Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

IWSG Writing Update February 2018 – The Editing Process

Every first Wednesday of the month, the IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group) encourages writers to share their fears, thoughts, progress, struggles, excitement, encouragement or anything really about their writing. A different question is posed each month, as a writing prompt for IWSG members. Answering it is optional. For February, the question is “What do you love about the genre you write in most often?”

This amazing, supportive group of writers was founded by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Today, the co-hosts are Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte. Feel free to swing by their sites and see what they are up to.

My answer to the question

I have only written in one genre so far: non-fiction. My published articles had to do with the sailing life and living aboard our 35ft catamaran Irie for eight years. Other than the joy of leafing through my work in print and making an extra buck, I love sharing my stories and photos with readers, while at the same time encouraging them to live a life less ordinary.

I don’t like research, so the thing I love most when working on my current memoir is recalling all the memories and reproducing these real-life stories in a compelling manner. It is a difficult thing to do, but I hope the end result will be an entertaining, informative and inspiring read. If that is the case, the finished product will be what I love most about writing memoirs! 😊

My book progress

In January, we had full-time family commitments in New England, but after returning to California, I started on the second  draft of my memoir “Floating About – A Life Less Ordinary” (work title). This boils down to attempting the tough and thorough editing process. I struggle with the sheer size of my first draft; the “information dump” that needs straightening out and cutting down (in half). And, rewritten or rephrased. A lot of the 30+ chapters contain summaries of events. I either have to get rid of them, or flesh them out.

So far, I deleted the complete 5000-word first chapter and attempted to integrate some of that back story in my new first chapter, which was already 6500 words long. It is making me realize once again that I have many (travel) stories and books in me. During my whole life, travel and writing have been my two passions. While I think readers might be curious about my earlier adventures, there is no (or little) room for those in this memoir, which covers my thirties, mostly on a sailboat.

I once split up with a long-term (American) boyfriend I had met and traveled with in Australia. He and his dog moved in with me in Belgium, but it didn’t work out. I felt like I had lost too much of my independence and freedom. Seemingly heartlessly, I made it clear that the situation had to change. He and his dog were on the next flight back to the US! Soon after the break-up, I listened to a favorite Australian band of ours that brought back sweet memories. It made me change my mind and pick up the phone… We got back together and started a long-distance relationship for a year, before abandoning both of our lives and hitting the road indefinitely, in North America.

When working on my memoir, I wanted to reference the song that created this change of heart and emotions. But, I didn’t remember the band’s name, or the song. I couldn’t check my CD collection either, since I am not in Belgium, and, I gave everything away last spring. A quick Google search told me the band is Powderfinger. Then, online, I listened to the album with the most familiar name, to see which song produced the strongest reaction. It was the second one, “My Happiness”. The emotions evoked were very powerful. To be sure, I played the whole album, but the sensation that brought me to tears – then and now – did not get repeated. I read that revisiting places of the past, reenacting powerful moments, or listening to music from that period helps with the reconstruction of the story. I can now attest to this.

Next, I faced my second chapter, a summary of our RV travels in Mexico and Central America in 2006 . It was 10,000 words long! I read the whole darn thing in one morning, and… did… not… delete… a… word. I felt it was “all or nothing”. Again. Obviously, I can’t just keep deleting complete chapters. Or, leaving it all in. And, no, I don’t want to split the memoir up in two books. I want this one to be a complete story. A few days later, the chapter word count had been reduced to around 7,000 words. Small steps, but, I need to keep moving. I’ll save the next cut for the third draft. At this pace, it will take me until the end of the year to finish the second draft!

61 Comments

  1. Yep! That’s the joy of editing, right? I hate to admit that I’m on draft #7 of my first book, # 4 of the second and at least #6 of the third. None are as long as what you’re presenting. I’m gonna bet you get into a nice groove soon and the editing goes much quicker.

    • Looking forward to that groove, Ryan. But, it will have to wait a week or two, since we will be traveling again. All in all, I like editing, cleaning up the text and tightening it, when it comes to articles, since I feel the hard part is done. For some reason, it seems different and more challenging with a memoir…

  2. I already think I’m going to love reading your memoir! I strongly feel that I’ll find the independence in your memoir which I desperately wanted back when I was young but never knew. Instead, in being rebellious, I found my independence. I’ve been thinking of writing short stories for a couple of years now…needed an inspiration…your post has ignited something inside of me:)
    Thank you!
    Yaz

    • You go, Yaz! It sounds like you have some stories in you as well. I might have found my independence by being rebellious as well. Luckily, my parents coped OK with it. They barely see me, still, but they never complain! 🙂 Happy writing!!!

  3. Victoria Marie Lees

    February 7, 2018 at 13:08

    Here’s the thing, Liesbet. You’ve had the most exciting life from what I can see. You are correct that there are many books or memoirs in you. But you need to focus on ONE theme or point for each memoir experience you wish to share with your reader.

