So you’re here at last. Right now you may have no inclination as to what re-authoring looks like or feels like. To see different plot patterns in your stories, takes a great deal of distance. To do so you must also have gone through the grief cycle to mourn your trauma, or maybe even several. Have I done it? Yes… …
So what should you be cutting (or rewriting)? Anything that does not move the story forward, anything which seems slow. This is the reason you need fresh eyes, because without them you will be too attached to what you have just written. It’s like a child, in a manner of speaking. Right after birth, you are smack in the middle of attachment. A few years down the line, you start to see them as a separate person! Thus when you re-read what you’ve written after a while, you may find that there are places where even you put your story down because it lags. These are the first passages to examine.
But be careful that you don’t make outright assumptions about others’ motivations and behaviours. You cannot know what is in their mind, you can only know how you interpret their words and behaviour. If you move into describing the internal reflections of someone else, your memoir will be less believable. Do it too much and you will have moved into the realm of fiction using an omniscient narrator.
It took me fifteen years to publish my first book and it is my hope that I can shorten that time for you because a lot of that time was spent on unnecessary self-doubt. Those fifteen years were spent trying to improve my self esteem. Had I continued writing despite my self-doubt, I truly believe that my self-esteem would have improved much more quickly. Instead I looked to others to give me tips which were for the most part a load of rubbish.
Yet even though your work is of immense personal value, your first draft will not be in any shape to be published and that is just as it should be. So if you’re waiting to ‘find’ the perfect first line, for it to plop into your lap, then you’ll be waiting for a long time.
Authors say that ‘writing is rewriting.’ Nowhere is this more true than when you write memoir in order to heal. I wrote the stories as I remembered them and as I felt them, in my younger voice. But as I grew older, read more, learned more and loved myself more (which came largely but indirectly, from continuously writing and publishing my stories), I found silver linings to my past trauma.
Because personal truth does change over time as perspective is added. That you understood the truth of your motivations at one time for a particular decision, does not make it necessarily or wholly true now.