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In this Strategies for Successful Writing category, you will read about processes and props you can implement to increase your success as a memoir writer.

While it would be comforting to think that “wanting to succeed” would be sufficient for success, it simply is not. Nor are best efforts, enthusiasm, and working hard.

You must master the craft—that is, the craft of memoir writing. Success for a memoirist is indexed both on the writer’s experience of best writing practices and ability to access feelings deep inside as well as on the reader’s experience. (The reader after all has to bring much to the story experience.) You don’t however have much control of the reader’s response, but you do of your writing.

Best Practices of Strategies for Successful Writing

As in all professions and trades, there are “best practices” for memoir writing that facilitate and improve your writing experience and your audience’s reading experience.

While no one would contradict that memoir writing is an art and requires intuition and sensibility, it is also a craft that relies on best practices of successful memoir writing.

In conclusion

The posts below will help you to write better narratives. But, don’t stop there. Read your way through the entire Memoir Writer’s Bog. Be sure to read 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.

As one of the most fundamental strategies for successful writing, let’s be sure to emphasize that when writers do not complete their memoir, they cannot be called successful. So…keep writing until you finish.

Good luck with your writing.

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.

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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, […]

4ProvenWays

Have you ever succumbed to this memoir shortcut?

“I just added a little bit of fiction to move the story along,” you say, to explain a memoir shortcut you have just taken, joining the ranks of such pseudo memoirist as James Frey in A Million Pieces? Or, perhaps the ranks of Frank McCourt who fictionalized long dialogs in Angela’s Ashes. (No one remembers […]

sad mature businessman thinking about problems in living room

Writing Negative Experiences into a Memoir

Of course, your memoir will have a lot to say about your family, your relatives and your community. How do you write about them when your feelings are not necessarily positive? Do you omit any mention and “make nice?” How do you avoid being mired in the quicksand of destructive emotions as you are writing negative experiences into a memoir?

When writing my childhood memoir, French Boy, I had some sorrow surrounding my father and some simply critical feelings about my mother. In short, I was writing negative emotions into a memoir—mine.

Getting some insight on my memoir characters

Now, don’t get me wrong: both of them were loving, caring people. I’m not writing here about abusive people. No I’m writing about human beings just like we all are, human beings who had some failings and moments when they were not their best. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Denis-family-1

Writing more Deeply: The pain in telling the truth

My new memoir, French Boy (due out in late 2022), is about my childhood. Much about this time in my life has a context that is unique and consequently different from that of my contemporaries. This memoir has a place in the world of memoirs, and I want it to find that place, but writing it has also brought up some pain which I did not want. Once again, I found out that there is pain in telling the truth.

My parents were thoughtful and loving people so their behavior towards me is not an issue. I am not writing about a reprehensible or shameful experience. I am dealing with a more average pain that is both little for the world and big for me.

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telling the truth

Solving Problems of Telling the Truth in Your Memoir

When telling the truth, how much of what happened do you have to tell? At what point does withholding the truth become a lie? For instance, in all her famous diaries, as Anais Nin celebrated the freedoms of her life as an artist, she never once mentioned that she was bankrolled by a husband. True, she could not mention his name or details of his life because he had refused her legal permission to do so in print. But wouldn’t the truth have been better served if she had mentioned the working husband who paid her bills and made her artistic life free of financial constraints possible?

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similes and metaphors

Similes and Metaphors: Don’t Let Them Scare You!

“I don’t quite know how to describe what I’m feeling,” you might say during your writing as you grope for a way to describe in words this emotion that is beyond words. There is a solution to this dilemma that writers often resort to—but too many writers are sure they can’t handle it. The solution? It is the use of images, specifically similes and metaphors. These will bring your text to a level beyond words.

Not sure how to handle these literary techniques? Not to worry. The following article explains much. You will read examples of similes and metaphors and learn the difference between similes and metaphors.

1. A simile is a comparison that uses like or as.

When you say, “Life is like a merry-go-round”, you are making an image we call a simile—even if it’s not a terribly original one. It’s a simile, too, if you write, “I’m busy as a bee.” In a simile, because of the use of like and as, it is clear that the writer is making a comparison. Here is an example of a simile:

My love is like the red, red rose/That’s newly sprung in June, /My love is like the melody/That’s sweetly played in tune.   —Robert Burns

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setting writing goals

Setting Writing Goals That Work For You

I have a goal for this post. I want to help you to develop and articulate your writing goals for the next three months—that is, 90 days. You can start your three months today, at the beginning of the next week or at the first day of the next month, but don’t put off setting writing goals.

Three months is taken from the business model which uses quarters—three months—to implement plans. It is a useful way to set goals for three months. Three months both give you time to accomplish something and is not too long that you get distracted or discouraged.

What exactly is a goal?

A goal is a wish with a schedule and a deadline. If you don’t have a schedule and a deadline, what you have is a wish and not a goal.

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pillars of memoir writing

Three Pillars of Memoir Writing

Writing a memoir requires a lot of time and energy—but you can do it. You can succeed in writing a memoir. Many people just like you have succeeded in doing so already. Today I am offering you my three pillars of memoir writing.

I want to share a system with you for getting started on writing a memoir. I call it the three pillars of memoir writing.

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