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the everyman memoirs

The official blog of author Tali Nay.
OCT
26

Manuscript Babies

 

This picture was taken without my knowledge while at Disneyland last week with a certain little person in my life. This little person is quite different than his older brother, whom I took to Disneyland last year, and as a person with no little people of my own, the differences between the personalities of little people is not something I’m able to observe very often. That’s one reason why last week was such a surprise to me. I was expecting the week to go much differently. Neither worse nor better, it was just different. Because they are different. We spent much more time observing details than we did careening down mountains. And I have no complaints about that.

When it comes to differences, I can’t even really compare animals because I only have one (best girl I have, that’s what I tell her). So that leaves me—the childless cat-lady author—with nothing but manuscripts to compare. True that they are my babies, in a way only someone without children would say. True that they exist because of me. That they make me worry and cry and stress and don’t make me any money. That I love them all unconditionally. That they are each my favorite but for very different reasons.

I’ve been making steady progress on my new manuscript, up to 90% finished now. 90%!!! It’s that weird part of the writing process where you’re so close to being done (exciting!) but long finished with your favorite and best parts (demotivating!). See, I don’t write my manuscripts in chronological order. I don’t write from start to finish. I make a list (which constantly changes) of things I know I’ll want to include in the book, and then I pick one and write it up. Then pick another. And another. But I’m no fool. And I pick the things I want to write about most first. If that sentence sounded strange, what I mean is I first pick the things I most want to write about. The Goods. The Juice. The Triumph. The Bitch Who Lived Downstairs.

Which means I’m left now with the dregs, if you will. The stuff I keep passing over each time I select a topic to write. The stuff I haven’t chosen until now. It’s not bad. It’s just not the stuff I couldn’t wait to write down. But the end is near, and that’s pretty incredible. A new sibling to my other manuscripts, one which I’m sure to love equally and with abandon. Even if he takes cross-eyed selfies when I’m not looking.

AUG
25

Anais Nin and a Writing Update

 

After several thousand more words, I'm officially 70% done with my new manuscript. Since my last update at 60%, I've been writing a lot about my months of gemology studies in New York City. Despite some city stresses, it was such a happy time of life. One of my favorite things I've ever done, and writing about it--everything from the little gemology lab I set up in my apartment to the worksheets on which I used to scribble out my always-imperfect assignments--has made me remember how much I loved it. It's brought me back to those places, to that time, to those hundreds of gemstones that I studied and identified. 

It reminds me of that saying. By that I mean the one on the notebook I was given as a gift. "We write to taste life twice." It's Anais Nin, and it's so accurate. When writing about something true, something that actually happened to us, or should have happened to us, or that we watched happen to someone else, we go back there. We feel a glimmer of how we felt at the time. We craft the words that best describe these glimmers for those who weren't there, for those who wouldn't have felt what we felt in those moments. I highly doubt it would have given any of you a thrill to study a new box of gemstones each day, or to get the fancy pair of diamond tweezers you wanted for Christmas, or to pass a test you've been working toward for years that requires a perfect score. But if I, in my thousands of words, can help you see these glimmers and how they look and feel to me, then we're all richer for having seen a slice of life the way someone else experienced it. So, back to the manuscript.

JUL
08

Because I Also Write Books

It's easy to forget that, especially because there are so many other things to talk about on this blog. Like LeBron. And gemstones. And the fact that I've fallen in love which is totally cutting into my writing time. (Worth it, by the way.) But I do write books. 

I'm currently 60% done with my next manuscript. This will be my fourth book, and 60% feels significant. It feels like we're getting somewhere. And I probably say this with every book (someone should really look into this), but I'm pretty sure this one is my favorite. While the other three each follow a certain theme throughout my entire life thus far, this book is about a single, brief period of my life. It's about a thing I always wanted to do. It's about me doing it, loving/hating it, and ultimately leaving it behind. It's just focused differently...in a way my first three books are not. And I'm also exploring the idea of experimenting with chronology on this one, so you have that to dread look forward to when the time comes.

