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Revision: Memoir in the Off-Season

Peer Artist Leader Shanda McManus relates her beloved football seasons with the seasons of memoir drafting and revision.

By Shanda McManus

February 23, 2023

February brings to an end one of my favorite seasons—football season. Starting in late summer, my hopes start to build for my favorite team, the Philadelphia Eagles. I read notes about training camp and new players acquired in the draft or through a trade. Will they have a winning record? Will they win the division? Will they get to the Super Bowl? Throughout the season, I read updates on ESPN, listen to sports radio, and of course, watch all the Sunday games I can on the Red Zone. During football season, my weeks are scaffolded by game times and football standings. I miss the football season before it is even over. This year my team made it to THE big game but fell short of victory. Heartbroken, I have already started to think about their chances of making it back to the Super Bowl next year.

An End to the Drafting Season

Coming to the end of the first draft of my memoir, I felt the same. I started last year in the Memoir Incubator with the idea of writing about my time in medical school. I moved on to create an outline using the Save the Cat beats. Then I started drafting, which provided a predictable structure to my writing time. I focused on meeting my weekly word count with the freedom of knowing I’ll address the quality of my writing later through revision. By September, I completed my first draft.

Revision Season Begins

Each page was full of possibility while drafting, but now drafting season is over, and I am in the revision season. The raw materials of my story demand shaping and carving into a finished product. There is no word count for me to meet daily. I examine each chapter I have written. I try to listen to what I have put on the page, which requires patience and faith. For me, revision is less exciting and harder than drafting.

Revision reminds me of the off-season when I follow along with my team’s moves, hoping they help lead to a winning record next season. I speculate and try to predict if the moves are good enough to make it to the Super Bowl and raise the Lombardi Trophy next year. A good off-season is crucial to a season’s success but less thrilling than watching games.

But like the off-season in football, revision season is necessary if I want to raise my trophy of a published book one day.

Shanda McManus has been featured in Intima Journal of Narrative Medicine, Midnight & Indigo, and other publications.