How does memoir coaching improve your manuscript?
“What does ‘My family was poor mean,’ ” I asked a memoir writing client in a recent coaching session.
“Poor?” he asked at the other end of the phone line. “What do you mean what does poor mean? Poor means poor!”
“Does poor mean you didn’t have enough to eat or does it mean you never ate out at restaurants? Does poor mean you were forced to run out on your rent or does it mean you did not have an in-ground pool?”
Clearly, adjectives don’t mean what we think they mean!
Empty literary calories
On the spot, I shared with him how adjectives are empty literary calories. They do nothing for the story but fill up space. They pretend to be effective but are not. Only scenes, dialog, settings, characters tell the real story.
Memory List what an adjective means
I asked him to tell me five things about his family that meant poor.
This is what he came up with:
- “We always had enough food, but sometimes it was lacking in variety and often was purchased past its prime.”
- “We had beaten asphalt roofing but could not pay to have it done over and the roof eventually developed a leak that ruined a wall.”
- “We never bought new clothes. Everything we wore was either hand-me-down or from Goodwill.”
- “Money was a tense topic and I would not ask my parents from money even if it meant passing up on a class trip and sitting the time out in the library. I did that once.”
- “We were always scrounging gas money. We’d walk or go with neighbors when they were going in because there was not enough gas in our car for the round trip.”
Using these memories, I asked him to write scenes portraying the above. This was his assignment—to change telling into showing. You can easily see how such scenes will deepen a memoir.
This client clearly knew the stories to show being poor, but he did not know that he was not doing it. It was while receiving memoir coaching that he understood that his use of adjectives were not serving him well. He needed to write the stories he knew and let them do the work of saying poor.
Memoir Coaching can lift your memoir to a new articulation
You may wonder about what the process would be like if you were to work with a memoir writing coach.
Memoir Coaching works when there are two factors present:
- The client is willing to grow, and
- There is a gap between where you are now and where you want to be.
If this is you, every session will find us working together in two fundamental areas:
- your writing itself—organization, style, content—and
- your writing self—that is, do you “own” the story, do you feel the authority to tell it?
Working with a memoir coach, you can:
- Reach for Much More and not be consumed in the process. When writers have a partner they trust, they always reach for more.
- Make Better Decisions for Yourself as a writer because your focus is clear. You will become more focused as you share ideas with me — someone who is subjective enough to want a lot for you, yet objective enough not to be biased or self serving.
- Have a More Sustainable Energy: No more starting and stopping. When you’re happy, productive and free from tolerations and problems, you’re going to feel better.
If you would like to know more about memoir coaching or would like to sign up for our free consultation, click here.
Here is something you can do right now.
- Highlight all the adjectives in a recent story.
- Choose all that can be replaced by a scene. (Obviously, an adjective like American or Canadian cannot be replaced by a scene!)
- Write your scenes and insert into the story.
Please leave a comment below about your experience of having done this.
Join seven other writers and me for 10 high-impact sessions of writing, coaching and editing. We meet every other week for 90-minutes that are focused on producing great memoirs.