All good stuff. I like writing so much. I'm grateful it's one of the many aspects of my life. Even if it almost never gets top billing. On this blog or anywhere else. Some things we do simply because we must. Because we are called. Because they are there. Because if we don't, who will ever know that these things happened to us? That we had these feelings? That we dreamed dreams and took risks and failed a lot?

Which is all to say, I'm looking forward to the next 40%.  

JAN
14

Recovery

I don't think I do surgery well. Who does, you ask? I guess people who have more surgery than I do. There were many, many, many painful and annoying things that have come along with the past ten days of recovery, but I suppose if there's one thing being stuck in bed is good for, it's making progress on your new manuscript. I'm happy to say it's probably about 25% done. Still so much further to go, but it's progress. I just need about a half dozen more surgeries.

Seriously though, one of my 2018 goals is to write more. 2017 was a record low writing year for me, a combination of a high reading goal and a new gym membership that sucked the majority of my free time. This year I've lowered my reading goal and will focus on balancing my evenings between writing and the gym.

As I've written this past week, it's been a treat to think back on memories from my time living in New York City. That seems to be where the subject of this new manuscript is settling, and from the good to the bad to the obscenity-inducing frustration, it's a place I look back on fondly enough to build a mini lego Chrysler Building while stuck in bed.

There's more where this came from if I end up needing more surgery. My cat, for one, would be thrilled.

MAY
29

May Days

And there goes May. Seriously, I'm not sure where the month went. Although I suppose that's not entirely true. Because I can tell you exactly what I've been doing. Mostly I've been putting in a ton of hours at work in preparation for JCK Las Vegas (if you're there, stop by and see me at the GIA booth!), but I've also managed to squeeze in some California fun as well. There was Dapper Day at Disneyland, which I mentioned here, and I also took my first trips to both Huntington Beach and Long Beach. On one hand, it's like, I freaking live at the beach, so it's not like Huntington provided anything I don't already have in my every day life...except maybe the lifeguard who liked doing push-ups (see above picture).

The highlight of my beach tour was actually the Queen Mary in Long Beach. If you think Saturday-night dinner and dancing is charming on its own, try doing it on an old, historic ship that feels all Titanicky inside, complete with super teeny tiny bathrooms. I'll definitely be going back. And I'll definitely be peeing beforehand. I also took in a Billy Joel concert at Petco Park, and he is, quite frankly, the best. May also saw me celebrating the one year anniversary of passing my big gemology test, so that's triggered a whole host of satisfying and happy memories. Made even happier when I look around me and see that the impacts upon my life for having changed my career trajectory are both far-reaching and permanent.

And, of course, I must mention that another May timesuck (although one I absolutely love) has been finalizing this blasted manuscript. I know I mentioned that I handed it over to my editor in April, and at this point I can't remember if I reported back on her verdict, which was that the book works. It's well-done, moving, and in place. Her words, not mine. And I am so relieved. It still won't be everyone's thing (but then, what book is?), but getting the green light from the editor is always a red-letter experience. I've just finished a final read-through after her copyedit changes have been incorporated, and this means--and I can't believe I'm saying this--that it's time to hand it over. Like, for good. Bring on the typesetting. Can't wait to see this one in print.

APR
02

Celebrating the Handoff

I gave my new manuscript to the editor this morning. She might hate it. She might tell me it doesn't work. In which case I'll be pretty discouraged. But that's always the risk you take when you put a piece of yourself down on paper. Particularly when that self is so very ordinary.

But no matter. Because whichever way this goes, tonight I'm celebrating that I've written a new book. It's such an accomplishment. And while as a woman--and a relatively worry-warty one at that--I've become an expert at feeling like I'm not enough, like I'm disappointing others, like I'm not living up to my potential, and like everyone in the office finds me kind of annoying (even though I threw the most amazing chili cookoff last month), tonight I am nothing but proud.

 

MAR
25

The Editor

I'm preparing to do my final read-through of this darn manuscript before handing it over to my editor next week. It really is a bummer that even as your manuscript gets tighter and better as the read-throughs continue, you start to genuinely dislike it. The repetition. The many revisions and re-revisions. The fact that you can recite so much of it for memory that you fear your eyes may simply be glossing over entire pages without really paying attention. By this point I am, as per usual, convinced no one will ever want to read this thing. Probably a good sign that it's time to hand it off to someone else.

