I know there are classes you can take to pump out your book in a week, a fortnight, or “6-weeks to writing your bestseller.” I had all that optimism when I enrolled in Ann Randolph’s Take Your Story to the Stage in June, 2014 at Kripalu.
Three-plus years later, I’m still at it, though closer to a happy final draft than ever.
Here are some of the tools, classes and directions I have used to move my process along. I share them with those of you who need more time or wonder why you’re not published yet.
- Take a starter class, like Ann’s, to get your juices flowing.
- Hire a writing coach. After Ann’s workshop, I hired her fabulous assistant and friend, Kate Brenton, to help me decide WHAT my story was.
- Enroll in writing classes. There’s sure to be one in your town or definitely online. I signed up for Advanced Memoir Writing at Gotham Writers Workshop in NYC.
- Re-enroll! After 10 sessions with the amazing Cullen Thomas, I realized I knew NOTHING about writing
memoir and signed up for another 10 sessions.
- Re-enroll AGAIN. After 20 weeks of advanced memoir classes, I concluded that I should start at the beginning and figure out exactly what was my MDQ (major dramatic question). I signed up for Melissa Petro’s Intro to Memoir class at Gotham.
- Form a writers group. The summer of 2014 I invited three women I’d met in NYC who had made reference to “my editor,” “my publisher,” and/or the “article I wrote” during our early friendship. We gathered at my apartment building one warm evening, each with 5 pages of manuscript. We read to each other and gave supportive, loving and meaningful feedback. We’ve been meeting monthly ever since. These women have been invaluable in carrying me through the writing journey.
- Find other external support. I have three groups, including my writers confab, who hear about my monthly progress. That means that 4 times a month, I’m holding myself accountable for this BIG-ASS GOAL–my published memoir. My Visions Group got me to create a daily calendar for writing accountability. My Abundance Group showers me with affirmations and urges me to take retreats where they’ve seen me accomplish so much. Yes. I need ALL of that. They will ALL be appreciated in my book’s acknowledgments.
- Hire a storyboard artist. This was an unexpected gem. A TV writer friend casually mentioned his storyboard illustrator during a conversation. My ears perked up, I got the referral and met with the gifted and generous Fabricio Suarez who ‘got’ my story and provided me with a boost to keep going.
- Find a dedicated space to write. I joined the Writers Room where I can show up 24/7, store my computer and notebook draft, and find peace, quiet and a creative environment.
- Share your writing. The storyboard synopsis motivated me to offer a sharing of my synopsis with a trusted group of listeners. They saw the illustrations that Fabricio had created and listened to the arc of my story. That provided enormous encouragement to keep going.
- Attend retreats – yours and others. I participated in the world-famous Iowa Writers Festival in 2015, then decided to create my own retreat reserving an Airbnb the following summer in Vermont for two weeks. I didn’t feel the need to hear a dozen other writers’ work again, but to focus entirely on my own. This past summer I took a week in Amherst, MA to fully devote myself to editing my manuscript.
- Hire an editor. Cullen, my writing instructor from Gotham, agreed to review my entire draft and to act as Developmental Editor. I’m currently at page 166 (out of 270+) reviewing his edits.
Here’s the most important tip of all. Savor the process. Yes, I visualize myself signing books at Barnes & Noble with a long line of patrons clutching my tome. But it’s the pure joy of getting a sentence right or hearing the women in my writers group saying, “I got goosebumps when you read that!” that keeps me at this extraordinary craft.