Today, I finished another draft of my book. It is the third draft since I began writing it in 2009. Why has it taken so bloody long, you ask?
I did not want to use a ghost writer. I did not want my story, the only story I have about my extremely violent and chaotic upbringing, to be put together by a total stranger. This was my first major decision: to write the book myself. I felt if I persevered, I would learn to write well enough to be able to convey to readers exactly what happened, how I felt about it, and what I learned. It is an extremely personal book.
Also, I did not intend to write the book in first person. The very idea of sharing that I am the one who experienced some of these truly horrific events instead of a character … well it just about sent me over the edge. So I decided to write an entire book using character names in place of my own. This was my second major decision. The story came off as horrific but funny, and I thought had a fair amount of charm. Something that suited my sense of humor (which frankly, has kept me alive.)
My third major decision was to submit it to a agent recommended to me by a dear friend. I had to wait for her to read it, then remind her to read it, which she finally did. She loved it, god bless her. We got together a few months later to meet and discuss it. I loved her. I decided this was fate and I would not even look for another agent. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Michelle was kind, supportive, loved the characters and was most of all, patient. She wanted me to write the best book possible, not a just a “tell-all” book to quickly make money. Have I mentioned that I love this woman?
She did, however, challenge me to write the entire thing in first person. This was major decision number four: re-write the entire book saying “I” instead of “she.“ I also had a couple of friends who said that putting the book in first person would not only be more compelling reading, but that they thought it was probably me anyway. So I went for it. This was not as easy as I thought it would be. The first thing I did when trying to write in first person, was to try and tell you what I thought about everything that happened, as if “wrapping it all up in a big pink bow” would somehow make it all okay. Not only was that boring and preachy, it wouldn’t let the reader make up their own mind, something I feel is very important to do.
Cut to major decision number five: With my boyfriend away working on a play, I decided to make the most of my total privacy and sit down and finish the “First Person” draft in seven, twelve hour days. That week felt like scraping my insides out with a piece of broken glass. Thank god, my agent loved it. She made a few suggestions which I decided to try and implement instead of forging ahead with looking for a publisher. I did not want to submit something that I felt needed polishing. That was in October of 2012.
Ah, procrastination. Tick tock tick tock.
After Christmas, I decided I really had to get busy. I knew it wouldn’t take me more than a few weeks, but the very thought of diving back into that material again made me want to run screaming into the ocean with my hair on fire. Meet major decision number six: I decided to re-write the full second draft. It was a lot more painful than I thought it would be. Once more diving into rough emotional waters, finding one million typos and grammatical errors (not to mention sections that clearly had to be cut) was pretty agonizing.
In between all these big moments, I also decided to take a bunch of writing classes. These classes were helpful, but not always easy. One student, after reading something I was planning on putting in the book, pretty much tore me a new asshole, telling me what an awful person I was, much less a writer. That was fun.
I also decided to start writing for the internet and blogging more, because I wanted the audience of this book to believe that I had written the book myself. Again, I discovered the brave new world of being told I am an asshole.
I guess that was major decision number seven: to put myself out there in the world as a writer, and to consistently engage with the internet commenters. I did this to give myself a thicker skin but to find and connect with the people I thought would appreciate a story like mine.
So there you go. I hope this blog helps you, if you are a writer, to see that each step of your decision making process is leading you to something else. It is a long process sometimes, but if you are trying to achieve something of excellence, something that comes from a deep place in you, there is a good chance it is going to take some time. Hang in there and know that you are not alone!