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DL: This post was originally published on December 29, 2021 and I have tweaked them to fit the second half of the year. How many of these goals have you accomplished in the first half of the year? These remain great goals. There’s still 6 months left in 2022 for you to succeed at these!

____

Did you find yourself wandering along with your memoir writing in the first half of the 2022 year and not achieving your memoir-writing goals?  Do you have a sense that you might have accomplished a bit more writing than you have?

At the half year point, it is traditional to review how the past two quarters went for you and to create goals for yourself for the six months. (A goal is a wish with action steps and a timeline.) These goals need to be written and reviewed periodically.

Studies have shown that people who set goals in writing have a better outcome vis-à-vis accomplishing what they set out to do. Here’s a report on one such study. (The famous Harvard goal-setting study so many of us have heard of apparently never happened, but the concept of goal setting is clearly important and is explored in the linked article.)

22 Memoir-Writing Goals for 2022

Since this is a memoir writing blog, I thought it is appropriate for me to come up with goals that would further your writing success in 2022. And why not play with the year’s number—22?

(more…)

Note from the editor: This post is a memoir-writing course. I suggest that you glance through the whole of it, and pick those best memoir-writing tips that you most need to read at this time. Later, bit by bit, you will read the rest.

Click on the links that interest you and study the posts where you land. The links in even just a few of the tips below will uncover articles that pertain to the topic(s).

Following these best memoir-writing tips, your knowledge of memoir writing will grow more certain, and you will write with more confidence. One day, sooner than you think possible, your memoir will be published and in hand.

–––

It’s later than you think. Don’t put off writing your memoir any longer.

Our 21 in-depth, best memoir-writing tips below will help you to start memoir writing today. 

You’ll find these guides will see you through the process of how to write a memoir—an interesting and meaningful memoir—more easily and quickly than you may now think possible.

One day soon, you will have written your book.

The Memoir Network’s 21 Top Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you to memoir success.

1. What is a memoir? Hint: it’s not an autobiography!

Is the difference important to the memoir writer? Somewhat! Knowing what you are writing will orient you from the start! It can be discouraging to realize that you have been headed in the wrong direction when you could have saved yourself time and energy by understanding the difference between memoir and autobiography as you launched yourself. While it’s not huge, it can be significant.

An autobiography is about a whole life: from birth to the present. A memoir is a part of your life that is characterized by a theme. It might be about the first years of your marriage during which you realized what an immature and selfish person you were and earned to be a giving souse. This may interest many people as it is a struggle many are waging.

The fact is that, while it is totally possible to write a memoir that will interest the public and draw an audience to you, the same is not true of an autobiography. If you are famous: possibly. If you are not, it is not likely that people will be interested in what grade school you went to and how much your grandmother loved you.

(This statement about autobiography is not applicable if you are writing for a family audience. Your children and grandchildren will definitely be interested in an autobiography.)

(more…)

Denis Ledoux: At The Memoir Network, we had the pleasure of working with Katherine Sullivan for several years as she edited her memoir, Don’t Worry About a Thing, with one of our editors, Frances King, and focused on book production with Sally Lunt. Because of her insightful articulation of her life experience, I am delighted she agreed to do the following interview (conducted by email.)

Denis: Can you tell our readers—your fellow writers—what your book is about and why you were impelled to write it? What was driving you to spend the time, energy and money to get this book out into the world?

Katherine: Don’t Worry About a Thing is a coming-of-age memoir about life in a small Maine town in the middle of the twentieth century. As a child of a Greek immigrant and a Maine country girl, I tried to find my place in the world. Not all immigrant stories are success stories. I was impelled to write this book to help me find meaning after a childhood spent with a father whose gambling addiction affected every aspect of my life. I searched for answers in an unstable world, and writing was a place where I could question and discover who I was and where I fit in the world. My personal therapy.

Denis: Tell us about your writing process and how long you worked on this memoir.

Katherine: I began actively working on this book in my fifties, so about twenty years, but I knew from when I was a young girl that I wanted to write. There were long breaks when my life in the present got in the way of my writing about the past. I knew though, that I would finish, and to get me motivated during those dry spells, I took writing workshops at various intervals.

(more…)

Below, I have organized a video writing course on how to start to write your memoir. These six videos (admittedly an arbitrary number), once mastered, will guide you well through the start of your memoir writing experience.

Already started? This can be a great review to recharge your energy

There are so many great videos on the channel on how to launch your writing! How can I limit myself to 6 to help you to start to write your memoir! (more…)

One challenge many first-time and only-time writers of memoir face is understanding that long-form and short-form writing are not the same. That is, long form is not just longer short form. Long form has its requirements.

