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4 years 8 months agoComments

I finally got past the problems that were facing me last week.  I have now fully committed to a tone and voice of the book although it isn’t what I originally had in mind.  (Story of my life, right?)  It seems to be working better for me.  I doubt I’ll change it now because what I had written before today has gotten a solid cursory edit, and I added another polished 1000 words.

So why the big boost of productivity today?  At first I wasn’t quite sure but I think I put my finger on it.  Today my boyfriend and I released an app that we’ve been building for beta testing.  I’ve been thinking so much about the app and the success of the app I’ve sort of let myself off the hook about the memoir.  It’s not that I didn’t have time to work on the book, it’s just that as long as I was concentrating on blogging, researching and app designing I felt like I was doing enough to justify my day.  So now that the game is out for beta testing, there isn’t a lot of building we can do.  We are now focusing on our marketing strategy theorizing the next levels. 

That’s when I was like, Caitlin, wait a minute!  This is also a chance for you to put your head back on and work on this book.  It’s easier to ride the momentum than to try to pick it back up again. 

So, I woke up at 5:45am, made a pot of coffee, and started researching app marketing and worked on the book a few hours after that.   Hopefully I can keep this up tomorrow.


4 years 8 months agoComments

When people say they are “writing a book” and they have been doing it for many years, are they counting the time they put into conceptualizing it? Thinking it through? I have certainly not spent a lot of time with my fingers to the keyboard actually writing the words.  I’ve thought about it.  In fact, I can’t stop thinking about it.  I’m blogging about it to help me get me head on straight and practice my skill.  I’m researching and reviewing other books.  Does all that count?  I’ve been “working” on the book in this sense, non-stop for about a month.  I had hoped to be further along than this, but perhaps these are the steps I should take.  The steps I need to take.  Research, practice and outlining first so my initial draft is much smoother.  Obviously it will still need editing, but maybe this way it won’t need a full rewrite. 

Then again, I have this nagging feeling that I’m just putting off what needs to be done.  I'm very good at procrastinating.  Am I making excuses not to just write the damn thing?  I have time.  I have space.  I have support.  So is this what writer’s block feels like?  Or fear of failing?  Or simply not wanting to work on such an enormous undertaking?

I have made goals for today which include rereading everything that I have already written.  Perhaps I can edit, or at least flag what needs to be edited.  I have been making goals for each day and most I’ve followed through with.  I’m just not sure if they are the right ones.


4 years 8 months agoComments

Up until now I’ve been pretty proud of my writing.  I think of a memory, I write it down, and bam!  I have another page.  Unfortunately, after rereading some of my work, I have come to realize that it is not nearly so easy.  I’m all other the place in time, voice and tone. 

I wasn’t concerned about time.  I figured I could rearrange the chapters or write a book that jumped through time (which isn’t uncommon).  However, the voice in the book is a big problem and I’ve been spending quite a while trying to sort it out.  So far if I’ve written a happy memory, I’ve written it as if I were right there in the room.  If I’ve written a particularly difficult memory, I have distanced myself a great deal.  I write “this is what happened” or “this is how it happened”.  It’s reflective. 

Truth be told I didn’t even realize I was doing it.  Up until now, I couldn’t figure out why people took so long to write memoirs.  After pondering for a while I realized that I needed to be right there, in the room, in the first person for every scene in order for this to work and work well.  Other people might be able to pull off a different style, but I don’t think I can without it sounding very clinical, and dare I say, boring. 

My problem with tone, I believe, I can overcome more easily.  Sometimes I write and try to use proper grammar, sentence structure and everything else they teach you in English class.  After all, I’m trying to get published, right?  Other times, the words flow fast and furious and a teacher would give me a C at best. During my reread this morning, it seems to be random (probably depending on when I wrote it).  I’ve decided to try to write in the tone that I use in my journal – the one that no one reads.  If it doesn’t sound right after a chapter, I’ll change it, but it seems like that’s the real me, the way I think, and that’s what a memoir is supposed to be. 

