This book has gone through many transitions since I started it in 2010 — well before I decided to publish it. Almost nine years later, it’s finally finished. I can’t believe it.
In December 2016, I set up this blog because I wanted to start
complaining about documenting what this process has been like, writing my first full-length book. I wish I’d thought of setting up a blog sooner since I’ve actually been talking about this thing publicly once I knew its title in 2012. That was about when I mentioned it on my artist’s blog, Carol’s Bloggie.
I’d like to first acknowledge the help I received for editing, made possible by grants from Asylum-Arts, and the National Arts and Disability Center and the California Arts Council’s Technical Assistant Grant. I also worked with writer/editor/mentor, Lisa Teasley for about a year to get the manuscript from its first “final” draft (I thought it was the final — ha ha!), to a better place for which I could work from.
When I finally sat down to write this in 2010, I figured, if I ever did publish it, I’d have to write it as a fiction piece. And honestly, I always knew I’d write this book. I even had portions of it written out since 2004, and parts, even some lines — verbatim — since the early 1980s (my 20s!). I saved all of it because I knew my early life was not normal. I had a plethora of material to glean from. My family members alone were the most interesting characters in contrast to the many other people I’ve known, and I know literally hundreds of people — musicians and artists alike — all of them with interesting stories and endless antics. I’ve lived in countless neighborhoods, traveled all over the country, and, I just happen to be a magnet for the weird. A lot has happened.
The reason I figured I’d have to make it fiction? I felt that no one in their right mind would ever believe me. In the meantime, I decided to just write. I wasn’t going to think about it being fiction, nonfiction, autobiography, or sci-fi. For about two years, I wrote everything I could remember about my life. At the time I stated, I’d been grieving my mom’s death for a year, so my feelings were out there. Raw. Open. I wasn’t exactly “finished” grieving (do we ever?).
I typed and typed, never going back to edit one bit of it. It looked like a gorilla typed it. I just spewed it all directly from my gut. Nothing was in order. Nothing was connected. Some of it meant nothing to me, and some meant everything. And no human being would’ve been able to decipher this gobbledegoo. I was hardly able to myself.
I went back over all of it, corrected everything, and made it make sense. Once that was done, I put it all in chronological order the best I could. It was not so easy to get this exactly right…until I began separating everything in bits according to where I lived at the time.
That’s when I got Scrivener, probably one of the greatest things to happen to me as a writer. It helped me to turn 316,000 words into a story line. I was able to carve one out by 2014 and whittled it down to 188,000 words. During this process, I made decisions back and forth about whether I’d publish it. The book went from fiction to nonfiction, my partner got me to see that the strongest thing about the story was that it was true. Nonfiction it is.
Still, 188,000 — too long. No one in the publishing industry wants to read a book that long, and upon testing it out on private readers, there were just too many stories about other people and not enough about me. The book was supposed to be about me, right? Well it took me something like seven more rewrites to understand that. I rewrote the book from scratch.
It took me many years of writing this book previously in order to write my second book and make it my first real book… Does that make sense?