First, welcome to my writer’s blog. I’m going to be using this thing specifically for “the writing process,” like a past and present diary, and plan to share what’s on the path as I learn to get better.
Like most people, I have never written a memoir before. It was not an easy task and I have a lot to express about what it took to get here. Not only that, I want to keep track of how far I still have to go. Perhaps that will be of some interest to some.
As of last Monday, the final draft of Shrapnel is in the hands of my editor, Lisa Teasley. That would be draft/revision/pass/version number eight. I began my true first draft in January of 2011. Before that, I was writing related sporadic short stories from 2006 to 2010 and wanted to turn them into a whole book, but never thought I could do it. I have been writing short stories since I was a kid and have attempted to write a couple of books and a screenplay along the way, but have not been able to go the full distance. It’s really not easy.
But I have wanted to write some kind of memoir, though perhaps a fictionalized version, since I was about 14. When my dad started carrying a gun to walk his little dog, I knew that was it – the last straw. My family members were so weird, I at least needed to make a short movie about them. I attempted this in 2007 and failed miserably at documenting their fucked up relationship. I am not a great film maker on my own.
My first attempt at writing a memoir – and what would eventually become Shrapnel – really came from a short piece of prose I wrote in 2006 called, Place to Place. It wasn’t even quite a short story. It was only about 1000 words, but it was the fuel for an Artist’s book called, All Done But None, and some of the poems that were published in Monsters on Jasmine St. from Bottle of Smoke Press.
By the end of 2010, I had enough short stories to start weaving them together and attempt a novel, I guess. I planned on writing it as fiction though, much in the same way Bukowski writes fiction. It’s very autobiographical, but it’s still considered “fiction.” One of my reasons for doing it this way was because I highly doubted anyone would believe what I had been through. But then, I started changing my mind about that when one of my favorite writers – who also happens to be my partner, mjp, encouraged me that what I really had going for me was the fact that my stories were true.
So, after about a year of working on the first draft, I went back and changed it all to non-fiction, which wasn’t too big a deal since I was already writing in the first person. I have changed everyone’s names so many times throughout these re-writes, it really didn’t matter.
I worked years on that first draft, and I will talk a lot about that later on this blog, but it didn’t get done until I got a little program in 2012 called Scrivener. This program is a must-have if you are a writer. Truly! I am dead serious. I don’t know how I lived without it now. But even though it made my life much easier, I didn’t finish the first draft until the end of 2013. And at that time it was about 310,000 words.
A major milestone.
Seven drafts later, I handed it over to Lisa last week and it was 175,000 words – perhaps an even bigger milestone.
Anyway, more to come. So thanks for reading.