December 18, 2017

Archives for 2013

15 Tips for Mining Your Memories

  Memoirs are woven from memories, but many memoirists I talk to wonder if they have enough memories, or if their memories are “correct.” The important thing is to understand that memories can't be measured or proven correct. What you remember is your raw material for creating your memoir--and there are a lot of ways to enhance your memories. It can be helpful to do "research"-- to gather with others and share memories around the table, to pore over family photo albums, reminiscing and … [Read more...]

The PTT of Memoir—Positioning, Theme, and Takeaway

The PTT of memoir will help you think about three things you want to keep in your awareness as you write your memoir. A memoir has to be able to be positioned (if not by you then by your future marketing team—so you might as well do this heavy-lifting before you start shopping your work) in order to sell. Its themes and takeaways need to be clear for an editor and his or her Editorial Board to be sold on the idea that it will hold value and meaning for a reader. These three points are equally … [Read more...]

What’s Your Memoir Worth?

Over the years I’ve had quite a few clients who’ve expressed their frustration, sadness, and sometimes shame that their writing wasn’t bringing in any money. It’s a real concern for a lot of writers who carve out time, shell out lots of money for support (coaches, classes, conferences), and who may end up self-publishing and paying even more for their work to get published and out into the world. Despite these niggling feelings of guilt many writers get from time to time (or maybe they plague … [Read more...]

Top 10 Things All Memoir Writers Need To Pay Attention To

As Linda Joy Myers and I gear up to host some new fall classes and prepare for our next six-month course, I've been fully immersed in memoir land---one of my favorite places to be. If you can hold this list in your mind as you write your memoir, you'll have a leg up at least, and maybe even experience what we call "memoir magic." 1. Scope Knowing the scope of your story means knowing where it starts and where it ends. You don’t have to have a perfect sense of what comes in between, as long as … [Read more...]

Balancing Craft and Vulnerability when Writing a Memoir

How often I've said jokingly, "Writing a memoir is like taking your clothes off in public." True, but it doesn't go far enough. It's like taking your clothes off and reading your journal in public. You're vulnerable all the time, you feel overwhelmed—there are so many stories! Where to start? Which to choose? There's an endless chatter that many beginning writers find hard to deal with. You can't just silence it—the questions posed are important. They're the questions you need to answer, such … [Read more...]

What You’re Writing—Memoir vs. Autobiography

Three months after I published by book, What’s Your Book?, I went to lunch with an old friend who’s been in the publishing industry forever. When I asked him what he thought of my book, he responded that he liked it, it was good, but that he was puzzled about why I hadn’t included a definition of memoir. Good point. The truth was that I hadn’t considered it, in part because I never ask my clients to consider whether they’re writing memoir. If someone comes to me saying they’re writing a memoir, … [Read more...]

Dumping

A couple weeks ago I had an experience that prompted raw personal writing. It came out strong and visceral and angry and true. It scared me a little in its potency. It stared me in the face with its hard truths. It was 2500 words of intense, gritty, substantive stuff that poured out of me like molten lava. As a writer, this felt powerful and fierce and really good. I wanted to pat myself on the back. It was one of the best “pieces” I’d ever written. And I wrote it in a single session with … [Read more...]

Who Are You Writing For?

I recently interviewed Julia Scheeres, author of the fantastic and must-read memoir, Jesus Land, and A Thousand Lives. During the interview, which you can access below, I asked her the following question: “Do you imagine or envision a reader, or have a reader in mind while you write?” Her answer: “Never.” To say this totally caught me off-guard is an understatement. I just assumed that writers like Julia Scheeres, who’ve had major commercial success (her book was a New York Times bestseller) … [Read more...]

What Makes Wild Special

Wild is everywhere these days, and so it’s no surprise that Cheryl Strayed keynoted at the San Miguel de Allende Writers’ Conference, which kicked off last night. And she was great. What strikes me most about Cheryl is her presence. She’s authentic and real. She is the character you meet and grow to care about in Wild. But Wild has become much bigger than Cheryl Strayed at this point. It’s one of those rare memoirs that has launched into the stratosphere and become the next big memoir that … [Read more...]

The Joy of Freewriting Scenes and Themes

  “All this plotting and planning makes me feel that I’m just using my left brain. I miss my freewriting!” said one of my students the other day. Yes, we all know that great feeling when we are in flow. It’s like a drug, and it’s also the feeling of being exactly in the center of our creative energy, which is one reason we love to write. But if we only freewrite, we end up with bunches of pages that have nowhere to live. We get lost in the middle of our story and don't know how to get out. … [Read more...]