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Archive | Strategies for Successful Writing

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.

First paragraph

The First Paragraph Can Make or Break a Memoir for the Reader

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.

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the best memoir writing book

Write A Better Memoir: 10 How-to Tips

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 job.

The following are my recommendations to boost the quality of your memoir writing. They are obvious tasks which form the substance of this post. Each tip below comes loaded with links. In some instances, the identical words are highlighted, but they lead to separate articles that develop a different angle of the topic. Do not omit to click a repeated word.

I know some impatient readers are going to see following links as a problem, but I hope that you will not and will understand that you are being offered an in-depth e-course on how to improve your memoir writing. This is university-level work I am making available to you.

Be patient and dig in. In fact, it may take you a few days to fully absorb this post—but it will be amply worth the effort in the improved quality of your memoir.

1. Make a Memory List.

If there is one thing I would qualify as a magic bullet in memoir writing it would be the Memory List. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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memoir writing deadline

Memoir Writing Deadline: How To Set Yours

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. ]

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writing prompts

Instead of A Writing Prompt – Five Tips for Creating a Memory List

As people are writing a memoir they will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts or is there something instead of a writing prompt?”

There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not a writing prompt: it is the Memory List. No other exercise opens up the process of life writing as quickly and as surely as the thoughtful and thorough compilation of such a list. It’s simple, and as a first step, it’s crucial.

Let me tell you about the Memory List (a general term for your list of memories).

Your Memory List is always a work in process because the more you remember and jot down, the more you’ll recall. You will return to and rework your list again and again as you write your life stories. In short, it will serve as an excellent writing prompt without being a writing prompt.

1. The Memory List consists of short memory notes (three to five words is sufficient) of people, events, relationships, thoughts, feelings, things—anything—from your past.

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writing prompt

Use This Instead of a Writing Prompt

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

Writing a Non-Fiction Book

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.”

What I have sometimes found is that people approach memoir-writing as an easy access to becoming “an author.”

“It’s my life after all,” people say. “I ought to know enough about myself to write a memoir without too much of a problem.”

Well, yes and no. It’s clearly your life, but feeling your way through it deeply enough to write about it with any insight, is not a sure thing.

“My own book”—the words convey an excitement and an importance that can be satisfying. And the memoir seemed an entrance, but the fact is that some people may not have the sensibility to write a memoir or may not be ready in their experience of their lives to undertake the project.

A special phrase–“My own book”

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Complete Your Book Manuscript

Show Up And Do the Work of Writing a Book

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. ]

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telling the truth

Do not waffle in telling the truth

“I have permission [as a memoir writer] not to waffle in my writing,” I was recently informed by a memoir writer.

“Not to waffle” somehow missed the point for me.

Certainly, the memoir writer has permission “not to waffle,” but there is more that is incumbent on the writer. S/he has the obligation not to waffle. As memoir writers, “not to waffle” means to tell our truth about what happened. This is a must. Over the years, I have been amazed at how I can pick up waffling and how, in a workshop setting, others can too. Waffling just comes across waving a “red flag.” So…

Yeah, don’t do it!

But beyond “not to waffle” is telling the truth, the searing truth.

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How long should it take to write a memoir?

How Long Should It Take to Write a Memoir? Set a Deadline!

How Useful Is A Memoir Timeline?

Have you ever wondered, “How long should it take to write a memoir?”

One answer, of course, is that it takes as long as it takes. While so true, this answer is not useful to those writers who are trying to get their duckies in line—looking at where the time is in their schedules to write, knowing what support to ask from their life partners, etc.

I’ve come up with a calculation for those people who want some sense of how long writing a memoir might take. The following time frame is realistic for any writer who needs a timeline to complete a 200-page memoir. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Continue to write your memoir

Don’t Wait: Continue to Write Your Memoir Today

Why not continue to write your memoir today?

—Phil Cousineau in Stoking the Creative Fires

The Phil Cousineau quote above ought to be for all of us a stirring call to continue—or to begin if that is where we are at—the writing we may have procrastinated about for so long. We fill our days with lesser tasks when we know that what we ought to be doing is writing a memoir.

It is later than you think. In the twenty-five plus years I have been doing this work, I have seen people die without writing their memoir and I have seen people grow old and lose the energy to write their memoir.

In both cases, a lifestory has been lost.
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