My Publishing Path - What Happened?
Brooke Warner, writing coach and publishing expert, recently asked the following questions on Facebook.
“Whatever publishing path you’ve taken thus far, has it been educational? What are the most important lessons you’ve learned?”
Here’s my answer, Brooke.
1. I learned that I should read Brooke Warner’s books on how to write memoir before I begin a memoir. Brooke’s two volumes set the stage and gave me a perfect blueprint to write full length memoir. I gained most of all I know about memoir from those two books. Unfortunately, I had already written two drafts of my memoir and found it more than difficult to redo what I had done.
2. I learned that a good professional critique can really pinpoint the weaknesses in my book’s organization and choice of themes but also encourage me by pointing out my strong skills. I do recommend a professional critique but even better, have someone look at your initial outline and plan before you write.
3. I learned that defining the right theme is absolutely essential. Theme must carry through every scene and every chapter. Because my themes were not clear cut, I struggled mightily. In fact, the memoir was finally shelved because I could not make theme match the story I had written. I will return to it at some point.
4. I learned to write. The best class in writing is doing it. You see your point of view. You begin to find your voice. And you definitely see where you need to brush up on your grammar skills.
5. I learned to rewrite. Rewriting is the most fascinating step of all. I watched the story transform with each new redo and rearrangement – a new creation each time.
6. I learned to edit. I had to review every English grammar and sentence structure rule I had ever used in English 101. And learned placement of paragraphs and sections can change the whole message.
7. I learned that I wrote initially in a selfish mode and finally realized memoir is not all about me. I came to realize I had to make what I am saying matter to my reader. That’s not easy, and I am still working on it, but I find it the most exciting next step.
I would not trade a single moment of the 18 months I worked on that book. No class or seminar can touch on the nitty-gritty sweat and tears that go into a story you craft all alone in your little writing nook. You sit in a lab all alone and arrange, rearrange, record, and do it again. There are days when you look up and realize you are the happiest you have ever been in your life. And you just keep going.
I now focus on shorter memoir and essay pieces because as a newby, I can handle them with more ease. In fact, I have now published two of them. But I will return to my memoir when I find that illusive theme.