    Glad to hear you could return to California. I hope everyone is well.

    • Everyone is doing better, Victoria. Thanks for asking. I hear you about the one theme. It is what I have struggled with most. Soooo much to talk about and share. Now, with that “main theme” in mind, I am starting to weed out whatever is irrelevant. A lot of exciting stories are being cut, hence the need for another book, maybe with separate stories. 🙂

  4. Victoria Marie Lees

    February 7, 2018 at 13:14

    And Bravo to moving forward in your revision. I have the same issues in my memoir about attending college as a mother of 5.

  5. Hi Liesbet! Not an easy thing to do but the book will surely be better for it. I always like to think of the saying, “progress not perfection!” as something to shoot for. Good luck…and I hope you are enjoying the lovely Southern California Weather! ~Kathy

    • “Progress, not perfection.” That’s great advice, Kathy. I’m trying to see it that way as well, saving “perfection” for the last draft. The weather has been wonderful, but inside, it is always chilly…

  6. Retirement Reflections

    February 7, 2018 at 13:48

    Hi, Liesbet – Congratulations on the progress that you have made on your Memoir. Have I mentioned before that I can’t wait to read it?! I know that you have incredible stories inside you, and the reading will be well worth the wait!

  7. At least you are making progress. Please email me if you make it over to Lake Havasu. Would love to meet up.

    • It would be great to meet up, Ingrid. As of now, we have no clue what we are doing on Monday, when this house sit is finished. There are a couple of factors at play. I’ll keep you posted!

  8. Okay, reading this post is making me even more anxious to read your memoir, Liesbet. Can you edit faster? LOL! Just kidding. It can be a slow and meticulous process, so take your time. These updates are great teasers. 🙂

  9. Glad you found the song.
    With it all on paper, the more you work with it, the more it will come together and you’ll know what to abandon and what to flesh out further.

  10. Oh, how I envy your being at the editing stage – my favorite part! Unlike you, I have no problem reducing and tearing things apart; my bigger challenge is always getting all the content down in the first place. Hoping things have settled down on other fronts to allow you to focus on this next task!

    • You are such a fabulous writer, Lexie, that I am surprised the first round is hard for you. I do like editing in general, but my eyes and mind are such a big part of this story now that it is hard for me, having lived through it all and trying to reproduce the highlights, whether it makes sense for the reader. I should send you the manuscript, so you can chop it all up and have fun with it! 🙂 Just kidding. I will get there and, once the second draft is done, fresh eyes are needed to figure out what should stay in, be fleshed out and go!

  11. Sounds like a lot of work, but I’m sure you up for the task. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  12. I think that you are making great progress! I’m looking forward to reading the final product… and would be happy to be a beta reader too!

  13. Hi Liesbet,

    Editing is so difficult. It’s hard to pare down the experiences that mean so much to use. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I’m sure you are doing a wonderful job.

    Laura

  14. Seems there are a lot of challenges to writing a memoir. A good friend of ours has spent more than the last 10 years devoted to his book! Revising, revising, revising. Maybe all that revision erases the original voice? But what do I know? I have a hard enough time hitting “publish” on our blog posts, and that gives ne a teeny inkling into the challenges of a book! Sounds like you are on a roll though. I do like the idea of listening to music which evokes feelings and mood, in order to write about times gone by. Makes sense.
    Instinct tells me, just keep at it and it will start to flow…like painting?

    Peta

    • I have a few blogging friends like you, Peta, who require a bit of courage to hit that “send” button and make their writing public. Luckily, I am not too stressed about that, although my husband doesn’t agree with everything I “throw” out there for everyone to read and know. 🙂 When I start writing, the words flow easily, and that might be part of the problem. I write too much. To get to a finished product, all that extra fluff and most things that go through my mind would drive anyone crazy. So, getting down to the real core is the challenge. And, hopefully, the reader will be able to make sense of it, and I don’t loose too much of the “good stuff”.

  15. A friend of mine is working on her first memoir, and it’s tricky figuring out the right way to do it, where to put what information, what to include, etc. Hers is also about travel. Love the photos above!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting, Shannon. When you travel a lot and decide to write about it, figuring out what to focus on is tough. With an article, you just pick one experience or one destination and you work with that. Writing a memoir is very different, because you want to reproduce feelings, experiences, a back story, interesting sights, struggles, joys, encounters and life changing events. But, it is impossible to put all that in, so you have to pick and choose, which boils down to focusing on a certain theme and sticking to it. Phew! 🙂

  16. Keep moving forward, Liesbet. Eventually you will sharpen your focus, kill your darlings (can’t remember which famous writer gave that vivid bit of advice), and the water will run clear. How’s that for mixing multiple metaphors?

  17. Angela Wooldridge

    February 8, 2018 at 06:44

    It sounds like you’ve had a very exciting life so far, paring that down to one volume will be a challenge!

