December 18, 2017

How to Craft the Beginning of Your Story

    As readers, we all have the experience of trying to find our bearings as we begin a story. To get “inside” the story that’s beginning, we readers are curious about who the main characters are, and we’re eager to learn about them—to learn why we are being told this story about these people. Early in a story, we’re getting grounded in where we are—literally—on the planet, in the world, and in the geography of place.  We need to know the time frame for the story, too. That’s the who, … [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...]

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...]

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...]

Memoir Categories

This is a list that Linda Joy and I put together for our class. Please feel free to add categories and ideas we might have missed. We mostly want to have a record of this on our site! Childhood, Adolescent, and Coming of Age Memoirs • Family dynamics, dysfunction, drama • Unique childhood experiences/growing up stories • School days Examples of this type of memoir include: Running with Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs; Jesus Land, by Julia Scheeres; I’m Down, by Mishna Wolff; Funny in Farsi, … [Read more...]

Research and Memoir

Research is directly linked to truth in memoir. Many memoirists feel they need more facts in order to start; in order to keep going; in order to finish. I have worked with writers who are convinced they need to interview family members to get their take on what really happened. I have worked with writers who have decided they can’t or won’t write until they find that one particular journal (which they can’t find, of course) that captures the essence of 1973 in all its intensity. I have worked … [Read more...]

Strategies for Handling Scope in Memoir

Many writers come to their memoirs with so much information, back story, and details about their lives that the prospect of narrowing down their scope or even knowing where to begin can feel daunting and elusive. When it’s your own story, it’s tough to be objective, so it’s important to determine as early as possible whether you have a chronologically-driven or thematically-driven narrative. The first is simpler to execute. Your story unfolds on a timeline, and you need to be careful not to … [Read more...]

The What, Why, and How of Memoir Writing

What is a Memoir? A memoir is a blend of real and imaginary, it’s a story that reads like fiction but it’s based on real happenings, feelings, and people. It’s understood these days that a memoir is “the truth” written as accurately as possible, and the fact that your story is true carries weight. Readers grab onto a true story in a powerful way because they identify with the real people who are the “characters” in a memoir. We identify with characters in fiction, too, and we also learn from … [Read more...]

Give Yourself Permission

Linda Joy and I talk incessantly about permission-giving when it comes to writing memoir. It’s one of the most important things writers of memoir need to allow themselves in order to write. Many writers who want to write memoir find themselves stuck right out the gate, grappling with voices both internal and external: Who gives you the right to write that? What if that’s not how it really happened? You’re not supposed to talk about your family that way. We’ve both heard these messages and … [Read more...]

Repurpose and Conquer

In preparation for Write Your Book in Six Months, I’m doing my own challenge---writing my own book in six months, with the goal of being finished by July 1. And has it ever been a challenge! There are a million reasons it’s hard to write, a hundred priorities that take precedent over the day-to-day writing, and more than enough excuses as to why writers don’t stay on track of their writing goals. Much more rare, and therefore more valuable and important, are the strategies that keep us … [Read more...]