Just before starting the third draft, my final draft, I wrote that I was going to back away from the frequency of these progress reports, that I didn’t want to write the book while sitting in a department store window. I also said that from time to time I’d let people know where I was in the process and how it was going. This seems like a good place to do one.
One unexpected thing happened right at the start. My first and second drafts took me around five or six years to write. (I don’t remember anymore.) Both drafts started from a particular point in time. But as I was writing the second draft, which took me four years to complete, I gradually changed my mind about where the story should begin. But by the time I got to the end of the second draft, I’d completely forgotten that I’d changed the original idea. So when it came time to begin the third draft, I found that the material I wanted to work with didn’t exist. I’d never written it. So, since September or October of 2012 I’ve essentially been working up first, second, and third draft material for the opening section. It was a disappointment to have to go through all that again. I’d been eager to get to the more developed material of the second draft and elevate it. This week I finally arrived got there, and the writing is going faster now. I recently described the process of writing a book as driving across a landscape. Sometimes you get to travel at the speed limit; at other times, you have to slow down—for the curves and when it gets dark. Interestingly, my current favorite chapter is the second, which I’d feared was going to be especially tedious. It describes my family background. Was it my upbringing that sent me to the streets? In a way, yes. But not in the way one might think.
For years my shorthand description of the book has been “It’s about the years I lived on the street.” Now it’s become, “Have you ever wondered when you saw someone on the street how they got there? It’s the story of how I got there.” My story is different than that of most others. But everyone’s story is different. I know I said that somewhere else recently. Maybe here…Whatever…Writing a book is exhausting. It’s almost as if nothing else exists.