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looking for a developmental editor

Looking for a developmental editor: a novice decides to write a memoir.

In 2018, when I decided to gather the bits of information, journals, diaries, court transcripts and the letters from my life and put them into a book, I had no idea of looking for a developmental editor. I had never thought of myself as a writer, struggled to see myself as an author and had not a lot of thought about how to embark on such a project. I had a burning desire to help others to see that there is goodness in the world and that there is happiness after hardship and a light at the end of the tunnel. Telling people parts of my story seemed to elicit tears, happiness, and wonderment in equal measures.

Perhaps I should—but could I?—write a book?

I had no idea where this decision would lead. Nor did I realize how hard it would be to negotiate the personalities of the significant others in my life who thought they could govern what I could and couldn’t reveal on paper. The actual writing turned out to be the easy part of the process.

The beginning

Early 2018 saw the beginning of my rapid education in writing and, in particular, memoir writing. As I educated myself on how to write, I began to fall in love with writing; the process of putting my thoughts into words that spilled out onto the pages of a manuscript was heavenly for me. The research into getting the setting and context right challenged me.  The conversations that lead to the memories that unfolded for me was unsettling, and the pain of releasing those thoughts into words on paper was surprising.

By the time I got towards the middle of the year, I had written only 10,000 words. It was at that stage I made a decision that changed my life: I stopped my professional work.  Yes, cold turkey stopped. I had run my own consulting company, providing nurse consultancy services to small hospitals and day surgeries across the country for the last six years and I stopped that to write my memoir. What a blessing that turned out to be!

Writing the story of my life was not easy, even though the words flowed from my thoughts and onto the screen before my eyes. My life had been a series of setbacks, flawed decision-making, trauma, and hardship. It wasn’t until I decided to improve my life, chose to invest in the self-development that I started on a journey of self-discovery. This lead to intensive counseling and part of that process was journaling. The words I inscribed in my journal formed a solid basis for my memoir.

By September of 2018, I had three-quarters of my memoir written; I started to think that I needed a professional to help shape what I had written, to direct the structure of my memoir. I had by this stage written 50,000 words, but my story was not yet finished. I had the elements that I wanted in the book, but it was not as polished as I wanted it to be. It was then that I went looking for a developmental editor. I naively thought this would be easy but developmental editors that specialize in memoir are unique and a good one proved hard to find.

Looking for a developmental editor

I searched the internet for an editor with some specific qualifications; I wanted someone who had experience in writing an autobiography, and someone with experience and knowledge of psychological principles and counseling. I learned that I had to go looking for a developmental editor. Then I found The Memoir Network and my wonderful editor, Sarah Yuen.

It was Sarah’s expertise and gentle, persuasive challenges of my writing that drove me deeper into my memories and brought out a depth of storyline that I may not have had the courage to pursue, had Sarah not challenged my thinking at every turn. A persistent developmental editor, she caused me to pause and think about the intent of the memoir and its greater impact on those reading it. She implored me to be uniquely me and to be believable and authentic for the reader—and she shared techniques for doing so. The result is my memoir, a book I’m proud to put my name to, my legacy for the future.

The result of looking for a developmental editor?

I’m so happy that I went looking for a developmental editor and that I found one.

Along the way of writing Resilience: a Memoir of a Broken Little Girl Becoming a Woman of Strength and Beauty I discovered my love affair with writing.

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