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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 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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Writing Feelings into Your Memoir

Writing Feelings into Your Memoir

Recently, David asked in an email about “writing feelings into your memoir,” about writing a memoir that, if I am understanding him right, is not all all details and facts.

Below is my response which can serve as a stand-alone article to help you write your own memoir.

Leave a comment below expressing your experience of writing feelings into your memoir.

Here are some of my suggestions for writing feelings into your memoir:

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theme-focused memoir

The Theme-focused Memoir

While many of the people whom I have helped to write a memoir have come ostensibly to write about their lives – to celebrate some achievement, I would say that many of these people are also writing a mission-driven memoir, a theme-focused memoir.

Behind the desire to tell about their lives, there is some intent to promote a point of view. This comes under many guises. Generally, of course, this point of view is called “theme.”

The theme-focused memoir is the most common model.

Writing a manuscript only of one’s experience—the dates, the facts, the activities—may often not enough to entice the reader—at least, it will not interest the reader who is not family and friends. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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the best memoir writing book

Should You Create an Outline or a Memory List for your Memoir?

DL: An outline or a Memory List? This is a perennial favorite with the search engines. I consider it to be a foundational post whose info can guide you to success. I hope you enjoy it.

A Memory List is far superior to an outline!

For some writers, there comes a moment in writing a memoir when the audacity of the undertaking hits them. Perhaps they think doorslammers like: “This can take forever.” “Writing a memoir will never pay for itself.” “I can’t afford to do this!” They reach for certainty. And that certainly if often a reversion to essay and report writing. They want an outline to assure the task gets done right. So, an outline or a Memory List?

The following is a comment to someone who asked in the Memoir Forum if she should create an outline and how to know when the page and chapters were the right length.

1. Do not write a memoir from an outline.

I do not write from an outline. Instead, I create a Memory List as outlined in Chapter 2 of Turning Memories Into Memoirs. The Memory List helps you to follow the promptings of the unconscious rather than the dictates of the conscious mind as happens with an outline. (An outline is great for an essay—”The Three Causes of the American Civil War”— but it is the death of an exploratory memoir.) So…

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shaping theme

Shaping Your Theme

It is important to spend some time shaping your theme as the theme is the message—the why—of your writing.

You imbue the whole of your story with your theme, and it, in turn, influences the choice of every element in your story—even when you’re not aware of it. In fact, all writing carries a message from the writer, an index of the motivation of the artist. Theme can be as broad as “There are good guys and bad guys, and you can tell them apart” and as subtle as “I want to tell others what it was like to live at a certain time of my life.”
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Revealing Ourselves in a Memoir

Revealing Ourselves in a Memoir — 3 Reasons We Don’t Do It.

Why are we afraid of revealing ourselves in a memoir? While writing our stories, all of us, at one time or another, come against the fear of revealing too much of ourselves. The fear is founded—it’s not always a friendly world out there. And…

As we reveal too much about ourselves, we may be revealing too much about someone else.

But, excessive revealing is generally not the problem most memoir writers face. Revealing too little is a much more frequent problem for writers I coach or edit.

Often revealing ourselves in a memoir too little can come about because:

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memoir success

Memoir Success: Approaching Neverland

Memoir Success

Over the years, I have worked with many writers to help them create and shape their memoirs. It’s my pleasure to bring to your attention once again the success of one such writer: Peggy Kennedy from San Ramon, California, for whom I had the pleasure of providing coaching and editing help that led to her memoir success

Many readers of this blog have been writing for a while and some are despairing of finishing. There is hope. After a number of years of preparation, Peggy Kennedy’s memoir of growing up in a family with a mentally-ill mother, Approaching Neverland, saw print. (Ordering information at bottom.)

While the information below is from over a decade ago, I believe this memoir success story is dateless. Approaching Neverland did well—and so can you. A review in the magazine the Midwest Book Review gave it five stars. Originally fearful of speaking before an audience, she was a guest on a number of radio and television programs. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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Point of View in a Memoir

The Wrong Point of View in a Memoir Can Throw the Story

In 1996 and 1997, I composed about 200 pages of a memoir of my high school years and then it wasn’t going anywhere more than where it had been—mired in facts and details with no spirit. What I didn’t know was it had a wrong point of view problem

I merely stored it in various computers for years.

In the fall of 2013, I completed my mother’s memoir (We Were Not Spoiled). Because I was looking for a writing project I might devote myself to next, I picked up the high-school memoir again.

(Lest you think that I went to a high school like yours, let me assure you that I did not. I attended a Catholic high-school seminary. No, I’m not writing about sexual shenanigans—there was none of that whatsoever. I am writing about my life there between 1960 and 1964 and how it shaped me. This theme of identity is usual stuff for a memoir, but the setting is exotic in many ways and not at all usual. Almost none of you who are reading this have “been there”—trust me.)

Suddenly, after more than a decade and a half, the memoir spoke to me again!

“Write me! Write me!” it shouted. The text seemed “alive” again. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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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. Show Don’t Tell.

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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