In Part 1 of this interview, published last month, David addressed issues around writing the book. In Part 2, he gives us some insight into editing and publishing.
However, before I go any further, I'm delighted to announce that the book is now available! You can purchase a copy at the publisher's website now.
How many drafts of the book did you write? What advice do you have for others about rewriting and editing?
I sat on these chapters for years. In fact, I remember writing some early chapters that I went back to read and they were completely ridiculous—I mean, comically bad. I was shocked to know these words came out of me. But for the most part, when I completely focused on the book, it flowed out of me pretty easily because of how long I’d been writing it in my head.
As far as advice for writers goes, Anne Lamott hit the nail on the head when she said your first draft is, without a doubt, complete and utter shit. That’s why she calls it her “Shitty First Draft.” She convinced me to put my story down on paper, then I could lie to myself and call the rest “editing.” And in my opinion, editing (even very heavy editing) is much easier than writing my shitty first draft. But you aren’t big on cuss words, follow the wise advice of Annie Dillard: “One of the things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now.”
Describe the publishing journey. What was frustrating, pleasing, surprising, satisfying?
Everyone was yelling at me to write this story, and I had contacts with great writing agents from earlier in my career. But first, I needed the confidence to get through writing my proposal because I was facing the struggle of how hard would be to write this book. After submitting my proposal and two chapters to my agent, Chris Ferebee, he sent it to publishers. I learned from a series of “No, thank yous,” I was writing a “gap” book. Too much honest “God” talk for secular publishers and too much “drunk” talk for Christians publishers. So I had the joy of writing my book the way it actually happened; from speaking in tongues to not speaking at all because I’ve drunkenly passed out. It’s pretty frustrating to learn that publishing companies are focused on making more money, rather than telling great stories. Nevertheless, go capitalism!
For kicks, here are a few responses from publishers:
Ultimately, you raised the money to publish the book via crowdfunding. Any tips for other memoirists on running a successful crowdfunding campaign?
Video. In fact, you need ridiculously amazing video. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that the typical person is only swayed by video these days. Words only allow introductions with people, but telling your story in video form creates a vivid way for the public to remember and connect with you. I was lucky enough to work with Gorilla Films (wearegorilla.co) who did a marvelous job at retelling my life through a five-minute film.
HOWEVER, I must say, don’t go search for a great director or a production company. Go get a fantastic scriptwriter first. They carry the capacity to build and create the best script for a video no matter who the director or production company is. If you are having trouble finding a writer, call me!
Tell us about the cover design choices you made.
The actual design choice was simple due to what this image represents in my life, but the final design was a far cry from what I originally wanted. Currently, my book is covered with waves, lapping in and out of a sandy beach. It represents the fact that God always gives and God always takes, just like the eternal consistency of waves. To accept one without the other is absolutely ridiculous. There is no way one can appreciate the fullness of life if we haven’t also experienced the loss and pain of that same life.
My original idea—which wasn’t used—came from the concept I presented in the final chapter of my book. The music Boléro, by Maurice Ravel, was composed during the onset of a sickness in his brain, which later killed him. And years later, a doctor, obsessed with Ravel’s composition, led her to paint the music without knowing she also had the same sickness in her brain. Unfortunately, I have the same illness in the same part of my brain. But I won’t know if I have that disease until it progresses a little more. Nevertheless, Boléro and this painting have such wonderful starting and finishing moments. In fact, I love how it openly allows the listener to challenge whether or not they like the song or the painting. I would much rather be given a choice by the artist, than be told by others that this is “good” art or “bad” art. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows? It’s truly up to you to decide.
If you had to go through the process again, what might you do differently?
If I were to live through this process again, I wouldn’t change the story at all, knowing full well I am living the best life I ever have. My first answer is to say I would change how I reacted to these events. I have spent far too much of my time being bitter, resentful, unappreciative, and angry. Those are the words that carry much more weight than cancer or divorce or unexpected pregnancies. It’s not about the actual events, but more so how I responded to them.
I could say that if I could changed my responses to these scenarios that I would be a better person, but in actuality, I think it was the actual physical, emotional, and spiritual battles that made my story (my life!) worthwhile. I feel that, despite what is wrong or right, I have learned so much from all of the love, loss of love, pain, glory, arguments, drunken nights, forgiveness, close friends, bruised bodies, sexual encounters, and crying babies, that I would never give them back.
In the end, all I can say is that it all happened in the most perfect way possible. I would change nothing.
Do you have another literary project in the works?
I do enjoy writing, but I enjoy speaking even more. In the speaking world, I want to focus much more on a relevant way to tell this story of disease, heartbreak, and redemption in one hour as opposed to the hours people would spend reading my book all the way through. I feel my message can reach many more people if I can spread this message to churches, universities, and conferences. In fact, if you are looking for a speaker who has experienced both the best and worst in this life, contact me!
However, I’ve also considered the idea of creating a book I would write for the rest of my long/short life. It would be the lessons I’ve learned, the struggles I’ve overcome, and essentially writing it until the moment I die: a complete life story featuring cancer, divorce, and a new family. But past that, I would love to dig further into spirituality, personal motivational habits, and an ongoing dedication to a purposeful life, and continue telling this story all the way to my deathbed. In fact, I already have the URL purchased :-)
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith