Ever wish you had the secret of generating a fast start to writing your memoir—or most any other book?
Recently, I wrote and published A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir Of A Girlhood Spent in an Parsonage. I now appreciate the the efficiency and effectiveness of my writing process all the more. A Sugary Frosting is the story of the first 20 years of my deceased wife’s life. She had written a number of her stories but died before completing a memoir. When I took up the task, I followed what I consider to be “best practices” of memoir writing.
Below I offer them to you to help you get a fast start and to write more prolifically—and even bring it to a finish in the form of a published memoir.
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Here are my eight “best practices” for memoir writing. They are tried and true and bear repeating.
1. Set up a regular writing time.
How long you write is perhaps not as important as how frequently you do so. Once you have set up a writing time, honor it as you would a medical appointment. Don’t allow others to usurp your time!
2. Give yourself permission to write a rough first draft.
Perfectionism is not a virtue at this stage. Keep writing for volume. Quality will enter in later. Perfectionism is really a loss of faith in your work and in your vision. It pretends to be in your favor but it is really a prison. Avoid perfectionism.
3. Start anywhere in the story you feel like writing about on any given day and keep writing as long as possible.
If the topic changes on the next day, write about the new story line even if you haven’t finished the previous one. You are connecting to your muse at this point! Where you start to write is not the same place as where a reader starts to read. You will find the beginning of your memoir later. Right now: start to write.
4. Once you have a number of stories or story pieces, print them and collate them in a three-ring binder according to chronological order.
You will easily notice that some stories are missing. These are likely transition stories. Write the missing links between the texts that you have already written. Seeing your stories pile up will also encourage you to continue writing.
5. Read memoirs critically to learn as much as you can from other writers.
I call this process “reading as a writer.” When you read as a reader you are caught in the story, in its unfolding. Of course, this sort of reading is very enjoyable but it is not particularly developmental for you as a writer. When you read as a writer, however, you are looking for how the writer wrote. How did the author begin his chapters? How did she handle dialog? Was she good at setting? Did he use any special techniques to portray his characters?
6. Commit to reading how-to-write books.
There are many on the market. Read one, read several. Take notes, do the exercises, do the writing.
The internet is also full of writing sites. Visit them, use the materials they provide.
Don’t forget the ebooks in the memoir writing series.
7. Take a class or tele-class.
Working in a community with other writers and a skilled teacher can provide you with a great jumpstart.
An editor can help spot problems that have become invisible to you. There are two kinds of editors: the copy editor who looks for periods and commas and spelling and the content editor who is often also called a developmental editor. A developmental editor is a close cousin to a coach. Both will guide you through the process of making your manuscript better than it is right now—without investing years.
A professional can create many shortcuts for you. Many writers are blocked by the same problems that a more experienced writer could help resolve in a short time.
In a story that I have always liked, we hear someone respond to Winston Churchill, an enthusiastic Sunday painter, when Churchill complained about having taken two years to learn how to do perspective, “But aren’t you glad you learned it on your own!” Churchill retorted, “No, I could have learned perspective in a few classes with a good teacher and then I could have moved onto something more interesting and meaningful.”
We give away much material on this site and this material will help you significantly in becoming a better writer. But, there is one element that can surely get you a fast start writing and that is to take this free material, actually compose something and then work with a professional on staff to create a burst of creativity for your memoir.
9. Create an end date whether you go the traditional publisher route or self-publish as a stimulus to keep writing.
Tell people about this submission or publication date. This will be a goal to help you “keep your nose to the grindstone” and write more efficiently. Tasks can take as long as you allow them to take. By setting a deadline that has a certain flexibility within it, you are helping yourself to stay on the course.
These eight tips will help you to get a fast start writing.