Living with a work in progress

Once you have written your first draft, the easy part is over and the hard part begins. The hard part is where you begin the process of re-writing and crafting your book, chapter by chapter, sentences by sentence, word by word. That’s exactly where I am now. I’m on my third re-write, revising, expanding and cutting .

I have always enjoyed editing, my own work as well as other’s. But this is work that requires lots of time, thought and tenacity. The goal is to be able to constantly improve and infuse your pages with the authentic you...to maintain a consistent outflow of interesting and compelling story which will hook your reader into wanting more with every turn of the page.

How to do that without getting stale and, frankly, plain sick and tired of reading your own stuff over and over looking for better and better? It’s not easy but it can be done. I have a couple of tips that have been useful to me.

First of all, keep writing, even if it’s only a couple of pages....even if you're just rearranging your chapters, correcting the spelling, grammar or sentence structure, changing your titles or working on your proposal. Yes, it’s good to set a certain section to one side for a day or so, but don’t get caught in the trap of letting weeks go by before you take another look at it. Also, keep reading your chapters. Pull one or two out every so often and read with fresh eyes.

Secondly, I think it helps to continue reading every day. Read books in the genre in which you’re writing...inspiring books by excellent writers. I’m writing a memoir so I’m reading several memoirs at one time now: Ruth Reichl’s Comfort Me With Apples , Jeannette Wall’s Glass Castle , and A Place in the Country by Laura Shaine Cunningham. And, I can't leave out Stephen King's On Writing. It's a wonderful memoir for writers. They all keep me honest, authentic and in a memoir mode.

Next, remember that you are the protagonist in your own memoir. You must develop a narrative for the story you want to tell and never relinquish control. Find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it's because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.

Many of the chapters in my book are about small episodes that were not objectively "important" but that were important to me . Because they were important to me they also my strike an emotional chord with readers..

Infuse your pages with well-written dialogue, description, and character development. These are all fictional devices that work well in a memoir and make it come to life for the reader. And don’t forget to build tension. There’s nothing more boring than to read a story which is flat and too low keyed all the way through.

It’s important to develop your own unique voice. Once you’ve got the tone for your memoir, you’re good to go. Without it, you’re wandering aimlessly, no matter how great your raw material. I think of every memoirist as one more character within the narrative, the narrator. But we all have many facets and colors to our personality or character. Although none of us is funny or calm or outraged or sad all the time, the reader needs a consistent, persuasive voice in order to enter and follow your path.

Finally, continue to have others read your memoir and comment. Friends, family, writing partners whomever. It’s a great way to find out who your book appeals to, if anyone. Join a writer’s group, on-line or face to face. Post or read the parts you are stuck on and ask for feedback.

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Comments 33 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Good points. Writing is not for the lazy. It's hard work.


cgreen7090 profile image

cgreen7090 4 years ago from Tennessee

Great hub...I get tired of editing my own stuff. At some point, I think you have to say it's good enough to submit, although it's hard to get to that point.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@Dui, Thanks for the nice comment. Glad you enjoyed the hub.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

Hi, Alec - sounds like you are into the grind. Yet you put it all so well that you could write a book about writing a book. I am so used to reading your older hubs about the Inn; it's cool to read a whole different voice. You sound so authoritative. You sound like you are really getting somewhere. So glad you're still here at HP, we have your story to follow, your guidance. And you have a big support group and built in fan club. Rah Rah Rah!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@WillStarr: Well, no one's ever called me lazy...Guess that's because I'm always writing, when I'm not working running a small business.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@cgreen: You're prpbably right about that; although sometimes that's hard to do....guess that's why I've sent my third re-write off to a professional editor to take one last look at it.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Wow, Dolores thanks for all the support. Yes, I have some great friends here at HP. It's been wonderful having you all along side while I've been getting to this point. I have a 210 page manuscript ready to send awya for a final polishing.


DT Berkowitz profile image

DT Berkowitz 4 years ago from Pittsburgh

This is a good hub, the first half and even much of the second half is applicable to any genre of writing.

Good luck, with your memoir!


VioletSun profile image

VioletSun 4 years ago from Oregon/ Name: Marie

Good tips! I am about to publish my compilation of affirmative prayers and short spiritual musings. Such a simple book, but a lot of work went into editing (sent it away for professional editing) and I am still continuing to polish it. Looking forward to your memoirs!


