Anyone writing a memoir must face the challenge of how to tell the painful truth of his or her story at the same time as one does not want to cause harm or pain. My latest memoir A Sugary Frosting has brought me face to face – personally – with the challenge of telling the […]
In this section, you will read about processes and props you can implement to increase your success as a writer. As in all professions and trades, there are “best practices” for memoir writing that facilitate and improve your experience.
By all means, leave comments if you have a practice that you would like to share with us.
Are You Holding Back the Hard Truth in Your Memoir?
Your memoir needs the hard truth about life—your life—and sometimes that requires exposing yourself, getting “naked.”
I believe one has to stop holding back for fear of alienating some imaginary reader or real relative or friend and come out with personal truth. If we are to understand the human condition and if we are to accept ourselves in all the complexity, self-doubt…. we have to know all we can about each other and we have to be willing to go naked.—Mary Sarton
Wow, going around naked! Gulp! (Better hit the gym!)
But, I guess you get the idea—psychologically and emotionally naked. Your memoir needs truth telling about life—yours—and sometimes that requires exposing yourself, getting “naked.”
I would like to change the metaphor a bit, to use a metaphor that is less startling but very graphic nonetheless. It is the metaphor of the kernels at the bottom of the popcorn bowl.
I love popcorn and enjoy eating it but there always comes a moment when I get to the bottom of the bowl and the plethora of corn kernels that have been popped into delightful puffy bites gives way to the hard half-popped or not-popped-at-all kernels. These are not fun to eat. Disappointed, I walk to the trash and throw the kernels away. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
To make time for writing, you have to be serious about the principle that your writing is your work. You must act on it and take it as seriously as your paying job.
Writers sometimes struggle with how to begin a story and will not write the story until they have the beginning—the first paragraph.
This is not a good way to proceed.
The first paragraph of a memoir sets the tone.
The first paragraph creates the tone and often presents imagery that will shape the reader’s appreciation of your story—whether a vignette or a full memoir.
In a short story I wrote many years ago, I did not compose the first paragraph until I had written the whole story. Frankly, I was stumped and did not know how to begin the story, how to launch the reader.
Writers ask me what they can do the most easily to write a better memoir. While I can understand the wish to write more quickly and easily, I’m going to share with you that writing a better memoir needs to be done slowly and thoughtfully. A rushed job is probably going to be a botched […]
As in most endeavors in life, when you write a memoir as an open-ended task without any end in sight, you are likely to procrastinate and extend the project. What happens when you do not set a memoir writing deadline is, next year or the year after that, you are still writing, revising, and polishing your lifestory. You know how it is: you want to get it right. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
In this video, Work With or Through Pain: Writing Painful Memories, I talk about writing through painful memories. Pain is often a barrier to memoir writing. Who wants to revisit difficult times? Although delving into the past is a generally pleasant experience and promotes healing and growth, it can also be painful. In fact, sooner or later, pain seems to come with memoir writing. This pain if not handled well, can inhibit—and even stop—you from continuing with your writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
A writing prompt in my estimation leads to nothing. I’m not a great fan of a writing prompt. Sure, they get you to writing something. And many people will insist writing something is better than writing nothing. Well, I’m not so sure of that.
Writing a non-fiction book is possible!
A common lament, I hear from writers goes like this, “I wanted a book, and I got off to a good start writing a memoir. I’ve always wanted to write a book, but then I just stopped. I don’t know why.” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
No one said it would be easy to show up and do the work of writing a book!
“Writing is hard,” you realize again as you look at your production for the day. “Perhaps I’m not cut out for this.”
To your dismay, you have been writing in snippets for many days now. In the mornings, when you show up at your laptop—later and later it seems, you must face, as does every writer, a demanding master: your daily writing. Why can’t writing be more fun? Why can’t it be—well, to tell the truth—less hard?
Oh, how you wish it were the end of your scheduled writing period for the day! Why did you think you could do this book-writing thing!
“Whom am I kidding?” [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]