Today I spent a few hours working on revisions to Glass Houses. Having completed line edits, I’m now reading every word from the beginning again, and thinking more about how it all fits together. It’s a complete immersion process–the kind of task that requires focus and concentration.
Once I get rolling, revisiting the manuscript is quite enjoyable. When I finished writing the initial draft nearly a year ago, the idea of fixing all the issues, both major and minor, was frankly overwhelming. The manuscript and the time period covered were too big for me to wrap my head around. So to be enjoying the revision process is a welcome surprise.
My tendency in writing Glass Houses, since it’s a memoir, was to include every single memory. Editing was hard. Everything was part of my story. I was too close to see whether what I remembered was part of THE story or not. The freelance editor really helped clarify what does and does not belong in the book. Despite all the red ink, she was probably nicer than she needed to be. Seeing the changes she suggested has helped me to see still more to make.
The only way I knew to tell the story was from the very beginning. I stuck with chronological order from start to finish. My editor suggested moving most of the very end to the beginning. At first, the idea of telling the story out of order nearly made my head explode. But having now made that change, I’m happy with the result.
The 110,000 word manuscript I sent the editor contained more than 130 very short chapters. I happen to like books with short chapters because it’s easy to find a stopping place. With Glass Houses, short chapters helped me keep things in chronological order. Now that the ending has moved to the beginning, I’m having a much easier time combining chapters and otherwise moving things around so that the stories within the larger story stay together. These changes will also make it much easier for the reader to follow what’s going on, saving them from having to back up to earlier sections to remember what happened or who’s who.
Having made it about a fourth of the way through, the manuscript has already shrunk by 10,000 words and 24 chapters. I’ve reached my goal to cut it down to less than 100,000 words. If this rate continues, I’ll likely get it down to around 80,000 words–possibly less–without hurting the story one bit. In fact, getting rid of all my superfluous memories dramatically improves the story. A couple of characters have been eliminated, too.
Another big change is breaking the story up into shorter “books” that focus on particular periods of my life. Book One covers the early years, to my increasing discomfort with potentially intimate situations with members of the opposite sex. I haven’t made it far enough into Book Two to be able to define it yet, nor do I have any idea how many of these books within the book there will be. My goal and the editor’s suggestion is three to five.
When I reach the end, I plan to go back to the beginning, one more time, to fix the biggest problem with the book. A memoir, by definition, is a narrative composed from personal experience. I relate a lot of events, but haven’t included much in the way of my experiences–reactions to and feelings about the things I wrote about. During the last read through, I’ll be looking for ways to address that shortcoming.
Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. But this kind of work is so enjoyable, I really don’t mind. The biggest frustration is always the same…finding time to immerse myself in the task, here in…
My Glass House