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Don’t Pass On Reaching A Larger Audience – 4 Tips   

Perhaps you’ve been writing a memoir for your family and friends. The composition started off easily enough. You jotted a few memories and passed the stories out. People started saying you ought to write a book, but you were doubtful no one else but family and friends would be interested. For a long while you were satisfied creating your book for a small audience and then it occurred to you you that you were writing with a theme that might interest a larger audience. Perhaps, you wondered, if there was something in your lifestory that could address a larger audience of strangers. Or…

Perhaps from the get-go, you had a sense that, while this story of yours is personal, there was something in it that certainly could interest a larger audience.

While family and friends are always a worthy readership for your memoir, it is possible to reach an even larger audience.

“But, how to do that?” you ask. “What’s the magic bullet?”

Well, I don’t have a magic bullet but I do have a few suggestions to help you reach beyond a small circle. Below are four suggestions to empower your story to appeal to a broader public.

1) Find what is truly unique about your story and explore that thread.

In the particular is contained the universal.

— James Joyce

The Joyce quote above may seem to be an oxymoron of sort, but it is not. When you delve deeply into your story—tell the searing truth of your life—you will find yourself speaking to a wide group of strangers who share the same experience.

Perhaps you were experimented on with drugs by the CIA or perhaps you were a prisoner of war or perhaps you have given birth to quintuplets.

These are very particular, unique experiences, but they are likely to resonate  with others. The woman who gave birth to a down syndrome child may well identify with the woman who had quintuplets, and the man who was set up to fail by his boss may understand something about the person who was drugged.

“In the particular is contained the universal.”

It is highly probable that you have done something in your life that is unique—even if it is only during a small portion of your life. Perhaps there was a time when you tried to reconcile a liberal political view with your conservative religious group or perhaps you were afflicted with a malady that vanished when you took a special cure.

It may take you time to identify what you have experienced that was unique and particular, but be patient with yourself. Linger with your story a while and your uniqueness will come to you. Remember that the uniqueness does not have to appeal to the masses—a niche of readers will do.

People love to read about a personal experience that is different and unique.

2) Set your story in a historical context a larger audience will appreciate.

Perhaps you were the first person to do something in your group or community—the first man to graduate from a hitherto all-women’s college. Perhaps you were in the Vietnam war and you wish to write a memoir from the point of view of an ordinary soldier or perhaps you were a pacifist who opposed the war. Perhaps you were among the first women to become a financial advisor in your state and want to write about the dissolution of gender barriers in banking. Perhaps you were a housemaid for one of the Kennedys and have stories to tell about national figures who frequented the house where you worked. Perhaps you have a story to tell about what it was like to be a newly-arrived Muslim living in North America in the age of Trump.

To succeed at setting your story in a larger historical context, you will obviously have to learn about your historical context and be able to write about it with ease. Not only as it affected you but about the “bigger picture” that gives context to your individual experience. Begin by reading about the historical context and from that will likely come your story.

Many people overestimate how much they know about the historical context in which they lived. They will delve into clichés like “Everyone then did…” “When I was a child, no one…”

Better would be to distinguish what was happening in your family or subgroup and then put this into a context your larger audience will understand.

When I co-wrote We Were Not Spoiled, my mother’s memoir, I was careful to include much historical information that I crossed checked to verify their accuracy. My goal was to place my mother’s life in a historical context.

As a result of including this context, I get comments from people who say, “You have written my mother’s story!” My mother said, “Who in the world will want to read about my life?” So far, this intensely personal story that my family has welcomed joyfully and for whom it was actually intended has reached over 2,000 strangers who have found something universal in it.

BTW, if you are willing to review my mother’s story for Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, or wherever, I can get a review copy to you of We Were Not Spoiled. Email me.

3) Find the psychological / spiritual / cultural drama in your story.

It often happens that writers can write about the psychological or spiritual unfolding of their personality and, in doing so, write about the “universal,” the typical or normative unfolding and development of a personality or of the soul. This treatment of your memoir sets your life experience as a possible model. In short, your life is a sort of myth or archetype for others to emulate.

You may shrink from the task—estimating it to be too lofty or pompous. It may sound like a too tall order to follow. But, a primal function of reading a memoir is to be taught how to live one’s life. In short, we seek guidance. We are looking for models—myths and archetypes. If you shrink from this role, you are shrinking from reaching a larger audience. An example of a memoir that does not shrink would be  one that presents how you became an artist or how you have had an experience of enlightenment or how you rose from rags to riches.

The value of a memoir is measured by the inherent value to the writer and to its selected audience whose particulars are reflected in your particulars. If you want to reach a larger audience, it is important to position your story as a path to similar success.

4) Write a story that is truly well-written and whose reading—the prose itself—will bring joy to your reader.

I have saved this for the last because I do not want to intimidate you. People are afraid of good grammar and good styling. They needn’t be. Anyone can learn to be a better writer technically.

To begin with, your memoir must be free of technical problems: spelling and grammar errors, a rambling composition that leaves the reader confused, redundancies and omissions and so forth.

Family and friends will forgive these mistakes. When was the last time  you heard someone say “My grandmother wrote a book and it had some mistakes and so I put it down.” This just doesn’t happen with Grandma’s book, but it does with a memoir of a stranger. And a book that has been abandoned does not get positive word of mouth promotion—not to mention review attention.

If you need to brush up on grammar and spelling there are sites on the web that will teach you. There are also local college classes.

There’s nothing that will get your book ignored faster than premature publication. Be sure you get editing and proofreading for your book.

But this is only the beginning. You will also need to make effective use of a number of fiction writing techniques including images, metaphors, similes, suspense, foreshadowing, dilog, and so forth . You will need to achieve clarity, coherence, conciseness, completeness, and much more. If you enjoy playing with language and have an ear for it, you can succeed at creating a well-written memoir that will bring pleasure to its readers who are your larger audience.

These four memoir possibilities demonstrate how to go about making an otherwise ordinary life into a story that can appeal to a larger audience.

Denis Ledoux

A final note to reaching a larger audience.

It is in the rewriting stage, as you struggle with the story that is trying both to remain hidden and to come out, that you will most likely achieve the insights that will appeal to a broader readership. So… keep writing. It is possible for you to produce a story that is not only worth your time to write but worth someone else’s time to read.


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