You gotta crash to burn…

The other day, I finished my memoir manuscript. I will submit it to my developmental editor any day now. To be honest, this was not the first version; it was the third! I crashed and burned with those first two manuscripts, boy!

#dreaminterview #susanstrasser #susanstrasserblog #amwriting

That first manuscript, my first developmental editor simply said: no. She was so confused that she couldn’t complete reading it. The second one, I think she read all of… This third manuscript or version is the phoenix from the ashes of the first two. (okay, I didn’t throw them into a fire, but I might as well have!)

Anyway, my whole life I have had a fantasy of being interviewed and photographed, preferably by People magazine. But I think I can open my mind to other journals and publications, now, too! This is how I imagine my first post-publication interview to go…

SO WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THE THIRD MANUSCRIPT THAT REALLY DID IT FOR YOU? THAT YOU KNEW, THIS WAS THE ONE?

Well, awful to say, but like a lot of people and artists would agree in the past year or so, when the world shut down because of the pandemic, we all had more time. And I had even more because I was furloughed. Carpe diem! I made sure I dedicated 1-2 hours at least, sometimes more, six days a week to this third version. You know, when I wrote the 1st one, that was back in 2018. It was the first year in 18 years where I could call the shots. I had quit teaching in Dec. 2017, and I was solely dedicated to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2018. I was going to do, it, boy! Every day of the month. And I did. I wrote my first real memoir/autobiography that year. I was so proud. About 250 pages.

This third one is leaps and bounds from that first one.

A couple of years of writing regularly and taking advice from editors and colleagues has helped dramatically, as well.

DID YOU THINK YOU HAD YOUR FIRST BOOK OR MANUSCRIPT DONE AT THAT POINT?

Oh, yes! All I’d wanted to do my entire life was write a book, and I’d done that, and I naively believed that there wasn’t a whole lot more to it. Okay, an edit or two, find a publisher, maybe an agent. But I didn’t take any of those steps. November 2018 ended, and I just kept writing… well into 2019. In fact, I recall telling a therapist at the time that I was still writing in summer 2019! It definitely felt like I was floundering, but I just kept writing about my life, past, present, and future, stream-of-conscious stuff like my blogs often start as, and extending my memoir manuscript by page daily. Even she was like, when is it done? Or what is it about? And I’d tell her, ‘my life.’

THANKS FOR MENTIONING YOUR BLOG. WE’LL GET BACK TO THAT. BUT YEAH, YOU TOUCH ON AN INTERESTING TOPIC- HOW DO FIRST-TIME WRITERS WRITE THEIR FIRST PIECE? AND QUESTIONS LIKE HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? OR HOW LONG SHOULD IT BE? WHEN DOES IT STOP? AND PLUS, YOU WRITE MEMOIR, NOT FICTION, YET YOU PARTICIPATED IN NANOWRIMO?

Yes, to that last question- I gave myself permission. I didn’t ask anyone. I wanted to tell my story, since forever. For anyone who doesn’t know, NaNoWriMo is a website or writing group that supports other writers around the world. You create an account, and set a goal to write X amount of words per day. It helps you write a book. It was fun!

As far as your other questions, those are tough, because there is no one answer. I mean, obviously, you should do a little prewriting, an outline, storyboard, organizer… google story or memoir writing, there’s a ton of stuff out there. For me, for that first manuscript, I did a story board. It was fun, especially because I’m a visual learner. Plus, it was the kind of fun I used to do with my students, but hardly ever done myself.

It’s funny, but often, there’s this one unit of four or more units in a year, whereas a Language Arts teacher, we’d instruct the kids on writing a story. I’d review or think I was teaching them how to brainstorm, graphic organize ideas using story boards or plot diagrams, and then we’d draft. “Rough Draft Day” was the best. Just write your hearts out, I’d tell them! A few kids really embraced that.

Always I told them, with a rough draft, it’s better to have too much than too little. And I took that to heart with my own writing. I have a lot to say!

SO WHEN WAS THE FIRST MANUSCRIPT EFFECTIVELY CANNED- TO GET TO A THIRD VERSION?

Well, my good friend Laurie and I began talking in the fall of 2019 about how my writing dreams were going. And I told her about having a manuscript but not knowing what to do with it. Or even a clue as to how to market myself, etc. She was starting a series of podcasts at the time called Renegade Women, and wanted to know if I wanted to participate. I was thrilled! Fast forward, her and I agreed to do simple consulting work as well as be my editor to get my manuscript published. Which is way too much to tackle! But it was a wonderful crash course in what an editor does, how to use social media, how to set up a blog, among other things.

Anyway, she started editing or trying to edit/read that first manuscript in early 2020, and it didn’t make sense to her. I started that version with a flashback, and she was lost. Anyone should be able to pick up a book if they can read and get hooked.

As she helped me get my blog off the ground, we volleyed between that and her consulting work as my editor. This is when we agreed to scrap this first version; I was devastated, but I was game to restructure, outline, and revise a lot of my life material in an Excel document she set up for me.

Excel?! I thought. No! I’m a writer, I work in Microsoft Word… but, okay. I would keep an open mind, and heart. After all, she’d help me switch blog domains and get me a refund, and I would still be negotiating that now if she hadn’t expedited it…

TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK…

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