Let me explain how memoir is long form

Many of the writers who come to me for coaching and editing are already fine writers—of short form. They can write coherent and clear sentences and their paragraphs convey meaning. There is no problem with their ability to write short form—the essay or blog post. This may lead them to overestimate their ability to produce long form.

(more…)

How much backstory is too much? Today we will discuss how to avoid too much backstory in your memoir. My goal is to help you write better the first time around. The earlier you write better the less you will have to edit and rewrite.

I hope this is not you…

You are writing a scene about a time when you—alas—got fired from your job. As you write about this vignette, you throw in a back story about your college studies, about how much you loved your major and how eager you were for the workplace. Then you go on to throw in the catty politics of the office from which you got fired. (Perhaps you lead into this backstory with “I couldn’t help but remember…”) You even throw in a vignette about your boss’s spouse who came onto you and another snippet about the wasteful (and tasteless) redecorating your boss commissioned. For good measure, you describe the company’s history and…

STOP!!!

All this backstory is not necessary—here, at this time. What you are doing is writing a magazine article not a memoir vignette. Spend your energy writing what your memoir needs to be written.

As you write about being fired, jot (or type) a note of the backstory details you will want the reader to know at some point—but not now. Later when you are finished with the firing story, you can take the time to write the backstory—or move on to another episode and save writing the backstory for later. Once a particular backstory is written, you can insert it into the manuscript where it belongs. Your love of your major will fit into your college chapters and the catty office politics will fit into another chapter—a chapter before the firing. The boss’s spouse coming onto you will also fit into another  earlier chapter.

When you overwrite a story by stuffing it with too much backstory—and many writers seem to want to tell their entire story in what ought to be a focused vignette—you disrespect chronology and drama and the reader’s patience. Furthermore…

When you go easy on backstory, you will find editing a much easier task. No more extensive cuts that leave you wondering if you have a logical sequencing with what is left. No more decision about where to paste the material you cut from a vignette. You will no longer have to ask: “Is this really the right sequence, the right place in the story? Do I have the transitions in place to make this vignette understandable here?”)

What ought the vignette about “being fired” contain?

The firing story ought to have the scene of you being fired. Your boss’s diction, attire, comportment are all appropriate here. Specific dialog and setting also fit in. Your internal chatter is good to include. Your emotional reaction—the anger, the embarrassment, the uncertainty—can be incorporated.

The firing vignette needs to be a story of something that happened at one time, in one place, to one person. Not a story about everything, a story that is full of backstory.

When you go easy on backstory, you will find editing a much easier task. Avoiding too much backstory is a writerly way to write. No more extensive cuts that leave you wondering if you have a logical sequencing with what is left. No more decision about where to paste the material you cut from a vignette. You will no longer have to ask: “Is this really the right sequence, the right place in the story? Do I have the transitions in place to make this vignette understandable here?”

To view the content of this post as a YouTube video, click here.

Whatever you do today, be sure to write a few pages of your memoir.

(more…)

Note from the Editor: This second installment of Before Sending a Manuscript to an Editor series offers basic editing tips around time use of time. For Part 1: Self-Editing Techniques Click here.  For Part 3: Time Sequencing and Flashbacks Click here

Clean Up Your Use of Time

This second post on self-editing revolves around the use of time. In the next post, I will write about time sequencing and flashbacks.

1. The historical present looks like the past, but it isn’t.

What tense are you going to use to narrate your story?

(more…)

In today’s post, we look deeply into 3 techniques for better self-editing—obviously there are many more but these three are a start for a short post.

I have been a memoir editor since 1990. In that time, I have worked with hundreds and perhaps thousands of memoir manuscripts.

A few manuscripts have come to me requiring only slight tweaking. The texts are clear, coherent and concise. They are nearly ready for publication. Their authors have created an interesting and well-crafted piece of writing. They have clearly mastered better self-editing.

Too many other manuscripts, however, have come to me at a stage that reflects tired or exasperated writers. They seem to be saying I’m-ready-to-have-this-writing-over-with!

The challenge of self-editing

(more…)

 

This may sound like a trick question, but it’s not. In fact, “who is your memoir narrator?” is a very serious question that will determine—or at least greatly influence—the tone and the theme of your narrative and how your reader views your story as being truthful.

Your choice of memoir narrator and the consequences of this choice.

