Memoir First Draft

I’m currently writing the first draft of a book-length memoir. Since the first week of May, I’ve written over 12,000 words, reaching the 30k-word mark on Friday.

I’m a big believer in the quick first draft, a draft in which I do no editing, with the exception of fixing a typo. My approach works well for blog posts, short stories, creative nonfiction pieces, and poems.

The challenge right now, however, is sticking to the “pure drafting” approach while working on something book length—that’s more daunting. For example, in this draft I repeat myself occasionally. When you’re working on a book that covers almost the entirety of your life and your 40, that’s bound to happen.

Another challenge as I write more and more material is the overall structure of the manuscript, yet I’m enjoying the process of writing material without the pressure to organize it in the moment. So as is often the case when I work on nonfiction, as I write more material, I acquire more topic ideas. So in this draft, I create a new section with information enclosed in brackets for new ideas that surface in the drafting process.

My goal for 2017 is to complete a full first-draft (which is at least 50,000 words). I hope to finish this draft before I leave for vacation at the end of July. As of this point, I have nearly 2 full months remaining, so my goal feels both reasonable and achievable.

Once I finish the full first draft, I will go through and outline the draft in the notebook I’m using for the project. I’m not making any committed decisions at this point, but I envision an opening essay that serves as an overture, with the rest of the book built around topical essays with only a loose chronological order.

A friend of mine also recently began the first draft of memoir, and an in email he mentioned the idea of swapping our drafts in the near future. At first the thought terrified me–never have I written a first draft so rough (or so it seems to me). But the opportunity to share the work with a friend whose eye I trust is rather more motivation to continue with the process of drafting the manuscript and also revising that “overture” essay to send to him soon.

Now back to work.




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