I’m glad I’m blogging because it gives me a chance to practice writing with a much smaller audience.  I’ll also continue to review memoirs for two reasons.  First it exposes me to other ways to tell a life story and second it will keep me thinking analytically about memoirs and out of my own headspace. 

In fact, I’m going to visit and see what memoirs are new to review right now!


4 years 8 months agoComments

I haven’t written in a few days because I’ve been taking my time researching memoirs.  Should I have done that from the beginning?  Yes, of course.  I found a couple that I couldn’t put down and a couple that I decided weren’t worth my time before I finished the first chapter. 

The best thing to happen to me this week was the discovery of The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr.  She is the author of the Liar’s Club, which I’m ashamed to admit, I haven’t read.  In The Art of Memoir she explains in detail who is ready to write a memoir and who is not (as in emotional preparedness).  She also gives advice on how to bring back a memory, because everyone struggles with memory (I thought it was just me).  As well as how to find your voice and maintain it throughout the book.  Voice is apparently very important, and not as easy conjure up as one might think.  Normally I’m a library book type of girl, but I’m glad I bought this one because I have a feeling I will be referring to it frequently. 

From The Art of Memoir I learned that it’s ok to misremember something as long as you are honest with the reader, which gave me tremendous relief. The only problem she has, and I think we all do, is when the memoirist flat out lies.  

Mary Karr drops a lot of names.  Famous authors she has met and many she read.  Correction, many, many, many authors she has read.  However, I think she does this because she is a world renowned author and professor and wants to make it clear that she knows what she’s talking about.  

And she does.  Every memoir isn’t going to be written like hers, and she wouldn’t want that.  But she has given writers like myself the tools to write a halfway decent memoir.  So after a week of being completely unsure of myself, and spending my free time designing an app with my boyfriend instead of writing, I’m finally ready to get back in the saddle.

Oh, and one last thing.  Edit, edit, edit!



4 years 9 months agoComments

I received some interesting feedback from my post yesterday.  (I had to call around to get it.)  Most of it was that I had the makings of a great story, but it needed some work.  That didn’t surprise me.  I have some other sections of the book that are better written because they describe the nuances of the scenes in more fluid language, but I chose to share that one because I wanted everyone to get a feel for what the story would be about.

Having said that, it’s clear that I need at least a little guidance in the matter.  I have never taken a writing class, nor do I plan to.  Of course I had to write I ton of essays in college, but they always had foot notes and had to be in a strict structure.  So, following the advice of one of my critics yesterday, I decided to do some independent research on how other authors write memoirs and how authors of any genre use lyricism (a term I had only applied to dance before last night – thank you Miss. Librarian).

I made a board this morning and wrote down everything I need to do.  And just so I didn’t get too depressed I wrote everything I had or have done.

I actually feel pretty good.  I was nervous at first to put out such an unpolished piece, but I would have felt so much worse waiting until I was half finished – or worse yet, finished, and realizing it really needed work or I was completely on the wrong track.

So I guess my advice – even if you are nervous, ask other people what they think of your work.  If you don’t have friends or family that will do it, you may be able to find a group online or in your city to help you out.


4 years 9 months agoComments

As promised – below is an excerpt of my book.  Right now it’s the beginning of the book but at the rate I’ve been rearranging things, that could change.  I know it’s a bit rough.  It’s only had one quick edit.  If you have feedback let me know!   

Where My Story Starts

I was twenty-eight years old and I had just started a new job at a non-profit in Syracuse, NY.  The organization deals primarily with youth in foster care and adults with developmental disabilities.  My job was so easy, half of it I could do with my eyes closed and a hand tied behind my back.  I decided at the time to wait for the next best thing to come around and get out of there as quickly as possible.  After all, I had a BA from Colgate University and my title was now “Administrative Specialist”.  Unfortunately, none of the “next best things” had the health insurance and the paid time off that this job had. 

