I returned to Chicago on Sunday after almost three weeks away in New York. Like my trip there in May, I hunkered down on the upper west side to crank out the first draft of my next book (Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community). How did I do? Well, that depends…
Word count: I had a specific word count in mind and I fell short. I got to 75% of the goal, which isn’t horrible, but not what I’d hoped. Why I fell short can be blamed on two things. First, I made the biggest mistake you can make on a first draft: I self-edited. I didn’t realize it until I was half-way through the trip. I spent entirely too much time trying to clean up my writing instead of just letting it flow. I won’t make that mistake again. Second, distractions. Some of them were personal, like the realization that had my day’s plans not changed, I would’ve been near the Oct. 31 terror attack. Others were book-related (two new sources of material that will be in the book). But still, getting to 75% isn’t a failure.
Organization: I have had a breakdown of chapters for some time now, dividing the women by the role they played (educator, activist, artist, etc.). I planned ahead for which chapters I’d work on each day. That plan blew up on the second or third day. I wound up just writing women’s stories and sometimes guessing the right chapter. Many of the women resisted fitting neatly into a specific chapter. Their stories may pop up in two or more.
Themes: This was not something I was consciously aware of until I started writing. Without sounding too goofy, the women led me. They showed me themes and trends and proved a few points I only guessed were true. I heard some of their voices, loud and clear, and I expect that to continue.
Support: Though I saw very few people during my self-imposed isolation, among the ones I saw was a man whose very vocal support was unexpected and passionate. I hadn’t seen him for some time, so it was a surprise to run into him. It was also something I needed, because the day before I had been pretty discouraged about the book. His insights were just what I needed.
This weekend I should have the first draft finished. I’ll work on the second one next week, over the Thanksgiving weekend. At the same time, I’m requesting permission for use of quotes and images, as well as interviewing editors and public relations people. It’s a lot. It would be a lot if I had nothing else going on in my life, which of course I do.
But it’s good: frustrating at times, but good. It’s exciting and humbling and terrifying at the same time. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.