Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Putting Pen to Paper: The First Draft

[caption id="attachment_1340" align="alignleft" width="300"][/caption]

Next week I head back to New York. My creative juices flow freely there and it’s time - actually a little past time - to crank out the first draft of my next book.

I’m rushing to finish reading some books for research and photocopy pages I’ll need to refer to while I write. I have dozens of files to pack, along with some poster-sized Post-Its to keep track of my progress. I won’t know until I’m into it which chapters are light, so I have a list of women to add if necessary. I have my audio recordings of some two dozen interviews that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to well over two hours.

I’m staying at an inexpensive - for New York - place I’ve stayed at before. It’s away from the midtown tourists and commuter traffic. It’s a short walk to parks, Starbucks and bookstores, relatively free of the typical Manhattan noise and crowds.

Bits of the book have been popping into my head. It’s been annoying because I think of them as I’m dozing off or while I’m driving. But it can’t be helped. It’s ready, I’m ready, despite feeling like I’m not.

Three weeks from now I’ll have a first draft that will probably be the worst thing I’ve ever written. I will be in full panic, realizing how much rewriting and editing is ahead of me. And I’ll have to remind myself over and over again that what I do is enough.

Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community will not be definitive. There’s no way it could be, a fact I was slow to accept. The women in it - dozens - will be representative of thousands like them. I’m fully prepared for the chorus of “Why isn’t X in there?” when the book comes out.

Besides the fact that I would need 10,000 pages to include every straight woman who made a difference, I’m determined that the majority of women in the book will be recognized for work that has not garnered much recognition. Those are the women whose stories are the most compelling to me.

I plan to tell those people, upset that someone they knew didn’t make the book, to encourage her to tell her own story. I hope my book is the start of a larger conversation about a group previously left out of memoirs and documentaries about the epidemic. And I hope it will also be an incentive for other women to come forward and recount their experiences.

But first...I have to write it.

So far I have one terrible complete chapter and some disjointed paragraphs in another. I fully expect that what I have to show for myself when I leave New York will be pretty bad. That’s okay. I need that first draft finished so I can start on the real work: revising, rewriting, deleting, adding.

I’m stressed and panicked, excited and focused, all at the same time. And in an odd bit of serendipity, I’ll be there to mark the one year anniversary of falling on 7th Avenue and breaking my writing hand. That accident brought my world to a screeching halt. The whole experience - the fall, emergency surgery, five weeks with pins in my hand, learning to do everything with my left hand only, and 29 sessions of physical therapy - sent me into a deep, though temporary, depression.

The fingers I broke are still a little stiff, as expected. My book release had to be pushed back three months. I just paid off the last hand-related medical bill last week. You know what that means?

I’m ready.