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Don't let writer's blok stop you

Facts Are Important in Memoir Writing

Facts are important in memoir writing. The inclusion of dates, addresses, names, and relationships, are one of its special features. Memoir writing cannot, without deleting from its value, omit dates and specific identification of locales, names of individuals and their relationships to one another. Memoir writing is factual writing: hence the importance of facts. A […]

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 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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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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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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writing about non-events

Writing about Non-Events: They Belong in Your Memoir Writing

When writing about non-events, it can seem like they don’t belong in a memoir. But, often, non-events can have been more difficult than the “events” that do challenge us.

What are Non-Events?

While having coffee in a restaurant recently, I saw a man and a 14- or 15-year-old boy whom I took to be his son walk in together and order. Then, carrying their trays, they sat at a table near me. At first, they were both silent, and then the boy began to speak. He spoke quite a bit. I couldn’t hear the words, but he seemed to be talking about something that had happened to him. The man occasionally nodded his head in response, but I heard him talk only once. The boy kept speaking. His head and arms were involved. He evidently expected responses which, other than via a nod, were not forthcoming.

Perhaps I fantasized elements of my own life, but I imagined the boy wanting his father to answer, to engage in an exchange with him but nothing of the sort happened. At one point, as the boy was speaking, his father got up and went to the trash basket and dumped the contents of his tray in and waited for the boy to come do the same. Seeming to understand that the meal was over from the father’s point of view, the boy got up and dumped his things into the trash also and the two walked out together.

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