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pacing a memoir

Pacing Your Memoir Requires Planning

In almost everything you do in life or in writing, pacing ranks right up there in importance. The tortoise knew how to pace himself and won the race.

The hare, on the other hand, needed to view this post before setting out on the race which he eventually lost despite the gift of speed nature had given him!

Pacing your memoir is generally an acquired habit.

Pacing requires some planning and getting used to. The tortoise understood this and took off at a slow but steady pace.

Long-distance runners pace themselves for an eventual victory at the finish line. They don’t opt to be head-of-the-line on mile five or ten or fifteen. They know to settle on a speed for each portion of the race so that they can finish first.

How do we apply the concept of pacing to your memoir structure?

Every memoir is, of course, different but there are some basics that everyone needs to master and apply.

In your memoir, you are trying to say something you consider to be important. In many cases, it is this important message that has led you to start to write. Most of us don’t write memoir to make a lot of money—that would be nice but it’s not likely. We write to share an experience.

But, something happens in the writing. Perhaps you become entranced with an event that now seems particularly interesting to you. Why not explore it, you think and you soon go off on a tangent. Important stuff perhaps but not central to this particular memoir.

“But this is important to understanding my story,” you say.

Perhaps you are writing about a business failure and what you learned from it. Your wife, or perhaps it was your husband, was your partner. So, who was this partner of yours who was also your spouse?

You begin to write about when you were dating. How your world changed then. And you go on for 25 pages. Very interesting stuff, very romantic—at least to you and the truth is it has little to do with your business failure.

What we need to read about is your business. Unless your spouse was a direct cause of the collapse, let’s leave the courting out of this story.

While it may be appropriate to write about why you believed you and your spouse were a great team to begin a business until you realized it wasn’t so great a team. Perhaps you both had the same strengths and the same weaknesses so entire parts of the business were not being taken care of.

Writing about your courtship is waste of memoir space, a failure of pacing your memoir. As I have expounded elsewhere, kill your little darlings, your favorite stories that don’t belong in your memoir.

Your memoir demands appropriate pacing.

We read memoirs for many reasons. One of course, is to have a “good read.” But, I also believe a crucial aspect of a memoir reading is education. You are making a point in your memoir not merely being entertaining.

We readers also want to learn how to handle life situations. Because of this, your book on a businessfailure will not appeal to the high school boy whose entire life revolves around sports. It probably won’t appeal either to a businessperson who has been running a successful, profitable venture.

So, who will your book appeal to?

Your book will probably appeal to someone starting out who wants to avoid problems or it will appeal to someone whose business is shaky and wants to know what to do or at least what to avoid. Thirdly, it might draw a person in who has failed at a business and is now looking for additional insight before launching another venture.

With this in mind, your commitment to outlining your courtship with your business partner—your spouse—is not what people want to read.

It’s a little darling that is getting in the way of your theme.

It is not what is heading in a direct line to your conclusion.

What’s the most important part of your story? 

We don’t particularly want to know about the quirky dates you had or your taste in music, but we are likely to want to see the two of you discussing the future and about how both of you had once had a desire to launch a business. That much is appropriate and necessary to understand your partnership.

Some text will be necessary to show the early stages of the company, but soon you will need to kaleidoscope into the early challenges. How did you choose to meet them and with hindsight can you share what early mistakes might have made?

Right pacing in a memoir refers to the inevitable exposition of the story as it leads directly to its crisis and turning point.

 Everything else is a distraction and deletes from proper pacing.

pacing your memoir

To view this article on video, click here.

And remember: “inch by inch, it’s a cinch; yard by yard it’s hard.”

Good luck writing your stories!

Below is an e-course I have prepared for you to look more deeply at pacing your memoir time and energy.






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