Break Time

My friends in Manatee Writers group encouraged me to write an article for our newsletter about where I am and how I got here, pertaining to my memoir. I thought I’d use that for this month’s blog since you have come along with me on this journey as well.

Before I throw myself into the next phase I need a break to properly ready myself for the work I need to do. Uncharted has been about four years in the making and I’ve grown a tad weary.

This is a picture of my very first acceptance letter for two poems to be published in an anthology. “Magic of the Muse” is the book behind the letter where my poems appeared. The other anthology “The Monadnock Reader,” has a poem and a couple of photos I took. It was published many years ago when I lived in Peterborough.

All my estimates on how long different aspects of this project would take have been wrong. I’m not going to try at this juncture to say how much longer this journey will be but I can recap how I got to this point. 

In August 2018 I started writing about our upcoming boating adventure. It wasn’t much and I still like the idea I started with but the opening paragraph I ultimately wound up with is nothing close to my original thought.  When I read Ernest Hemingway re-wrote the beginning of Farwell to Arms thirty-nine times I felt somewhat vindicated.

In preparation and in parallel I read memoirs and books on writing, writing in general, writing creative non-fiction, and writing about your life. 

In 2020 I began writing more consistently, being trapped by the pandemic helped with the discipline I initially lacked. Before that, I wrestled with where to start. It kept me paralyzed for quite a while. I grew impatient with myself and soldiered on, regardless of how badly I felt the book started. My first draft, more like my outline, was completed towards the end of 2020. It was then I joined the Manatee Writers group. 

After a number of critiques, I realized my book needed a great deal more work. It was then I discovered where to start. After a year and a half more of working through my chapters with our writing group, I sent a copy of my completed draft to people whom I mentioned in the book.

Fortunately, two new members joined our group when I was completing my last chapters. They expressed an interest in being beta readers and I happily obliged them. Additionally, I asked the readers of my blog if anyone was interested in being a beta reader. From that solicitation, I got two more volunteers. The insights the beta readers provided were very helpful. It helped me to add more information in some parts and tone it down in others. 

After a final round of edits with the help of my grammar-conscious husband, I was ready for an editor. I gave myself a deadline, finish my edits by the end of the year and then hand it over to an editor.

Back to my inability to judge how long any aspect of this project would take I contacted an editor a year before I was ready for her. Finding an editor in my case was easy. For years I worked as a graphic designer for BYTE magazine, a McGraw-Hill publication, in Peterborough, New Hampshire. At that time there were numerous magazines published there, and with them a multitude of editors. As luck would have it, I saw one of the editors I knew listed in a classified ad in the back of Writers Digest magazine.

One more round of edits, per Nan Fornal’s suggestions, and I declared my book as complete as I could make it. While she was doing the editing I reworked my website. I thought if any agent thought about representing me, she’d certainly google me. I wanted my site to look its best as well

Next, the hard part, finding an agent. Not all publishers require an agent but most do and so that is the route I am choosing to take. The process of finding an agent is another series of steps. Before contacting an agent, you need a query letter, which amounts to a sales pitch. You need to include the genre, word count, bio, and synopsis in your query. Databases of agents are available from several online sources. I am using Querytracker.net. After attending an online workshop about querying I worked on my letter. Now I need to research agents that are open for submissions and interested in my genre.

Wish me luck!

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