A couple of weeks after I started working there, I had to take a training.  It involved learning about childhood trauma but more importantly, the effects of trauma when the child becomes an adult.  The training was a few days long and everyday it became more difficult for me.  By the end I was, well, traumatized.  Every memory from my past that I was pretending never happened, was suddenly at the forefront of my mind at every moment. 

It didn’t make sense.  We were learning about children getting hurt.  I was reliving getting hurt.  I was reliving my sisters getting hurt.  But I was also reliving laying in a hospital bed after getting my cyst removed and scary conversations with doctors about chemo and tubes in my arms.  It didn’t feel the same as remembering, it was re-experiencing every traumatic event all at once, whether it was violent or not.  It wasn’t until then that I realized I hadn’t fully dealt with my past which was not remotely a normal chain of events.    

This was not what I signed up for.  After all, this was supposed to be an easy administrative position.  I couldn’t sleep.  I started to have panic attacks at work when any of my male coworkers got too close to me.  Specifically, if they got behind me where I couldn’t see them.  It had become so bad that I ended up in human resources broken down in tears with one of the program directors.  Of course I had male coworkers before.  Of course they stood behind me before.  But now something had snapped in my brain.  We agreed that the men in the office would stand further away and try to stay in front of me.  I couldn’t believe how much it helped. 

I know what you’re thinking.  That is an insane thing to go to HR and have to agree on.  Luckily I was in an extraordinarily understanding environment, they didn’t think I was crazy and they were respectful of my wishes.  Just knowing that made me more comfortable.  Of course I decided to promptly suppress as many memories as I could, as quickly as possible.  What else was a girl to do?  Go see a psychologist or something? Four years later it’s finally time for these memories to come out and for me to share”


4 years 9 months agoComments

I have taken a bit of a hiatus from writing for the last few days.  I wish I could call it writer’s block, but I don’t think that’s what it is.  I have a certain story to tell, and I think I’m getting through it too quickly.  My story is worthy of being the length of a full memoir, but at the speed I’m writing it will be more the length of a short story.

I've been trying to relax and breathe deep and find ways to make the story less clinical.  It needs nuance and texture and I’m having a hard time grasping at it. 

I think I know why.  It’s because nearly everyone in the story is still alive.  Chris says to switch to fiction.  In fiction the author can say a person felt a certain way and it must be true.  In fiction, fact is whatever the author says is fact.  In a memoir, the author can only interpret what another person was thinking or feeling and she may be way off base.  If I go through and ask all my “characters” their version of events, then it’s not a memoir, it’s a research paper. 

After thinking about it for several days, I’ve decided to take creative license and go with a book “based on actual events”.  That gives me the opportunity to add the texture that the story needs, but also lay out the facts that make it so unique. 

It will be interesting to see where this takes me and I'll keep you posted!


4 years 9 months agoComments

I have already written a fair amount of my book considering I only started a week ago.  Of course it needs editing, but I’m starting to get into my flow.  I had originally written a comprehensive outline of my book.  It didn’t take me long to veer away from the outline.  After one of my first days writing, I posted on facebook that I had an unorthodox way of writing.  Which is true.  I had essentially jumped directly into the middle of my story.  It made sense at the time.  It was exactly what was on my mind at that moment, but from an outsider’s perspective it would have made little to no sense.  I also found it difficult to jump back in time to give the story context while still moving the plot forward.

On facebook my friend Ben, who has already authored a book, gave me some advice:  Make index cards and on them write the topics you want to write about in the book.  Seems simple enough.  The cards can then be rearranged.  That way you can have a loose outline and make sure you don’t miss anything, but you don’t necessary have to go in chronological order.  Brilliant! 

Since doing this, I have added structure to the book so that it make sense to someone other than myself, while allowing some flexibility so it doesn’t read like a timeline of events.

For the past two days I’ve been I’ve using this method and it seems to be working, so I’ll keep at it and keep you posted!