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Show, don't tell about your characters

Show Don’t Tell, or Don’t Describe Your Characters–Show Them!

The old adage “Show, don’t tell!” is as true as ever. It is one technique that will always improve your writing. I admit that there is some great writing that makes a precedent for “tell,” but as a rule, “show” is more effective.

1. Your pen is your movie camera.

In a film, a director ( that’s you!) doesn’t have an actor go on screen to tell the audience that someone is angry. Instead, he shows the character in a scene where anger is in action. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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launching memoir teaching

Launching Your Memoir Teaching – 6 Steps To More Success

Many memoir writers secretly, or not so secretly, want to help other people to write their memoirs. Sometimes they do this informally with a friend or two, and at other times, they get a bit more organized and offer a class at a library or other institution. One thing is certain, launching your memoir teaching will take some attention.

I have taught workshops for decades and can attest to the deep satisfaction I have derived from working with writers. I have formed friendships that have lasted these many years.

If you would like to offer a memoir class here are a few tips to do so more successfully. They are garnered from sound business practices, but don’t worry as they are easy for anyone to implement.

(I have written about the curriculum elsewhere.)

1. Reconnect with people who told you they want to be in a workshop within a few days of having first spoken to them.

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memoir theme

Three Ways an Inauthentic Memoir Theme Will Trip You Up

As you articulate your memoir theme, ask yourself if this memoir theme is really yours—does it reflect your present understanding of your story and of life itself? Or is it a residue of the accepted “wisdom” of someone else: a parent, another adult figure, society at large?

1) A theme that is authentically yours makes for better writing.

It comes from your center of experience. Writers who recognize, acknowledge, and explore their authentic memoir themes in their writing are more apt to present us with clear, to-the-point stories than those who repeat inherited memoir themes or who think they can ignore the issue of theme.

Early in our lives, you and I were naturally and rightfully the recipients of someone else’s—a parent’s or grandparent’s—understanding and interpretation of life. As long as these interpretations correspond to our own adult views, we can write easily within their context. What often happens, however, is that we continue to espouse a point of view inherited from another without realizing that it has ceased to correspond to our own. When challenged, we will say “Well, I guess I really don’t believe that anymore. Isn’t it something how I wrote (or said) that!”

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memoir coaching

Memoir Coaching Laser-focuses on Getting Your Memoir Written Faster and Better

How does memoir coaching improve your manuscript?

“What does ‘My family was poor’ mean, ” I asked a memoir writer in a recent coaching session.

Poor?” he asked at the other end of the phone line. “What do you mean what does poor mean? Poor means poor!”

“Does poor mean you didn’t have enough to eat or does it mean you never ate out at restaurants? Does poor mean you were forced to run out on your rent or does it mean you did not have an in-ground pool?”

Clearly, descriptive always adjectives don’t mean what we think they mean!

Empty literary “calories”

On the spot, I shared with him how adjectives are empty literary “calories.” They do nothing for the story but fill up space. They pretend to be effective but are not. Every writer needs to depend on scenes, dialog, settings, characters to tell the real story.

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right memoir coach

How to Know if You Have the Right Memoir Coach

How do you know if you have the right memoir coach? The guidelines below will help you evaluate your writing coach prospect to ascertain if you are choosing the right memoir coach for you. This article contains evaluation guidelines centered on the availability of the right memoir coach.

1. Can your coach work with you so that you meet your deadline?

As you develop your memoir project, you may become aware of a natural deadline, such as a family reunion or a birthday. The right memoir coach for you will be able to meet your date. This deadline should be discussed before you and the coach commit to each other.

Your deadline may also simply focus on a time when you would like to be finished. This is a completely internal deadline.

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personal memoir

Seven Reasons for Writing a More Personal Memoir

You want to write your memoir, but you resist getting too personal, going in too deep. In short, writing a more personal memoir.

Your guarded secret that you wanted to have your own business one day or your hope that your father would apologize eventually for his denigration of you—this has happened and it has had a great impact on you. Your even deeper secrets—the sexual orientation that you dared not reveal or your negative self-concept—surely this can’t be the subject of a memoir. How would you live this down? Isn’t it better to stick with the facts and dates? And aren’t these inner realities too personal to impose on others?

1) The more personal your memoir the more universal it is.

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truth telling

Telling the Hard Truth in Your Memoir–Are You Holding Back?

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.

—May 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. ]

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larger audience

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. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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writing process steps

Writing Process Steps–Linger With Your Story

One of the writing process steps is to linger with your story. Many, and perhaps most, people write too fast. I don’t mean that they end up with a text characterized by sloppy grammar, spelling problems and chronology issues—although that may be the case, of course.

No, what I mean is that they push through the process of writing their stories much too quickly. They end up with only a part of the story they could have written had they lingered.

So many times in my workshops, I have found it easy to tell those manuscripts that have been lingered over from those that have not. As somebody’s face reveals Irish ancestry or Italian heritage, a piece of writing reveals its past.

There is a quality to a piece that has been rushed that is easily discernible to anyone who has learned to write more slowly. So…learn to linger with your story.

One of the most essential writing process steps

1. When you don’t take the time to linger with your story, you generally are unable to feel the full import of your memoir.

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time sequencing and flashbacks

Before Sending a Manuscript To An Editor / Part 3: Time Sequencing and Flashbacks

Note from the Editor: This third installment of Before Sending a Manuscript to an Editor series offers basic editing tips around time sequencing and flashbacks. For Part 1: Self-Editing Techniques Click here. For Part 2: Use of Time  Click here.

A writer can effect these tips to bring a manuscript to a higher level of finish before sending the piece off to a professional editor. In this section, I write about use of time: specifically, cause and effect time sequencing and flashbacks.

Cause and Effect

In the previous post on the use of time, I wrote about the cause-and-effect sequence as a sub-aspect of proper chronology.

Before I get to the cause-and-effect sequence which is an absolutely necessary styling element to understand, I need to review an essential element of memoir writing (as of fiction): the suspension of disbelief.

A writer can effect these tips to bring a manuscript to a higher level of finish before sending the piece off to a professional editor. In this section, I write about time sequencing: specifically, cause and effect sequencing and the flashback. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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