    • Yep! 🙂 So, we will start with one volume and then see what happens, as I am continuing to collect more memories and stories while working on past ones.

  18. I am eagerly waiting your publishing day…sounds like a lot of work but also incredibly rewarding. I often prefer non-fiction writing. I hope it will not be too long before you feel it is ready for sharing it with the world 🙂

    • It is so nice to read comments like yours, Gilda. It surely makes me happy and keeps me going. I do plan to produce a finished memoir this year. Let’s hope the distractions stay at bay. 🙂

  19. The power of a song is quite something Liesbet, I love how it brought you the kind of message you needed to hear at that time. Good luck with the editing, it is well worth perservering with! :o) xxx

  20. Editing is a beast, especially since there are so many different stages, something I wasn’t aware of until about a year ago. RIght now, my memoir is in the hands of a developmental editor. Then back to the “drawing board,” and eventually to a copy editor and other readers before the final proofs.

    Writing is not for the faint-hearted. You seek a life of adventure and you’re not a quitter. That’s a formula for success. You probably have several books in you. Just choose a “slice” for your memoir.

    • That’s it, Marian. We are both strong and determined and not willing to give up! Working on that “slice” now. I think you are making the right decision sending your work off to a specialist. I am realizing more and more that I will need “new and practiced” eyes soon as well. After the second draft! 🙂

  21. Your life/memoir sounds fascinating! I don’t write nonfiction – other than blog posts – or read much of it either, but it sounds like you’re on a good track, working hard. Good luck with it! 🙂

    • Thanks, Madeline! The more I think about it, the more I feel I should stick to the stories we verbally share with others and which produce a jaw-dropping look. 🙂

  22. Having just gone through a massive editing process, I know how hard it is. Rewarding, but hard. Keep plugging away at it because there are lots of us who can’t wait to read the finished product 🙂

    • You make me envious of your focus, determination and time, Ellen. You manage to get so much done in one month! I need to follow in your footsteps…

  23. Travel publications work for me. One of my blogging friends writes reviews on vacation spots. She’s a writer. Period. I wish you epic success with your memoir!

    • Thanks, Crystal. I find writing travel stories and articles relatively easy, because you can pick a certain thing and then focus on that. Plus, you usually have a word count, which you work around or fix afterwards. With a memoir, many stories and experiences need to be present, intermingled and make sense as a whole… We will get there!

  24. Congrats, Liesbet, on the progress you’ve made on your Memoir. I enjoy reading real life adventures and usually find them inspiring. I look forward to reading your book.

    • Thanks, Natalie. As a traveler yourself, you can probably appreciate some of the experiences and stories that will make up my memoir. Whenever it is finished! 🙂

  25. Liesbet, it is great to hear that you are working on doing revisions to your draft memoir. I dread that part in my own writing. I enjoy writing the first draft of a novel but agonize over revising. I don’t find the revisions nearly as hard in shorter pieces like articles. But the novel is just so big that it is hard to keep the whole structure and all the characters in mind as I do the revisions.

    Jude

    • Jude, I totally agree with the difference in the editing process between articles/ shorter pieces or a full-on book. I fear I will loose track of what is important and what the focus needs to be working through this long first draft and have it all make sense. I enjoy the writing itself a lot as well (1st draft), but don’t mind editing. For now, anyway. I just got started! I’m sure I will get sick of it in a few weeks and will think “what more can I let go of,” and “how do I make it all flow again after getting rid of so much”! 🙂

  26. I’m singing this, Liesbet…. ‘ Nobody said it was easy…’ 🙁 Maybe next time around you’ll find it easier. 🙂

  27. You are rocking it my friend. Editing process can take much longer than the writing LOL. It sounds like you know what you want and need to do it, it’s just the doing part. I for one am looking forward to reading it when you’re done! 🙂
    P.S. Hope all is still going alright with your MIL. <3

    • Thank you so much for the support, my friend! On another road trip between sits right now, so another week of no book progress. Oh well… Looking forward to “biting in” again, though, next Monday. My MIL is doing better every day. She’s been home for a week and in good hands. She can now even eat some “chunky” food, which is awesome news. Sending you lots of love on this Valentine’s Day!

  28. Less is more, so they say, but boy is it difficult which bit to have less of. Good luck!

    • I love the expression, Hilary, when it comes to everything (especially “stuff”) but words. 🙂 Thanks! Hope you are making progress as well…

  29. Sounds like it’s shaping up to be a fascinating memoir. You’ve had such an interesting life.

    Editing/rewriting is my least favourite part of the process. I tend to let rewrites drag on forever, when perhaps I should just give up on that particular book and move on.

    Hopefully you’re able to make some great progress in the coming months. Good luck!

    • Thanks, JH! Hopefully, I can get started again later this week, when we are settled at our current house sit in Albuquerque and caught up with other tasks. I like both, writing and editing. Just not sure about the extent and time-consumption of this in book-format. That’s all new to me.

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