(more…)

Today, I am offering you a dynamite coaching session. If you read through this post and check the links, you will have an experience that will set you up for success—when you commit to finishing your memoir.

Ahead of you is a week available to make progress on your memoir. By next week at this time, will you have written an encouraging number of pages on your memoir or…

Will you be regretting the week, saying, “Well, you know how it is…life got in the way! Ha ha!”

The choice of results is yours to make.

How are you going to use the coming week? Will you “try” to use it well – and find on Friday that you have let so much get in the way that you wrote very little in a week’s time? Or…

Will you set up a writing schedule for yourself? A realistic writing schedule. Almost everyone reading this – and that includes you – can schedule a half-hour to an hour every day.

Really! You can!

Let your scheduled time be a sacred commitment to work on your memoir. If something happens and you cannot write at your scheduled time, you are committed to showing up at some later time in the day, but you will not let the day pass without having put in your writing time.

Let’s say, it’s 7:30 PM and you realize you have not put in your writing time. What I suggest is you “switch gear” right then and take up your writing.

Make this commitment to yourself—and to your memoir.

Faithfulness to your writing schedule is something you can develop and you will if you commit to it—no more trying, no more being interested in writing a memoir. Just commitment!

If you “try to write,” you are probably not committed and you will eventually succumb to the [erroneous] idea that writing a memoir is too difficult. You can hide behind saying you “tried” your best or you can stop “trying” and actually do.

Like any habit, writing regularly needs to be a decision  you make. You can learn this habit; you absolutely can. It doesn’t happen by a vague “I’ll do my best.” It happens with a commitment.

Only you can make that commitment. I can’t do it for you.

What I have found useful is setting up a writing goal. Perhaps it’s to write 5000 words this week or perhaps it is to produce 50 pages this month. This sort of goal energizes me to work just a little bit more. Admittedly, it’s only a game but absolutely it increases my productivity—and it will yours.

Your memoir need not be something that takes you forever to write. It needs to be something that you actually complete…and completing doesn’t happen with good intentions and wishing. I happens with a commitment to do the work.

Here are links to Blog and YouTube material that will help you to put these ideas into fruition when you commit to finishing your memoir.

  • What a Writing Goal Does for Your Memoir on YouTube.
  • Setting Writing Goals That Work For You on the blog.
  • Trying vs. Commiting on the blog.
  • Trying to Doesn’t Write Your Memoir on YouTube.

I hope you were encouraged by this note and will commit to a writing schedule this week.

Let me know below how commit to finishing your memoir works for you.

Can you master these 9 for self-publishing a memoir? If so, you are on your way to succeeding.

1) Do you want to reach a larger audience than family and friends?

If so, you will need to write a book that will appeal to that larger audience. Your book must contain history and psychology and references to social concerns to appeal to a larger readership which knows neither you nor your family and friends

Simply said, the reader drawn from a larger audience does not care about you. This reader cares about how you embodied a certain category of people, and how you were representative of a certain grouping of the population.

Explore how you were universal in your particular responses to life.

(more…)

set-goals-brainstorming-2398562_1920

22 Memoir-Writing Goals for the Second Half of 2022: Your Half Year Boost

DL: This post was originally published on December 29, 2021 and I have tweaked them to fit the second half of the year. How many of these goals have you accomplished in the first half of the year? These remain great goals. There’s still 6 months left in 2022 for you to succeed at these!

____

Did you find yourself wandering along with your memoir writing in the first half of the 2022 year and not achieving your memoir-writing goals?  Do you have a sense that you might have accomplished a bit more writing than you have?

At the half year point, it is traditional to review how the past two quarters went for you and to create goals for yourself for the six months. (A goal is a wish with action steps and a timeline.) These goals need to be written and reviewed periodically.

Studies have shown that people who set goals in writing have a better outcome vis-à-vis accomplishing what they set out to do. Here’s a report on one such study. (The famous Harvard goal-setting study so many of us have heard of apparently never happened, but the concept of goal setting is clearly important and is explored in the linked article.)

22 Memoir-Writing Goals for 2022

Since this is a memoir writing blog, I thought it is appropriate for me to come up with goals that would further your writing success in 2022. And why not play with the year’s number—22?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

best memoir-writing tips

How to write a memoir: our 21 Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you writing your memoir—quickly and well—and getting it into the hands of your public.

Note from the editor: This post is a memoir-writing course. I suggest that you glance through the whole of it, and pick those best memoir-writing tips that you most need to read at this time. Later, bit by bit, you will read the rest.