When my editor reminded me today that it's been five years since she edited my first book, it seemed a bit hard to fathom. Five years. It's not a huge amount of time, but it is nonetheless significant. The first little chunk in roundable figures. Five years. In so many ways, I feel like I'm in a much better place now. I've cut the tie with Corporate America. I finally left a city I had outgrown. I've become a gemologist. I pursued a dream and it worked out. I got to live in my beloved Manhattan. I tried a pixie cut. I've written three books.

Of course, in a few ways, things are worse, too. I lost a love, a future I very much wanted. I've perhaps lost some amount of faith as well. Not just in the world and the goodness at its core, but also in a belief system that becomes ever harder to embrace in its entirety. And I've obviously lost some youth, creeping ever closer to the point at which I can no longer consider myself young at all. None of these losses are insignificant.

But overall I have to be happy with where things have shaken out over the five years since I picked up one of those Guide to Literary Agents books and began looking for a kindred spirit--or, at the very least, someone who thought I had talent. Given where I sit at this moment (at my writing desk, looking out at the palm trees in my front yard and enjoying the cool ocean-laced breeze coming in through the window), I have to conclude I made a good choice.

FEB
25

Final(ish) Touches

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A friend recently commented that I blog much less now that I’m a working girl again. This is true. So is the fact that I am way behind on getting my new manuscript to my editor, and much for the same reason. I do pine for my days in New York City, most of them employer-free once I quit my job to focus on gemology, nothing really on my to-do list other than a freelance writing gig and a magnificent city to discover. Those were the days.

It’s now been three months since announcing here (And....Done.) that I had finished the new manuscript, so I should probably tell you that what’s happened is I felt like there was something missing. I wanted to add in a more universal component to weave throughout the stories from my own life that fill the book, and so I sent out the survey I mentioned here (Survey Says), and then wrote 8,000 more words to incorporate some of the survey themes and data into the manuscript.

It’s not perfect, and I still have some work to do before I hand it off, but I like it better now. And I like that it’s something new I’m experimenting with. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still filled with that sickening sense of panic that always fills me before the release of a book (“No one will like this.”), but that will probably be there every time. All I can do is take my time, try to get it right on my end, and enjoy every bit of the process.

NOV
22

And....Done.

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"Call it crazy. It certainly would have been apropos."

This is the line that officially completed my third manuscript, a manuscript I wrote the last 3000 words of this weekend. To be clear, these are not the last 3000 words of the book...just as the line above is not how the book ends...it's simply the conclusion of the last chapter I had left to write up. The one, I hate to say it, I've been avoiding because remembering it sort of sucked.

There's actually a lot in this book that sucks, which means that I have more work to do on this manuscript than on any other. (Not to mention, it's 150% longer than my previous two.) Editing, re-writing, deleting, and--ultimately--making sure this is still a book that I feel good about putting out there. But for now I'm happy. Thrilled, even. I forgot how good it feels just to get the first draft all written out. It feels AMAZING. It propels me forward into the next phase, a phase that revolves around organization and detail and chronology. It's a phase I like so very much. It's a phase that gets me one step closer to holding the finished product in my hands.

Watch out, world. Here come all the love stories.

AUG
12

Unfinished Business

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I just finished reading a book whose author passed away prior to its completion. Since her wishes had been to have it published--even partially--the book, a much-anticipated sequel, went to press as it had been at the time of her death--only halfway finished. It was tough to read, partly because the original book had been so phenomenal. Any sequel--even a completed one--would have struggled to hold a candle to such a fine work. And then there was the matter of the sequel's incompleteness, its lack of editing, etc. Fulfilling the author's wishes is the important thing, so nothing else really matters, but the whole thing did make me a little bit sad. Sad that the author wasn't able to make it the book she intended for it to be. As a sentimental, somewhat morose, and occasionally morbid writer myself, naturally this has caused me think about what I would wish upon my own partially-completed manuscript.

