February 23, 2017

The Secret of Scenes that Keep your Readers Reading

As readers, we tend to take for granted the writer’s skill, but when your heart starts pounding, and in your mind’s eye you see vivid colors and feel the wind, you are experiencing the writer’s skill in creating a world. You’re lost in a story and stop noticing the passage of time, a car honking outside, or a barking dog.  The author succeeded in connecting her imagery and language and feelings with your emotions, bringing you into what John Gardner, author of The Art of Fiction calls “The … [Read more...]

Truth, Exposure, and the Reason We Write Memoir

Recently I had the privilege of moderating a panel at the Bay Area Book Festival. The panel was titled “Why Write Memoir: A Conversation about Truth, Exposure, and the Genre People Love to Hate.” The title shows a perfect combination of the issues that memoir writers struggle with. In every workshop and class I teach, the conversation that brings the most questions and angst has to do with writing the truth, feeling "too exposed," and writing material that seems to attract pointed criticisms: … [Read more...]

The Narrator of your Memoir

When you read a book, a nearly invisible narrator is guiding you through the text—helping you to focus on the important things in your story. The narrator guides you through the action and setting, and guides you to understand the psychology of the characters, goals, conflicts, and themes being explored. Through the narrator, you learn what’s at stake—what the tensions and conflicts in the story are, even if they’re internal. The narrator translates and interprets an action by offering a … [Read more...]

Shades of Truth in Memoir Writing

I have met few memoirists who didn't have to struggle with issues of truth—how much truth to tell and how many details to include. "Do you use real names in a published memoir; how do you write scenes when you don't remember everything. What is truth anyway?" We all wear "the burden of truth" on our shoulders as we write our memoir. The disappointed faces of relatives who disagree or judge us for our writing appear in our imagination, the voices of angry relatives or friends shout at us. Not … [Read more...]

7 Tips To Keep Writing Through the Muddy Middle of Your Memoir

The idea that you can get stuck in the "Muddy Middle" of writing your memoir came up in teaching Write Your Memoir in Six Months with Brooke Warner. We were talking about the place where suddenly there's a lag in energy, where the forward motion of the writing slows to a stop. As soon as I said it, we both laughed with recognition. All writers experience some kind of breakdown/slowdown as part of the writing process, but it’s a challenge to figure out what is happening and how to move forward … [Read more...]

Solutions to the 3 Most Common Questions re: Writing a Memoir

The three most common problems in writing a memoir: 1. How do I start? 2. What do I include? 3. Where does it all go? By starting with significant turning points you will soon find yourself thinking about important scenes that address your theme(s). Creating a structure that works helps you to figure out how to weave your scenes and moments together. It becomes easier to write a longer form work when we are focused and know how to plan out the trajectory of our writing. 1.List the … [Read more...]

Your Memoir as a Movie

Do you love movies? To me, there’s nothing so satisfying as sitting down to immerse myself in a new story. The first few moments need to capture my attention so I can’t look away. I make sure my tea is nearby, and that my kitties are ready to settle down on my lap. Once the kitties are there, I won’t be getting up for at least an hour or more as the story weaves its magic around me. It grabs me with a scene, in a moment where I’m drawn into a world not my own. I’m inside the scene, inside the … [Read more...]

Transformation in Wild—The True Inner Journey

Last week, my writing group celebrated our annual holiday gathering by seeing the movie Wild. Prepped with the excitement and the long wait for the release of the movie, we settled in to see how the filmmakers and Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed would translate the book onto the big screen. Earlier in the year, we had met the “real” Cheryl at a daylong writing conference where, in a graceful and authentic way, she shared her stories of living and writing the moments that were so profound in … [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...]