Click on the links that interest you and study the posts where you land. The links in even just a few of the tips below will uncover articles that pertain to the topic(s).

Following these best memoir-writing tips, your knowledge of memoir writing will grow more certain, and you will write with more confidence. One day, sooner than you think possible, your memoir will be published and in hand.

–––

It’s later than you think. Don’t put off writing your memoir any longer.

Our 21 in-depth, best memoir-writing tips below will help you to start memoir writing today. 

You’ll find these guides will see you through the process of how to write a memoir—an interesting and meaningful memoir—more easily and quickly than you may now think possible.

One day soon, you will have written your book.

The Memoir Network’s 21 Top Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you to memoir success.

1. What is a memoir? Hint: it’s not an autobiography!

Is the difference important to the memoir writer? Somewhat! Knowing what you are writing will orient you from the start! It can be discouraging to realize that you have been headed in the wrong direction when you could have saved yourself time and energy by understanding the difference between memoir and autobiography as you launched yourself. While it’s not huge, it can be significant.

An autobiography is about a whole life: from birth to the present. A memoir is a part of your life that is characterized by a theme. It might be about the first years of your marriage during which you realized what an immature and selfish person you were and earned to be a giving souse. This may interest many people as it is a struggle many are waging.

The fact is that, while it is totally possible to write a memoir that will interest the public and draw an audience to you, the same is not true of an autobiography. If you are famous: possibly. If you are not, it is not likely that people will be interested in what grade school you went to and how much your grandmother loved you.

(This statement about autobiography is not applicable if you are writing for a family audience. Your children and grandchildren will definitely be interested in an autobiography.)

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

Katherine Sullivan

Don’t Worry About a Thing / Katherine Sullivan

Denis Ledoux: At The Memoir Network, we had the pleasure of working with Katherine Sullivan for several years as she edited her memoir, Don’t Worry About a Thing, with one of our editors, Frances King, and focused on book production with Sally Lunt. Because of her insightful articulation of her life experience, I am delighted she agreed to do the following interview (conducted by email.)

Denis: Can you tell our readers—your fellow writers—what your book is about and why you were impelled to write it? What was driving you to spend the time, energy and money to get this book out into the world?

Katherine: Don’t Worry About a Thing is a coming-of-age memoir about life in a small Maine town in the middle of the twentieth century. As a child of a Greek immigrant and a Maine country girl, I tried to find my place in the world. Not all immigrant stories are success stories. I was impelled to write this book to help me find meaning after a childhood spent with a father whose gambling addiction affected every aspect of my life. I searched for answers in an unstable world, and writing was a place where I could question and discover who I was and where I fit in the world. My personal therapy.

Denis: Tell us about your writing process and how long you worked on this memoir.

Katherine: I began actively working on this book in my fifties, so about twenty years, but I knew from when I was a young girl that I wanted to write. There were long breaks when my life in the present got in the way of my writing about the past. I knew though, that I would finish, and to get me motivated during those dry spells, I took writing workshops at various intervals.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

an elderly woman taking notes while using a laptop

Start to Write Your Memoir

Below, I have organized a video writing course on how to start to write your memoir. These six videos (admittedly an arbitrary number), once mastered, will guide you well through the start of your memoir writing experience.

Already started? This can be a great review to recharge your energy

There are so many great videos on the channel on how to launch your writing! How can I limit myself to 6 to help you to start to write your memoir! [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

memoir is long form

Memoir is Long Form Writing.

One challenge many first-time and only-time writers of memoir face is understanding that long-form and short-form writing are not the same. That is, long form is not just longer short form. Long form has its requirements.

Let me explain how memoir is long form

Many of the writers who come to me for coaching and editing are already fine writers—of short form. They can write coherent and clear sentences and their paragraphs convey meaning. There is no problem with their ability to write short form—the essay or blog post. This may lead them to overestimate their ability to produce long form.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

too much backstory

Too Much Backstory–Are you making memoir writing more difficult than necessary?

How much backstory is too much? Today we will discuss how to avoid too much backstory in your memoir. My goal is to help you write better the first time around. The earlier you write better the less you will have to edit and rewrite.

I hope this is not you…

You are writing a scene about a time when you—alas—got fired from your job. As you write about this vignette, you throw in a back story about your college studies, about how much you loved your major and how eager you were for the workplace. Then you go on to throw in the catty politics of the office from which you got fired. (Perhaps you lead into this backstory with “I couldn’t help but remember…”) You even throw in a vignette about your boss’s spouse who came onto you and another snippet about the wasteful (and tasteless) redecorating your boss commissioned. For good measure, you describe the company’s history and…

STOP!!!

