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Blog - Gary Thomas

My New Memoir



How & Why

I’m sitting here trying to remember how my memoir actually came about. I think, because of the life I’ve had – being born with a flat nose and cleft palate, not being able to talk properly until I was 10, and having mental health issues (some of which were caused by the police) it’s a story I always wanted to write. I felt that it was the next right thing to do.

I felt I had a lot to say about my life as well as be an inspiration to others (I don’t have a problem with that).

But I wasn’t ready, or it didn’t feel right, or I wasn’t ‘brave’ enough.

Like nearly all of my writing, there’s a sort of queuing system in my head, where all my stories live, in one form or another, and I kind of let the stories decide which ones are more important.

I don’t feel I have much control over this process sometimes. The stories stay there, each time I think about one of them, I can only think of one at a time, but then I might wake up the next day and think about a different story. Or even on the same day, I’ll just start thinking of another idea more.

An example of this is I’m writing a Wedding comedy at the moment. I want it to be my first feature film. Whilst I’m writing that, two other ideas are in my head, one of them I have a pretty good outline of, and the other only two pages of notes, which is a biopic.

I want to do the one I’ve got the good outline on next. But the biopic keeps on popping in my head and exciting me a little more than the other one. It’s annoying cos I don’t want to start a new screenplay from scratch just yet.

Anyway, I think this is what happened with my memoir. It was in my head as something I needed to write, and then it was the right time, and I’d thought about it enough to warrant starting on it.

The other thing that happened is that I got arts council funding, back in 2013, to write the first 30,000 words, and I did so much work on that application to write the first 30,000 words and do my one man play, that I may as well have done it even if I didn’t get funding, but thankfully I did. I was very excited by it, and it meant I had to do the work.

In that application, I put that out of the memoir, I’d get my one man play, but because of time and dates of the shows that were programmed, as it played as part of the DAISY FESTIVAL, it became the other way round. I had to write the play first, which actually worked out well because I got to hear it, and I was able to put the text, almost word for word, into the book. The other thing that happened is by 2013 I’d had enough good memories, things happened in my life that looking at my own life was less painful than it ever had been.

I worked with a couple of editors for the project, who gave a lot of good notes, and this was absolutely crucial in the development of it. I remember one of the last emails I got, she was enthusiastic about how much the manuscript had changed from how it started out. It had less words for sure, but also it was telling a coherent story rather than just ramblings that were only sort of connected. So once I got the hang of that, I wrote the rest of it on my own, with out any additional funding, and got up to about 80,000 words.

For the first 30,000, I stayed in a hotel for a week, took my small portable printer with me and did almost nothing else but write. Now I don’t need to do that, I’ve got to the point where I can write anywhere, but that was really useful and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if the circumstances allowed.

Once I’d written the 80,000 words the original editor felt that she was too close to it to look at it anymore, but I got a report done which was quite positive and recommended some changes, which I made. As one of the comments was that the reader thought at first it would fit into the category of ‘misery memoir’, but on finishing the book felt it was geared more towards the self help market, which is exactly what I was going for.

Then I asked another editor to look at it, and she used track changes to comment, almost on every page, about what did and didn’t work.  On some pages she literally wrote ‘dragging… dragging…’ which actually made me laugh, because it was true, the book did drag in those places, but also because I’d written so many words by then that they had to be cut down, and I’d still have enough words after that.

And from there it got shaped in to what it is today. It’s taken a long time to be able to work on it again, one reason is because I’ve just let it sit there, but also because I wanted to give it time. Going back to it these past couple of weeks, I read the latest draft in 3 days.

Then there’s the other reason – I’ve got arts council funding to finish the book and get it ‘out there’, which is amazing. I have the tools, to get my story out into the world, to have lessons in performing and even being a performer, so that I can use my own voice to tell my own story, to be who I’m truly meant to be, and to inspire people. And I’m consumed with fear.

So what do I do now? Go back to the activity plan, and do the next right thing.

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Fascinating stuff Gary 🙂