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I agree, writing is hard work. Thanks for your tips alekhouse, it's always good to have reminders about grammar and sentence structure. I find when I'm busy I tend to become lazy with my writing and that's when I back off for a while until the time is right. Good luck with your manuscript.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@DTBerkowitz: Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you found the hub informative and helpful.And, yes, I think you're absolutely right when you say it could apply to any genre.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@MPG I don't think a lot of people realize how much sork there is to do after the original draft is written....that's when the work begins.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Hi Violet Sun, Your project sound really interesting. It sounds like something that would be right up your alley. Looking forward to seeing the finished product.


RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada

I look forward to reading your memoirs - if they are half as entertaining as your hubs, they will be a best seller for sure!


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

I find that walking away from my writing for several days helps me revise it with a clearer head. Keep up the good work!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@RedElf: Wow, What a nice thing to say. Thanks. Now that I'm almost finished with the MS, I've started another memoir...wrote 3000 words yesterday and have that urge to get back to it today. I love that feeling!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@M M M-T: Good idea. I've done the same thing and it seems to work pretty well.


SilverGenes 4 years ago

This is great advice and I think it's time to take a leaf from your book and set aside some time each day for reading and writing. I've always loved your work and look forward to reading your memoirs!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks,Alex, I'm very excited today. I just started my new memoir: "Roxie and Alfred: A love story" I wrote 4000 wds today...couldn't stop writing. I will be putting excepts on hubpages for feedback. Hope to hear from you.


SilverGenes 4 years ago

Oh my, this is exciting! Don't you just love when everything flows like that? I'll be waiting to read the excerpts!! :)


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks again, Alex. I put an excerpt on www.amemorabletimeofmylife.com/ Check it out.


SilverGenes 4 years ago

Nancy, I loved it! Left a comment over there too but I hope everyone reads this excerpt. You have such a talent for creating the atmosphere in just a few words - it felt as if I were there.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Wow, what a nice and supportive thing to say. I'm trying out a new style. I know what it is instinctively, but need to live with it a little longer before I can identify it and write about it. It feels different. I am learning to stay in the moment longer, without getting impatient or bored.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

alekhouse,

I am not a writer so I must try even harder. Rewriting, taking a step back and getting the tags correct and the headings is a difficult task for me. It is perhaps harder for the non-writer.

I am jealous of the many real writers here and look forward to learning.

Trying something hard is a challenge I enjoy - writing is both a science and an art. It is not just debits and credits, it is not just analyzing data, it is communicating that data - a critical skill for all walks of life.

Some people knit, I try to write.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Just a thought, Gma, but have you ever thought of taking a writing class? It might be helpful.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain

I enjoyed this hub it is interesting, informative,useful, easy to read, and enjoyable good luck with your memoir maggs:)


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks, Maggs, for the good luck wishes. I'm doing the final (I hope) edit right now...have some help thankfully; a professional editor for polishing, a good critique site, and a Beta reader.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 4 years ago from South Carolina

Good suggestions. Have you finished the editing and if so when will the book be out?


J Burgraff profile image

J Burgraff 4 years ago

I tend to edit as I go, but I know it's important to revisit your drafts constantly, something I try to do with all of my hubs. Thanks for an excellent and helpful article.


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

@JBurgraff, You are very welcome and thanks for the comment.


Miss Mimi profile image

Miss Mimi 3 years ago from On the road again

It definitely sounds like you know how to buckle down and work hard! I found it really interesting that you think a writer should keep reading as much as they can in the genre thy want to write. I always thought it would be important to know your genre, but that it would be better to take a break from reading other work while you were working on your on book. Just to keep your head fresh. But I've never tried to write a whole book, so it was just a supposition. Very informative, voted up!


alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 3 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky Author

Thanks, Miss Mimi. I finally finished my memoir and am going through the submission process trying to find an agent for traditional publishing. It's a laborious process and is taking forever. I just may decide to self publish. Although I've had quite a lot of interest in it, memoirs are not as popular as they were a couple of years ago unless you're someone famous. Thanks again for the comments.


Miss Mimi profile image

Miss Mimi 3 years ago from On the road again

Congratulations on finishing it! Good luck with the agents

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