All this backstory is not necessary—here, at this time. What you are doing is writing a magazine article not a memoir vignette. Spend your energy writing what your memoir needs to be written.

As you write about being fired, jot (or type) a note of the backstory details you will want the reader to know at some point—but not now. Later when you are finished with the firing story, you can take the time to write the backstory—or move on to another episode and save writing the backstory for later. Once a particular backstory is written, you can insert it into the manuscript where it belongs. Your love of your major will fit into your college chapters and the catty office politics will fit into another chapter—a chapter before the firing. The boss’s spouse coming onto you will also fit into another  earlier chapter.

When you overwrite a story by stuffing it with too much backstory—and many writers seem to want to tell their entire story in what ought to be a focused vignette—you disrespect chronology and drama and the reader’s patience. Furthermore…

When you go easy on backstory, you will find editing a much easier task. No more extensive cuts that leave you wondering if you have a logical sequencing with what is left. No more decision about where to paste the material you cut from a vignette. You will no longer have to ask: “Is this really the right sequence, the right place in the story? Do I have the transitions in place to make this vignette understandable here?”)

What ought the vignette about “being fired” contain?

The firing story ought to have the scene of you being fired. Your boss’s diction, attire, comportment are all appropriate here. Specific dialog and setting also fit in. Your internal chatter is good to include. Your emotional reaction—the anger, the embarrassment, the uncertainty—can be incorporated.

The firing vignette needs to be a story of something that happened at one time, in one place, to one person. Not a story about everything, a story that is full of backstory.

When you go easy on backstory, you will find editing a much easier task. Avoiding too much backstory is a writerly way to write. No more extensive cuts that leave you wondering if you have a logical sequencing with what is left. No more decision about where to paste the material you cut from a vignette. You will no longer have to ask: “Is this really the right sequence, the right place in the story? Do I have the transitions in place to make this vignette understandable here?”

To view the content of this post as a YouTube video, click here.

Whatever you do today, be sure to write a few pages of your memoir.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

use of time

Before Sending Your Manuscript To An Editor / Part 2: Use of Time

Note from the Editor: This second installment of Before Sending a Manuscript to an Editor series offers basic editing tips around time use of time. For Part 1: Self-Editing Techniques Click here.  For Part 3: Time Sequencing and Flashbacks Click here

Clean Up Your Use of Time

This second post on self-editing revolves around the use of time. In the next post, I will write about time sequencing and flashbacks.

1. The historical present looks like the past, but it isn’t.

What tense are you going to use to narrate your story?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

better self-editing

Better Self-Editing: 3 Easy Techniques

In today’s post, we look deeply into 3 techniques for better self-editing—obviously there are many more but these three are a start for a short post.

I have been a memoir editor since 1990. In that time, I have worked with hundreds and perhaps thousands of memoir manuscripts.

A few manuscripts have come to me requiring only slight tweaking. The texts are clear, coherent and concise. They are nearly ready for publication. Their authors have created an interesting and well-crafted piece of writing. They have clearly mastered better self-editing.

Too many other manuscripts, however, have come to me at a stage that reflects tired or exasperated writers. They seem to be saying I’m-ready-to-have-this-writing-over-with!

The challenge of self-editing

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

woman writing on her notebook

Who is Your Memoir Narrator?

 

This may sound like a trick question, but it’s not. In fact, “who is your memoir narrator?” is a very serious question that will determine—or at least greatly influence—the tone and the theme of your narrative and how your reader views your story as being truthful.

Your choice of memoir narrator and the consequences of this choice.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

commit to finishing your memoir

Commit to finishing your memoir

Today, I am offering you a dynamite coaching session. If you read through this post and check the links, you will have an experience that will set you up for success—when you commit to finishing your memoir.Ahead of you is a week available to make progress on your memoir. By next week at this time, […]

self-publish a memoir

9 Tips for Self-Publishing a Memoir

Can you master these 9 for self-publishing a memoir? If so, you are on your way to succeeding.

1) Do you want to reach a larger audience than family and friends?

If so, you will need to write a book that will appeal to that larger audience. Your book must contain history and psychology and references to social concerns to appeal to a larger readership which knows neither you nor your family and friends

Simply said, the reader drawn from a larger audience does not care about you. This reader cares about how you embodied a certain category of people, and how you were representative of a certain grouping of the population.

Explore how you were universal in your particular responses to life.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?