In short, what I would wish is this: That no one see it. Ever. (Except the sumbitch who broke my heart, who should be forced to read my account of said heartbreak over and over again.)

All kidding aside, I do think about the whole death/manuscript relationship fairly frequently. The thought horrifies me. Not the death part. The unfinished manuscript part. The great thing about getting your memoirs published, see, is that you have the chance to pick the stories you want and then polish them until they sparkle. No one has to know that the way you originally wrote it in your journal was something along the lines of, "He said this and I said that and then we did this stuff and afterward went to this place where that neat thing happened." As of now, my manuscript unfinished and unedited, there are several things that my post-death computer discoverer will have to wade through. Like entire sections I already know are going to be cut. They aren't very strong and the manuscript's too long anyway. So should the worst happen, my apologies in advance. Both to whoever it is that discovers my partial manuscript, and to my faithful readers, who unfortunately won't be given a partially completed book to wean themselves off of me. I'm afraid you'll have to go cold turkey.

Although you could always hunt down my ex for the heartbreak chapter.

 

FEB
23

How to read someone else's manuscript

b2ap3_thumbnail_detective.jpgThe answer is that I have no idea, but I had the chance this month to be a beta reader of someone else's manuscript. I'd never done this before, and it's kind of exciting. Hot off the press. Not even out yet. Being one of the first few pairs of eyes to ever read something. On the other hand, it's a little bit daunting, too. Because manuscripts (and this was a particularly long one) are like kids to their creators. So to end up with several pages of notes and suggestions for someone else's manuscript can make a beta reader feel like she's being kind of bitchy. Oh well. Feedback is a gift, right?

It's a wonder then that I don't ask for more of it with my own manuscripts. This author has a whole group of beta readers, whereas my books go to press with me and my editor as the only ones who have ever read them. For me it gets too complicated to get a bunch of hands in the pot, even if they are the hands of my most trusted friends and family members. I start feeling torn and indecisive if said friends and family members disagree on certain elements, so the best I can do to stay sane is to just move forward with the book the way I like it best. Of couse, when you write non-fiction, it's probably easier to get away with this. I don't have complicated plot twists and character development to worry about, as did the author of the manuscript I just beta-read.

At any rate, I was flattered to have been asked, and am always impressed by people with the discipline and talent to create entire books. They make the world--and my life--much more entertaining.

OCT
22

The Shredder

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I have company coming into town this weekend. This is rather momentous, as no one ever has cause to come through Cleveland, so needless to say, my spare room needs a lot of work. Not only is it my writing room, but it's also the dump-anything-you-don't-want-to-hang-up-or-put-away-or-deal-with-right-now room.

Full printed out and marked up drafts of both of my manuscripts were in there, and since it seemed a little weird to just drop them in one of those Shred-It bins (nothing good can come from leaving manuscripts anywhere...isn't that the point of The Words?), I sat down last night to the task of shredding them. Of course, after about twenty minutes of shoving a constant stream of papers through the machine, I started to get sentimental. They were my words. My drafts. All my corrections and edits a smattering of red across each page. It doesn't matter, it won't be worth anything to anyone someday because notoriety is probably not in my cards, but it was enough to make me stop shredding. Well, that, and I had broken the shredder.

Tonight's task: Removing the year+'s worth of People magazines also being kept in the spare room and that need to be recycled. Pretty sure those I can part with.

AUG
26

Three before Two

I have a confession. I started writing my third book. I know, I know, it's ridiculous. I only just barely made all the changes recommended by my editor to my second book and handed the manuscript over for typesetting. There's still so much time before book two is even out, and here I've gone and started on book three. It makes me feel like a mom who's robbed her baby of his babyhood by immediately upping and having another baby.

But the thing about getting books out there is it takes so damn long once the writing is done that you find yourself--even when in the thick of the book prepping and publishing processes--missing the actual writing. It's what writers like best, after all, and considering I finished the manuscript way back here, this means I haven't actually written anything in months. So I couldn't help myself. Not to mention the fact that one of the chapters that will go in book three is fresh on my mind and should really be written up pronto. At any rate, I've begun. It will be slow-going with everything else happening bookwise, but I don't mind. 684 words in, and I'm already hooked.

