Let me ask you a simple question: Why do you write?
It can be hard to hold onto the “why” when you’re in the midst of writing your manuscript. It took me more than two years to write my manuscript, and it was not without its challenges. If you’re anything like me, you have all these journals and notes, but combining them into a cohesive piece of writing that people actually want to read, well, it’s a daunting task. What to include? What to leave out? It’s nerve wracking, so that’s why I want to share the three biggest things I learned while writing my memoir.
1. Be open to changes.
When beginning my book, Bowing to Elephants: Tales of a Travel Junkie, I first had to find all my travel journals. I’m not always the most organized person, and I lost some of my journals. I had to piece together information from different notes that I’ve made. I had piles and piles of journals, so I just took a colored marker and circled the things I wanted to include. And, that’s how I started. Getting started is the hardest part.
As I was doing this, my family and my past kept intruding. My mother had ideas. She thought I should talk about more than just traveling. That’s how my book went from travel essays to a memoir. It wouldn’t be what it is today if I hadn’t been open to my book evolving.
2. Don’t be afraid to embellish.
Our memory is fallible. When you journal, you’re only capturing a snapshot of what you experienced. As I began to piece together my memoir, I realized that I could remember extra details that I hadn’t recorded. Or, I didn’t remember much at all because it was so long ago. Even memoirs contain a little fiction. I’m not saying to lie, but when you’re describing a scene, it’s okay to elaborate if it makes your story more captivating.
3. Be patient. A good manuscript takes time.
I had the great fortune to join a group of writers that was run by a friend and fellow teacher in New Mexico. Working with them, I completed my manuscript in 18 months. But it didn’t end there. The editing process took another year or so. I had a fellow writer review my manuscript, and while it wasn’t as positive as I had hoped, it was good to get feedback. Eventually, I realized that it was ready to go. Knowing when it’s finished is almost as hard as beginning. I remember asking my writing coach, “When do you know if you’re finished?” He said, “Well, if you’re asking the question, you’re probably close.”
What challenges are you experiencing while writing your manuscript? Leave me your comments. I’d love to hear what you have to say!