the words didn’t belong to me. Then I could see more easily how to edit it into a second draft.
       In fact, three months passed before I returned to writing. During that time, I experienced a severe allergic reaction to medication, deepening concern about my rising glaucoma pressure, and two bouts of pneumonia. None of this was conducive to assessing that first draft.
     By mid-February 2015, I felt healthy enough to begin work on a second draft. As I mused about those long-ago convent days, I added newly remembered anecdotes. However, my work was sporadic because within six weeks, I was in Emergency with a back problem that left me unable to sit at the computer for more than ten minutes at a time.
      In May, I completed that second draft. It was now 92,000 words. Once again I planned on taking a month off and then beginning a third, and possibly, final draft. However, new health problems waylaid that plan.
      By mid-August I began to feel equal to writing again. To begin, I read the second draft. It was ponderous and repetitious. I realized then that I could spend many more months, maybe years, fooling around with the memoir. It might never get done. So I decided to impose a deadline on myself. To do so, I contacted readers to ask if they’d have time during the month of November to read the memoir.            
      With that self-imposed deadline, I began the proposed third draft in which I hoped to rid the manuscript of repetition. By mid-October, I had cut 10,000 words and was down to 82,000. That still seemed long to me. I wanted to get in the 70-75,000 range.
      Now I had only a week to clear my mind before I began a final pass-through. I spent the final two weeks of October working on the fourth draft. That eye-opening experience revealed haphazard writing. I found countless extraneous words. Rambling sentences. Poor transition and organization.
      Also, because many sentences gravitated between who I was in 1958 and who I am now, readers would be torn between two time periods. I wanted to draw them into the world of 1958-1966 and keep them there for the duration of the memoir.
      With these problems in mind, I ruthlessly cut the third draft to create a fourth one. By October 31, 2015, I had a 74,000-word manuscript that represented what Dee Ready/Sister Innocence thought and felt nearly fifty years ago. It was as authentic as I could make it.
       Now I need to trust my readers to tell me if I’ve succeeded in my attempt to capture that young woman’s joy and angst. In my next posting, I’ll let you know how those readers have responded to the memoir.  

40 comments:

  1. I was one of your readers/editors & I loved the book!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Fishducky, yes, you were, and I so appreciate the copyediting you did and the words you used to describe your response! Peace.

      Delete
  2. I believe you have done a true piece of work and it will be as fascinating as the bits we already know.
    You made your avatar your header. For the first time I see it is a bird taking flight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Joanne, I do feel like a bird taking flight. For some reason I'm feeling that the stars are aligned and "all my ducks are in place" and that as I enter my eighties my dreams about being published will be realized. Peace.

      Delete
    2. To paraphrase Joann Worley from "Laugh In"; is that a duck joke?

      Delete
    3. Dear Fish"ducky," oophs . . . it is! Peace.

      Delete
  3. Good luck Dee. I hope the work is indeed nearly done. And I really, really hope there are no more health issues pushing their way into your life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear EC, I'm hoping that the readers will find the memoir well-written and interesting. If all goes well, I will then do the final polishing draft in December and early January. Then by mid-January I hope to be sending out queries to agents. But we all know that my "best-laid plans" oft go awry! I"m just trusting that all shall be well. Peace.

      Delete
  4. I look forward to hearing what your readers have to say about your memoirs, Dee. I myself have toyed with the idea of writing a memoir, but I really have reservations about actually doing it. Your health issues have been a major stumbling block, but it seems you are still continuing to move forward. Kudos to you! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear DJan, I encourage you to do your memoir. Your life has been truly interesting--not just to you but to all of us who follow your two blogs. Just the things you've done since retirement would make an inspiring book. And you write well. Also. I always feel a sense of your caring about what you write as well as caring for your readers. Both are essential. My vote? You need to go for it! Peace.

      Delete
  5. With each pass we do see more and it does turn out more tight indeed, hopefully that will be the final pass needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Pat, you would know about pass throughs with all the books you've written. Like you, I hope the next pass is just polishing. Peace.

      Delete
  6. I hear a tone of satisfaction in your words. You have got to this place through much hard work and you should be so proud. I am sure you will get excellent feedback that will take you to the next step on your journey. Dee, you are a special lady with a very interesting story. I, and many others, look forward to reading your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Arleen, your words set me to reflecting on how I really do feel. And you're right--I'm proud of myself. The past year has been difficult at times. Ill health affected my spirits and several times I really felt down in the dumps--sure that none of my dreams of being published would ever be realized.

      But somehow, by some grace, I managed to complete the story. And that took some grit and feistiness on my part. Courage I really didn't know I had. Thank you for recognizing it. And thank you, Arleen, so much for your words of support. Peace.

      Delete
  7. It sounds like you have done a lot of editing work and tightened up the memoir. Looking forward to hearing what people thought. I think keeping it all in the voice of the young you so that it is immediate was a good choice. Best of luck, Dee! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Rita, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the "voice." It felt right to me. Peace.

      Delete
  8. Keep moving forward with your memoir. It will be a great source of satisfaction for you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Linda, it is truly giving me great satisfaction! Peace.

