Thank you for the many very thoughtful comments. You’ve all given me a lot to mull as I move forward. A few issues you raised are quite easy to address — the arbitrary deadline for one: I think having a date ahead of me is a good thing. I love to write and have a ton to say, but just haven’t had the time lately to sit down and do it. Or maybe I haven’t made the time. So having the conference looming in the near future provides excellent motivation to sit my butt at my desk and just start typing (something other than blog posts).
Of course I know that no agent is going to expect a complete work immediately following the confernece. At the very best, they could invite me to query them, which would only require the first 5 to 50 pages, depending on the agency. So it will easily be months before I need a finished manuscript. (Although memoirs, like fiction, are expected to be complete before a writer even sends out queries.) Of course, even a “finished” manuscript will then be subjected to many revisions based on agent and editor suggestions.
But I do hope to at least have a sense of the scope of the book, what period in our lives it covers and to what degree. Which is what I’m trying to work through now with all of you. I need to know the direction and narrative arc of the book before I sell it to someone else. And the purpose (more on that later, Alfalfa — you know who you are.)
I think I will spend the next week or so (when I’m not shopping, baking, wrapping, celebrating, etc) drafting an epilogue of the recurrence. And then I’ll just see how I like it and whether I feel it accurately covers enough of the important stuff (without all the boring stuff) and then go from there.
Ultimately, all these decisions will lay in the hands of first an agent, and then an editor at a publishing house. If they read the manuscript and say, “This is great — can you give us more?” well, I certainly can.
In the meantime, I will comb through my discarded work of the past month as well as through the past fourteen months of blog posts to pull out the best and most poignant moments. And not even just the moments but the words and phrases that best capture those moments. Some of them will go in the epilogue and others can be woven into earlier parts of the story.
One thing I will have to work hard to ensure doesn’t get totally lost in the epilogue route is the spark of Austin’s personality. In his first round of cancer, he was only a baby and still pre-verbal so the reader simply can’t see the boy who begs to be unhooked from his IV pole to run laps around the nurses. I know this is a largely a story of a mother, but that boy running laps plays a pretty big role too!
So, I haven’t ruled out one or the other option. I’m going to move forward and attempt both and see which one feels most right to me. Which is what matters most. But keep those comments coming — I like having this built-in community of first readers.
(And thanks to those of you who said it’s not boring!)