Three weeks have passed since I posted the announcement that I’d asked nine readers to assess my recently completed convent memoir. I’ve heard from four of them. By the end of the month I hope to know what the others think about the story. Today I’ll detail how I got to the fourth draft that I sent them.
In my last posting, I explained that I began the memoir back in July 2014. By October, I had a first draft of 65,000 words. Everything was there, I thought, except for the ending. It didn’t share itself with me.
I decided to take a month off. In that way, I might come back to the manuscript as if the words didn’t belong to me. Then I could see more easily how to edit it into a second draft.
In fact, three months passed before I returned to writing. During that time, I experienced a severe allergic reaction to medication, deepening concern about my rising glaucoma pressure, and two bouts of pneumonia. None of this was conducive to assessing that first draft.
By mid-February 2015, I felt healthy enough to begin work on a second draft. As I mused about those long-ago convent days, I added newly remembered anecdotes. However, my work was sporadic because within six weeks, I was in Emergency with a back problem that left me unable to sit at the computer for more than ten minutes at a time.
In May, I completed that second draft. It was now 92,000 words. Once again I planned on taking a month off and then beginning a third, and possibly, final draft. However, new health problems waylaid that plan.
By mid-August I began to feel equal to writing again. To begin, I read the second draft. It was ponderous and repetitious. I realized then that I could spend many more months, maybe years, fooling around with the memoir. It might never get done. So I decided to impose a deadline on myself. To do so, I contacted readers to ask if they’d have time during the month of November to read the memoir.
With that self-imposed deadline, I began the proposed third draft in which I hoped to rid the manuscript of repetition. By mid-October, I had cut 10,000 words and was down to 82,000. That still seemed long to me. I wanted to get in the 70-75,000 range.
Now I had only a week to clear my mind before I began a final pass-through. I spent the final two weeks of October working on the fourth draft. That eye-opening experience revealed haphazard writing. I found countless extraneous words. Rambling sentences. Poor transition and organization.
Also, because many sentences gravitated between who I was in 1958 and who I am now, readers would be torn between two time periods. I wanted to draw them into the world of 1958-1966 and keep them there for the duration of the memoir.
With these problems in mind, I ruthlessly cut the third draft to create a fourth one. By October 31, 2015, I had a 74,000-word manuscript that represented what Dee Ready/Sister Innocence thought and felt nearly fifty years ago. It was as authentic as I could make it.
Now I need to trust my readers to tell me if I’ve succeeded in my attempt to capture that young woman’s joy and angst. In my next posting, I’ll let you know how those readers have responded to the memoir.