Give it Time: Finalizing My Memoir in only 3-10 Years

Artwork by Catherine Lanser

I always heard book publication takes time. I thought I had a sense of how long the process takes. In my day job in marketing communications, I am used to creating schedules and backing things up days, weeks, and months before all the parts and pieces of a final product come together. Something as small as a pamphlet can take a year. I couldn’t imagine how long it would take to print an actual book.

Starting 10 Years Ago …

But what I didn’t expect was how long the writing process would take once I moved from essays to a longer work. I originally came up with the idea for my memoir probably 10 years ago when I crafted separate essays about my brain tumor and my dad’s stroke and death.

But it wasn’t until three years ago when I signed up for a memoir-writing class that I really wrote it in earnest. The goal was to complete a full memoir throughout the course of a year.

What Shape Will it Take? What’s it About?

I had been an essay writer before and had never written a full-length work. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a book of essays or a memoir, and if I did that what the focus would be. At the beginning of the class, what I wrote about varied. But as the year went on, I finally zeroed in on my topic.

And by the end of the class, I could say I had a draft. But it was nowhere near finished. I continued to struggle with it for another six months, pulling it apart and reshaping it until I took another workshop. This one was half as long as the first. The focus here was on completing the draft and writing a proposal for submission.

My memoir was truly done by the end of the six months, but I did not finish my proposal by then. Instead, now with my memoir in “final” draft shape, I could write my proposal. Since then I have completed and refined that.

Three Years and Counting …

Now three years after beginning, my memoir is complete, and I am submitting. I am thankful that the writing and preparation process has taken this long. When I look back at where I started and where I ended up, I know I have a much better product.

I am also happy that I spent the year finding my focus. Although many of the earlier drafts will not end up in my memoir, I know they were words I needed to write. The first assignment I wrote for the memoir in a year workshop focused on my hometown. I recently reworked parts of that draft into another essay, which will be published in a new anthology this spring.

And, even though my memoir is not yet printed, I have published several pieces in online publications and one was a finalist in a contest. Taking the slower road has also given me time to focus on improving these pieces and on my website and blog. I’m trying to keep this lesson in mind as I submit, knowing that publishing takes time.