 

JUL
29

Ode to the Salt Mines

I hate you, salt mines.

Yes, it's day one back at work after a nice, long vacation, and while what I really need is a slap in the face (I'm grateful to have a job and all the benefits it provides me), it's always a bit depressing to return to real life. And Cleveland is always a bit depressing after NYC in particular. (Isn't ANY city?)

But, no matter, my real life is pretty fun too, at least that's what I tell myself. Sure, there are expectations of me, I have to cook my own food, and I end up at home most nights instead of out seeing a show or eating cheesecake at Carnegie Deli at midnight (or frozen hot chocolate at Serendipity). Sure, my editor has told me that manuscript #2 needs some work. Sure, I miss home and family and there are things about my life I wish I could change, but I'm fresh off a trip to the city, and for the moment I can't be anything but grateful. Hard to ask for more than a view like this.

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JUL
16

And it's in.

My second manuscript, that is. Handed it off to the editor tonight. It's funny how in these final days and read-throughs I was hit with all kinds of "this isn't good enough" thoughts, to the point of pure panic, but then again, that's exactly how I felt last time. And I think Schooled turned out pretty well. Even though there's a bit of angst this time around as well, mostly I feel incredibly relieved this evening. And proud. And also excited about seeing the book take shape over the coming months. I loved what Crystal said in this post about manuscripts being like childbirth...it may be ugly but the kid is still mine. And this manuscript in particular is definitely mine.

JUN
24

The Read-Through

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I did my first full read-through of the manuscript over the weekend. Of course I've been reading/editing for a couple months now, but this was the first reading that happened all in one sitting. And also the first reading since I've had the chapters arranged in their new order.

It went well (although there's a Saturday afternoon I'll never get back), but reading from start to finish like that makes you think, All this effort for something that can be read in a matter of hours? I guess that's the nature of the beast, and why only a handful of people out there are crazy devoted enough to write books.

MAY
30

When Things Break

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That would be my air conditioner. I can't even say anything else. Or even type it. It's too hot in here. At this rate, my manuscript will combust at any moment. It's downright unsafe to have this much paper sitting around an old charming Cleveland home in the summer. Wait, it's not even summer yet? This is terrible news.

 

MAY
29

Hit

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I hit my weekend stretch goal. All the edits are entered, and a new clean draft printed. Everything was overseen by Clementine, who, despite walking over the keyboard repeatedly and sitting herself directly on the piles of papers I most needed access to, considers herself central to these operations. At any rate, a successful weekend.

MAY
25

For the Long Weekend

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Here is my weekend goal: to enter all the edits I've been scribbling on the manuscript into the computer and print out a new, clean draft. I will not reach this goal, but it is, as they say in business, a stretch goal. (stretch goal, [n] 1. a target that is impossible to hit that you are asked to try for anyway. 2. a pipe dream)

So onto page 1.

MAY
15

On Chronology

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When I wrote Schooled, I originally had it organized into themed chapters. I thought this would be more readable (or at least less predictable) than chronological, so I lumped the vignettes together into themes. I had a troublemaking chapter, a theater/acting chapter, a teachers chapter, etc. And organizing a manuscript just the way you want it is no small task. So realizing after all that work that I actually did prefer the book in chronological order meant a whole lot of additional work. Not that it matters if it's the right decision, which I think it was, but my point is simply this: rearranging a manuscript is a big undertaking.

Since this second book will not be chronological (I think this is the right decision as well), there are a lot more ways I could potentially sequence it. A couple of weeks ago I had the manuscript spread out across the living room floor as I worked through the night to come up with an order that made sense to me, and I found one. Which I've felt good about. Until Monday night when I had a thought, a little epiphany, and once again spread the pages across the floor and reshuffled their order. I feel better about what I have now. I think I'm getting closer to the one that will stick. But who knows what another night, another spread of the pages will bring. This, if you ask me, is the fun stuff.