I do not write a memoir from an outline. Instead I create a Memory List as outlined in Chapter 2 of Turning Memories Into Memoirs. The Memory List helps you to follow the promptings of the unconscious rather than the dictates of the conscious mind as is the case with an outline. (An outline is great for an essay–”The Three Causes of the American Civil War”– but it is the death of an exploratory memoir.)
Everyone should work on improving your writing. Find tips and theories about improving your craft.
Over editing can kill your memoir. Alter your writing approach. Stop the editor; invite the creator/artist. It will help you to write differently. Many new memoir writers come with the great big bad habit they learned over years of editing
Is writing a chronology of a life enough?
Dates and facts are necessary to life writing in the same way route numbers are necessary to maps. It’s not only that dates and facts provide interesting information but that they keep your readers on the right path as they make their way through your life story.
The Passive Voice Has Less Impact than the Active Voice. Generally speaking, the passive voice of the verb (the subject has the action done to it) is weaker than the active voice (the subject does the action) in involving the reader in your story. That is crucial because as a memoir writer you are not […]
Redundant word usage is rampant! As a writer, I am chagrined when words get misused and one particular miscreant is redundant word usage.
You can avoid cliches and stereotypes. If you do not avoid cliches and stereotypes, you will undermine the unique and personal feel of your memoir. Cliches and stereotypes place people in often erroneous and certainly indefensible categories.
We all love well-told stories. We love the entertainment, the sound effects, the punchy plot built around solid characterization. As we share stories in our everyday conversations, we inevitably use fiction techniques to keep our listeners’ attention and interest. When we say “And then she said…,” we are using dialogue – that’s a fiction technique.
Many memoir writers are under the impression that you need to have an extensive vocabulary to write. An extensive vocabulary can only help you–if by “extensive” you mean many precise words, not just big ones.
The negative underside of theme is being preachy. You are preaching when you insist that your reader endorse your theme, message or point of view.
Action in a memoir is essential—even if internalized!
Action in a memoir usually happens in the usual place—outside the memoir narrator. That is easy to grasp: “The boy ran by.”
When you use flashback scenes in which you remember someone and what they did way back then—these are not interiorized actions, these are memories of actual actions.
What can be less easy to grasp is that action in a memoir can be internal to the character, happening in the character’s mind.