      Delete
  9. I think one of the hardest things is being able to trust others to give as a true opinion of what has been written and not be too sensitive about any negative feedback because lets be honest while positive feedback feels good we need to know if something isn't quiet right as well we can't fix what we don't know about that said you only need to fix something if a few different people say the same negative thing if any of that makes any sense, if it doesn't just pretend I said nothing and move on because what the hell do I know

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jo-Anne, the memoir-manuscript readers who know me will be, I'm sure, biased in my favor. So I've asked three women in their thirties who do not know me--they know my great-nieces--to read. I'm eager to find out what they think.

      By the way, it seems to me that you a lot about this. Don't underestimate yourself. Peace.

      Delete
  10. I truly admire your perseverance, Dee. You are an inspiration to me.
    I hope that your health issues have abated and remain steady. You've bee through quite a lot.
    I look forward to your next post - and seeing what your readers bring to the table. I'm so glad you are writing this. In-the-meantime, take care, make sure to rest, hope all is well, including the ever important feline members of your household. Happy Thanksgiving, Dee.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Penny, I tell you now that if the Olympic Committee ever decides to give gold medals for resting/sleeping, I'm a "shoe-in!!!!" Happy Thanksgiving to you and to Tom and all your loved ones. Peace.

      Delete
  11. Having read your blog I know your memoir will be great stuff. Congratulations for overcoming all your health setbacks to get the words on the page (and off again in the rewrites)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Annie, thanks so much for your support and words of confidence. Yes, a lot of words went "off" in the rewrites! Peace.

      Delete
  12. A cliff hanger for the rest of us, that is, if your next book hangs on
    the opinion of your readers. Jo-Ann (above) said it and I agree. It
    would be most difficult to judge the writing of a friend. I'm afraid my
    emotions would get in the way. It is also good that you have given
    it to strangers to read. Good luck. I hope it all turns out well, for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Manzanita, having readers is good, but I know that judging the writing of a friend is hard and so I have tried to ask some good questions of the readers. It's true that I'll listen with special attention to those three readers who don't know me. Thanks for the good wishes. Happy Thanksgiving to you! Peace.

      Delete
  13. Good luck in achieving your dream....:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Troutbirder, thank you for your good wishes and happy Thanksgiving. We all have so much for which to be grateful. Peace.

      Delete
  14. Kudos Dee. You have made it through many hoops and it seems that you are going in such a good direction. Thank you for stopping by my Journal...so good to hear from you. Keep writing/posting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Lori, thank you for the kudos. I do feel good about my getting this memoir done and while doing listening to my body and taking time out now and again to deal with ill health. But now I seem to be truly on the mend. I hope your have a Thanksgiving filled with the gift of friends and family. Peace.

      Delete
  15. Hey, it is almost there huh? Wow all ready, the time goes by so fast and hopefully all of that hard work will bring results.
    Give yourself some reward because this is a great achievement. Congratulations and best wishes.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Awesome. I think writing often improves with time to sit and simmer. Here's hoping the reactions are epic! I've been tempted to write a memoir about my special needs brother, but every time I try, I ended up blinded by tears. More time and distance from his death, maybe? *shrugs* Maybe his story will never be told.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Dear Dee, I am so sorry that your efforts were constantly being jeopardised by illness.
    I hope that your fourth and final draft is ready and that you can accept it. I also hope that your health has improved and that you are able to continue writing and living a full life.

    As you may know, my own situation was pretty precarious for most of this year. Things have improved somewhat although they’ll never get back to where they were. I will try to blog regularly again and may even take up the uncompleted memoir which I thought would be finished by now. Alas.

    I admire your resilience.

    Best wishes for a happy holiday and good luck for 2016.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Cutting words, phrases or whole paragraphs from a manuscript is very difficult. I can understand that it took you some time, and with your ill health, it was not easy. I hope that now you are over your health difficulties and that you are satisfied with the end result. Thanks for coming to my blog and writing such thoughtful comments – I do appreciate it very much.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Dee, I'm so sorry you've had so many health problems in the past year. No wonder you found it difficult to persevere with your convent memoir. Well done for doing so and for being so ruthless about your pruning and redrafting. I'm sure every revision has helped toward producing the memoir we all know you are capable of writing.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Have a wonderful Christmas, Dee, and a healthy and productive 2016.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Hi Dee, I'm just stopping by to say HI.... Hope you had a very Merry Christmas.

    Happy New Year!!!!!! Hope you and your loved ones have a blessed 2016....

    I posted my "Year in Review" blog today. Had fun working on that one.

    Hugs,
    Betsy

    ReplyDelete
  22. May the new year bring about the successes you have been seeking. I have missed blogging all because health is making it's demands on my aging body.

    ReplyDelete
  23. This is all so exciting. I believe that all of your hard work will pay off... :)

    Happy New Year!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Dear Dee,

    I hope you are recovering well from your surgeries and that everything went well.

    You are in my thoughts, dear Dee.

    Arleen

    ReplyDelete