I am pleased to announce that I have finished the rough draft of Chapter One of my Lizzie book. After extensive research and nine years of stops and starts, I am finally getting this down on paper. It feels terrific!
I needed a strategy in putting together this book, and it took a long time to figure it out. Once solved, the writing went so much faster. I stumbled upon the answer while reading about writing a fiction novel. The book, Outlining Your Novel by K.M. Weiland taught me how to build and use chronological order as the framework while still focusing on themes. My natural tendency is to be a thematic writer, and I am also very much into process. These two things can confuse the reader because exploring themes and processes can make the story hard to follow. I discovered this after writing three previous drafts of this chapter (I am slow, but I get it eventually. :-)) I followed a strict chronological order governed by an actual calendar of each year. Linking the day of the week to the date made each event more real to me.
My first step was to consult the primary source journals and letters to get actual dates. Then I filled in the gaps with the secondary sources. It helped keep me organized and focused.
I have a little confession to make. For the longest time, I’ve had this sense that I was working against the clock. It’s not that I’m all that old at 64, but I keep remembering how Madelon Bedell could not finish her second volume of her Alcott biography (which was on the sisters) because she died of cancer. I can’t even imagine how she must have felt knowing that she would not be able to finish. I did not want the same thing to happen to me, but I was having difficulty getting anywhere with this book until now.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in very different ways. For me, it resulted in anxiety and depression, a severe body tremor, and the loss of my job of 27 years. Losing that job (and being able to collect unemployment) opened up the opportunity to focus on my health. I had several symptoms that affected the quality of life. After nine months of trying out various medications and going to physical therapy, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Fortunately, the medicine that I am taking has alleviated most of the symptoms, making me productive again. As a result of the diagnosis, I decided to retire, which now leaves me lots of time to focus on this book.
Knowing I have Parkinson’s does indeed put a deadline on my work. It is hard to say how long I can mitigate the symptoms. But this just fuels my desire all the more to get this done. I am thankful that I have at least some warning regarding my health as it is sharpening my focus on my work. It’s all a good thing.
Especially since I finished the draft of Chapter One!
In a small way, all this helps me to relate to my dear Lizzie all the more.