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Author Archive | Denis Ledoux

Self-publish or Traditional Route?

Note from the editor: Below is the text of an email I received from a member of My Memoir Education asking about which was best: self-publish or traditional route. I have edited it for brevity and to preserve the writer’s anonymity.

Dear Denis, I finally finished my manuscript. What a long journey it has been! I think it is in good shape, and I am ready to publish. However, I am finding deciding on the next step to be quite challenging.

I have received conflicting advice: some people have suggested that I find a literary agent who would then find a publisher for me to go the traditional route; others have said that this traditional route—agent or publishing house—has little chance of success unless I have a large social media following for the company to market to so I would better do the self-publishing route.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Dear writer,

My own experience has been with self-publishing so whatever I can tell you is going to be colored by that choice.

Finding an agent

I believe a regular route for many writers is to publish with small house first and, when they have a track record, to then look for an agent. You are not however there in your publication history to be ready for the larger houses—possible but not probable.

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truth telling

Courgeous Truth Telling — A Revolutionary Act

One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is courageous truth telling and objectivity. In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle—and not so subtle—messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal authenticity.

“The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.” — Sam Keen, writer

At its best, this is what a memoir is — a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”

Lest you think that courageous truth telling is only about revealing scandals and unmasking sexual abuse, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues. The issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. Perhaps you were never ambitious of worldly success. This has embarrassed you but you would like to make a statement for another set of values other than financial success. Or, perhaps you have been attracted to people of your own gender and would like to bear witness to that but still fear repercussions. Or, perhaps you were a parent but, if the truth be told, you and your children might have been better off if you had not parented. As you can see, “courageous telling the truth” need not be earth shattering, but it is about incredibly essential features of ourselves. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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truth in memoir

“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family but “making nice”—not telling the truth in memoir—will trip you up.

How do you write truth in memoir?

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Don't let writer's blok stop you

Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You

Don’t let writer’s block stop you from producing a great memoir!

“What can I do about writer’s block?” I am asked regularly by stumped writers.

“Pretty much the same as plumber does with a plumber’s block,” I’ll respond.

People twitter at this reply. Perhaps it’s because they take my response for a joke and they’re anticipating a good punch line.

Do what you have to do if you don’t let writer’s block stop you.

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begin a memoir

How to Begin a Memoir

Many writers agonize about just where to start a life story, where to begin a memoir. There are, of course, many places where a story can be launched.

1. The place in the story at which you begin a memoir writing manuscript is almost never the place at which readers will begin to read your story in its book form.

A writer begins someplace because beginning someplace is the way it is done. It is only much later that the writer will know where to place this initial piece of writing — at the beginning or elsewhere in the memoir.

2. The first paragraphs in a story may be only a warm up and not worth preserving.

The real beginning of your story can sometimes occur in a later paragraph. Move the paragraph that ought to serve as your lead to the beginning of your story and consign your warm-up paragraphs where they belong — in the wastebasket! You’ll be glad you didn’t hide your true lead under unnecessary false starts.

3. Once you know the crisis point of your story, the place where the action is at its most intense, where a turn around has to occur, you then know what in your memoir has to be built up to.

Sometimes people know this crisis before they begin to write; sometimes they have to write a while before they know what it is. Either way, knowing the crisis will be essential. Choose scenes that lead up to the crisis. The first of these scenes is perhaps your beginning.

4. To begin a memoir, choose a moment that is the zenith or the nadir of your story for the opening chapter.

The last sentence in the introductory chapter is something like: “How did I get to this point — zenith or nadir?” Chapter Two and the rest of the book then answer this question.

In conclusion

Good luck writing as you begin your memoir. Let me know what your experience has been.

If you are looking for printed material to add to your library, visit our bookstore or Smashwords.

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writing memoir

Writing Memoir Is Not Easy

When you’re writing memoir, the project typically starts with a burst of energy. “This is going to be a good piece of writing! What am I saying, ‘good?’

“It’s going to be great!”

So we write for a month or two or even three and the energy remains strong but…

There comes a day when the demon that plagues all writers raises its ugly head and snaps at you.

“What in the world were you thinking of committing yourself to writing this horribly insignificant piece! And worse yet, what were you thinking of alerting other people that you were writing a memoir? Now, they’re going to expect something and you’re about to make a fool of yourself!”

Or, something equally terrible and intimidating goes through your mind. When that happens, what do you do?

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book publishing tips

What makes you into a writer?

Does saying you are a writer make you into a writer? Well, of course, the answer is no. Not ipso facto. Thirty-five or so years ago when my wife said, “When people ask you what you do, why don’t you tell them you are a writer instead of telling them you are a teacher? You […]

the best memoir writing book

Should You Create an Outline or a Memory List for your Memoir?

DL: An outline or a Memory List? This is a perennial favorite with the search engines. I consider it to be a foundational post whose info can guide you to success. I hope you enjoy it.

A Memory List is far superior to an outline!

For some writers, there comes a moment in writing a memoir when the audacity of the undertaking hits them. Perhaps they think doorslammers like: “This can take forever.” “Writing a memoir will never pay for itself.” “I can’t afford to do this!” They reach for certainty. And that certainly if often a reversion to essay and report writing. They want an outline to assure the task gets done right. So, an outline or a Memory List?

The following is a comment to someone who asked in the Memoir Forum if she should create an outline and how to know when the page and chapters were the right length.

1. Do not write a memoir from an outline.

I do not write 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 happens 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.) So…

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shaping theme

Shaping Your Theme

It is important to spend some time shaping your theme as the theme is the message—the why—of your writing.

You imbue the whole of your story with your theme, and it, in turn, influences the choice of every element in your story—even when you’re not aware of it. In fact, all writing carries a message from the writer, an index of the motivation of the artist. Theme can be as broad as “There are good guys and bad guys, and you can tell them apart” and as subtle as “I want to tell others what it was like to live at a certain time of my life.”
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