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truth in memoir

“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family but “making nice”—not telling the truth in memoir—will trip you up.

How do you write truth in memoir?

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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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lightning bug words in memoir

Lightning Bug Words

Are You Using Lightning Bug Words? How do we write in lightning and not in lightning bugs? Using the right words when writing your memoir will illuminate and inform your readers.

the best memoir writing book

Add Depth To Your Memoir

It’s time to add depth to your memoir. Here are links to five information-packed articles that are sure to make you think more deeply about your writing—and help you in the important task of re-writing your stories and vignettes so that they form a more coherent and meaningful whole.

memoir interviewing

Memoir Interviewing: how to prepare for one and carry it off!

Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir.

Below are some notes on how to prepare for the best memoir interviewing you’ll ever undertake!

1) Select whom you will be memoir interviewing.

If your time is limited, or your family is large and offers many choices, it will be all the more important to identify a manageable number of knowledgeable relatives and friends to interview.

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place photos in your memoir book

Photos in Your Memoir Book Layout

Where you place photos in your memoir book layout is important.

While it may seem obvious, it bears repeating that where you place photos in your memoir book layout is important.

It will influence how readers appreciate your story. The only way I can grasp that makes sense is to place photos chronologically within the text. Why?

A bit of book-writing talk

There is in reading and writing a phenomenon called “suspension of disbelief.” If I as the reader am constantly saying “This is only a book. This isn’t really happening as I read,” then it is impossible for that reader to get “lost in the story.”

On the other hand, if the reader agrees not to challenge the story—to make as if the story is actually happening as s/he is reading—then there is a good chance the reader will enter the story and experience it as if it were unfolding before his/her eyes.

Now the reader is only one partner of the agreement. The other partner is the writer.  The writer MUST NOT do anything that forces the reader to suspend disbelief.

A famous gaffe [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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share your writing

Dare to Share Your Writing

A critical steps to take as a developing writer is to share your writing with others. Those others might be writers, they might be friends, or they might be family members.

Sometimes you make your writing public by having an in-person audience or a virtual audience. Sometimes your first audience comes in the form of blog readers.

This post is geared to the novice writer and may not apply to a more experienced memoirist.

To Share Is To Grow

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memoir writing tips

Five Memoir Writing Tips Nancy Pelosi Ought to Know Before She Pens A Memoir

When Nancy Pelosi sits down to write her memoirs what ought she to do to make the writing interesting? Hint: fame and power in themselves are not enough to intrigue a reader. Here are five memoir writing tips to know.

Writing her memories of her years in Washington will be challenging to Nancy Pelosi but not as hard as some people think. If she is willing to follow the five simple steps I will outline below, she can succeed at writing an interesting and meaningful autobiography. (More and more people—in fact, many who at first think they couldn’t—are succeeding at exploring and honoring their pasts in this way.)

These five memoir writing tips to know are among the most powerful—and easiest—to implement in personal and family history writing.

Good luck—to Nancy Pelosi and to you!

1) Make a Memory List.

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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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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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