Okay, so I’ve been avoiding posting about the memoir and the deadline because, well, the deadline passed and the memoir still isn’t finished.
There were some distractions in August, some of them lovely (my 20th high school reunion, which brought a few of my closest friends into town) and some of them not as enjoyable (proposals, house projects, etc.) But even without these, I wouldn’t have made my September 1st deadline. I realized, as I was muddling through my manuscript, that I had some structural problems later in the book. I had dropped a narrative thread. I was too tangential. I needed to condense and compress in order to maintain narrative urgency.
And I was feeling panicky because I was trying to rush through the writing, not letting the solutions emerge in the process of writing. So I slowed down a little. I fretted. I woke up thinking about The Manuscript.
Then last week with everyone back in school, I gave myself the space I needed to let the book happen. I wrote and I wrote. And yesterday as I was pulling together the new chapters to send to my wonderful writing group, I realized that I’m actually writing faster than I thought I was. I have written 64 pages in the last month. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I’m on 296 and still going. Another two weeks to go? Maybe. I hope.
Structure is such a tricky animal, but it’s critical to a book’s success. Sometimes the necessary structure emerges in the process of writing and sometimes an author really needs to plan out a book. My friend Francine Marie Tolf has an interesting article in A View from the Loft about this very thing. Francine interviewed me and three other memoirists about how we approached structuring our memoirs. Check it out and see what Marge Barrett, Nicole Johns and Vicki Forman, who just won the PEN USA award for creative nonfiction for her wonderful memoir, This Lovely Life, have to say about structure and memoir.
And now I’m back to The Manuscript.