I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been working very hard to finish our book, Despair to Deliverance: A True Story of Triumph Over Severe Mental Illness. I remain very grateful to the people who read the final draft and gave us their honest feedback. What an enormous gift!
The feedback has led to some restructuring of the book. The story of Robin’s meltdown year in 2003 previously comprised the first five chapters. I told the story part, and Robin then wrote her reaction and thoughts about the story at the end of each chapter. This blog is basically the first draft of those five chapters. The final draft of the book included more from Robin than is on the blog, and lots of “tightening” of what we both wrote. The last chapter of the book included Robin talking about how she got from where she was at the end of that terrible year, to where she is now (stable and content with her life)…with me commenting a bit at the end.
Many of our readers thought the chapters were too long, and wanted to hear from Robin more frequently during the course of the story. They were right. The content from the first five chapters is now eight chapters, with more additions from Robin.
The readers thought some details were left out of the last chapter, particularly in terms of what I had to say. I had shifted from writing in great detail during the first five chapters, to writing in complete summary version in the last chapter. So, I am working on consolidating the story a bit in the first part, and adding some detail in the last part.
It amazes me how completely right all the feedback felt when we got it. And, now that I am making the suggested changes, it actually feels like the book is falling into place the way it needs to be. I will be much happier with the final version once I incorporate the feedback of our trusted readers.
The lesson for us writers, from my perpective, is the importance of getting out of our own heads and letting people we trust tell us their thoughts. It is crucial to keep ourselves from being too rigid, or to be too tied to our own version of how our writing should be. Leaving our egos out of the process allows us to hear what we need to hear without being defensive or protective of our original way of thinking.
As some of the people who commented on my last post said, this is about the journey and not the destination. The journey of writing this book has connected Robin with her people, me with my people, and Robin and I with each other in a whole new way. It will be a group effort when the book is finally complete. Now that I can actually envision the final version, and am clear that the feedback we received is going to improve it dramatically, it is starting to get exciting. The journey has been great. But, the destination is important too!