Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Update on My Book

In February I announced that I’m writing a memoir. I spent most of 2014 pulling together the first draft. In January of this year I started the second draft and completed it this morning. The two processes couldn’t have been more different.

The first draft called for free writing – getting ideas out of my head and into documents, with little scrutiny. I let the creative juices flow. My first draft was unreadable, and that’s what I had expected it to be. Oh, it contained some nice passages here and there, but I wouldn’t show it to anybody.

In the second draft I concentrated on making the text more reader friendly. I minimized use of passive voice (replaced the glasses were filled with Mitchell filled the glasses). Because adverb-verb pairings bore the reader, I substituted more interesting verbs (replaced ran fast with dashed). Good writing avoids overused words, so I searched the document for a list including: very, that, just, almost, really, etc. Perhaps most importantly, I looked for opportunities to identify bland passages and bring them to life.

At the end of the second draft I find myself with 34 chapters, about 95,000 words. This will produce a book of about 350 pages. That feels right.

So, what’s next? Obviously, the third draft. I’ll continue to look for the same things I did in my second draft. In addition, I’ll contemplate big picture issues such as theme, pace, structure, and more.

I have a compelling story to share, and I show flashes of writing ability, but it will take a lot of work to make this publishing-ready. I don’t want anyone to read the book because they know me, and they feel obligated. Instead, I hope people will sample or purchase this book because it is well marketed and has positive reviews. Ideally, they will keep reading this book because they can’t put it down. When they finish they will wish it had been longer, not shorter. I look forward to comments like, “I enjoyed the book, and it made me think about things differently.” I'll continue improving the manuscript until I feel it meets these criteria. I'm in no hurry.

My friend and local author Joe Souza helped me improve the all important opening chapter. My friends at the Portland Writers Group are still giving me outstanding feedback, and I will involve other folks as the project moves along.

In my February announcement I asked readers to submit ideas for the title. The majority suggested the book title be the same as this blog. But I wanted a subtitle, and you gave me some great suggestions. Here are my top choices so far, but I’m not convinced the perfect title is in this list yet:

Enjoying the Ride: A Story of Mutual Suffering and Shared Resilience
Enjoying the Ride: A Mother and Son’s Mutual Suffering and Shared Resilience
Enjoying the Ride: A Family Adapted
Enjoying the Ride: A Mother and Son Adapted
Enjoying the Ride: The Story of a Second-Generation Quadriplegic
Enjoying the Ride: The Courageous Story of Mother and Son Quadriplegics
Enjoying the Ride: Holding It Together When Everything Is Falling Apart

For those of you who missed the first post, here is my synopsis of the book:
Paralysis can strike without warning – one moment you’re a dynamic and independent person and the next, a quadriplegic. That’s what happened to my late mother when she crushed her cervical spinal cord at the age of 35. But sometimes paralysis chips away at your movements, a tiny bit every day, until you become locked inside the useless shell of a body. That’s what has been happening to me since the age of 38 when an aggressive form of MS began to ravage my cervical spinal cord – at an eerily similar location to my mother’s injury. Although we followed different paths, we ended up at the same place.
In a straightforward, irreverent, and hopefully inspirational manner, I tell the story of a mother and son’s mutual suffering and shared resilience. I revisit a childhood growing up with my extraordinary mother then take the reader on a journey through more than a decade of my adult life spent battling primary progressive MS.

My mother prepared me for challenges we could never have imagined I would face. And through the writing process I grew closer to her by finding new meaning in the legacy she left behind.

I’ll keep you updated!


  1. I had to smile as I read the corrections made in the draft. As a veteran of multiple creative works, the process was very familiar. I have come to enjoy the editing process, though, as much as writing the free-wheeling first draft. In fact, I think I may enjoy it more because in the first draft I always harbor the fear of, will I ever complete this? On the second draft, I can relax because I have a beginning, middle, and end. It might be terrible, but at least I have something to work with. As for titles: I'm a minimalist so obviously I would tend toward A Family Adapted. But, from the standpoint of grabbing a reader, the last one (Holding It Together When Everything Is Falling Apart) works best for me.

    1. Judy, I guess we can find joy in all the various parts of the writing process if we try. You point that out well.

  2. Mitch, I like to read your blog because it seems to just flow straight out of you onto the screen. I know from my own experience that can't be true, that you are refining it before you turn it loose, but I hope you won't let all the editing get in the way of the voice of Mitch that we are all drawn to. I'm voting None of the Above because none of them sound like you. (But hey, no kidding--I'll read your book no matter what you call it!)

    1. Daphne, your point is well taken. My blog posts are the result of about 10 drafts each. The words that flow out of me in the first draft are borderline incomprehensible. So I expect what you eventually read in my book will sound like my blog. At least that's what I'm shooting for.

  3. Enjoying the Ride - Following in my Mother's Tracks

    1. Mary Ellen, that's not bad. Not bad at all.

  4. How about, Enjoying the Ride: A mother and sons journey down the same path...