It’s Done . . . Isn’t It?
Anyone who listened to my laments during my years of searching for my mother’s money, then supported me while I moaned my way through writing about the experience, knows how agonizing I considered the process of putting it down on paper.
I’m glad my writing of My Mother’s Money is over. I couldn’t stomach the prospect of looking at the old diaries and the purple folders threatening to topple off the hip high file cabinets in my study; or the successive electronic drafts going back to 2008; or the reams of handwritten notes and exhortations on bright pink legal-size paper wedged under the printer that sits between two windows I stared through at the spruce tree that’s practically within touching distance. While working on the book, I often wanted to swing out of my second floor windows into that tree for shelter and sustenance.
Done and Done
In June, 2012, I was done.
But only for the time being…
Since I’m a creative writing instructor and an editor myself, I knew “done” wasn’t the accurate word for my manuscript. It was simply done for the time being. I didn’t doubt it was a riveting story. But I knew some sections were flawed, and I’d run out of the necessary steam to continue tweaking them. The manuscript had become a mish-mash in my mind.
I could already hear the feedback that would be coming:
“This chapter would work better if it came before that one.”
“There’s too much backstory here; sprinkle it throughout the manuscript.”
And, one I’d already heard that I adamantly disagreed with: “You can’t start a memoir the way you’ve started yours.”
So imagine my delight when my friends and my husband’s family actually clamored for more chapters after they read the opening ones. Or my joy when my writer friend told me, “Truly, truly, the only problem I have with your memoir is how fascinating it is. The writing is silken and balanced.”
But It’s Got Its Flaws . . .
So I put out a call to my Twitter friends and my fellow serious scribblers in Chicks Who Write, and names of editors started coming in.
I spent weeks interviewing editors and talking to their clients. Besides wanting someone experienced in editing memoir, I want someone simpatico—not with me, but with the circumstances of my story. I edit my own writing clients best when their stories resonate with me. I don’t have to have experienced the exact situations myself (in most cases—like the murder mystery I just edited—I wouldn’t want to!), but I’ve been fortunate that each of the client manuscripts I’ve edited spoke to me personally.
That’s what I looked for in an editor—someone with the obvious technical skills, but also someone who could feel my story, and show me how to make all the elements fall gracefully, seamlessly, meaningfully. I finally found one.
I’ve gotten the edits back. They’ve been sitting on a file cabinet in my study, waiting while I finished a second memoir. I’ll be ready to look at the comments by the end of this week. I just hope my editor had as light a touch with my work as I try to apply when I edit my clients’ work.
I’ll let you know.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like:
— When You Hate the Book You’re Writing: Intro (Especially for memoirists)
— When You Hate the Book You’re Writing: My Solution (Especially for memoirists)