Use sense details in your stories to engage and hook your readers. A successful memoir needs sensory details to bring your story to life and make the reader feel as if it is unfolding in front of him. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Tag Archives | memoir writing tips
Don’t trust your memory when it comes to facts, events, and dates when you are writing your stories for your memoir. There’s no way around it: your memory—and mine—is fallible, unfortunately sometimes false, and too often flattering as it “remembers” events. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
The memoir writing process can be simple.
Note: This is the 1starticle in a series of 4 on the writing process of A Sugary Frosting published in 2016.
It’s 2016, and I am in the very last days of the memoir process and polishing A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage, the early lifestory of my deceased spouse, Martha Blowen. It’s a time to make sure I have written what I want to write and to check grammar and spelling before it goes out to a copy editor.
I had promised Martha that I would write her stories so that our grandchildren would know something about her. In May 2015, I began gathering the stories she had written of her life. My intent was to create a booklet of these stories. But, to be honest, it has never appealed to me to write booklets. I like to write books. That’s what I do and that’s what I do well.
As I read through Martha’s stories, in a few instances, I understood that some were fragmentary and needed filling out. I knew the story she was trying to convey but then I had lived with her for 31 years. Would someone who did not know her—our grandchildren, for instance—appreciate the tale? So, I tweaked the stories to make them more complete, more meaningful. Good work, I thought.
Then there were all the other stories that she had not written that I knew to be important to her and that I felt our grandchildren would want to know. I had heard Martha’s stories many, many times and so it was not hard for me to write them. Soon I had composed more stories then Martha had left behind. Well, why not write these down, too—so I wrote them.
Now the stories were adding up to a life, to a memoir.
As I am always urging anyone who works with me whether in coaching, in editing, or in ghostwriting, I created a memory list. This is a list of any and all memories related to a topic. It is both a fantastic recall exercise and an organizer for a memoir.
As you can imagine, A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage inevitably began to grow and grow. Soon it was well beyond the booklet stage. I continued writing, realizing I was creating a full-length memoir. As I wrote, there arose the standard question of where does the memoir end, where does this memoir of Martha’s early life come to an end. There was a natural curve to her story – and that was the life she had spent with her parents in the parsonage. After that, she lived a different life energy. (I write about life phases on my blog and why they are so important in memoir writing.)
I identified two things as interesting in the story. One was that it portrayed the story of a subculture in America in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s—in this instance, life in an Anglo-Protestant parsonage. A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage was also a necessary prelude to a series of two journals that I will publish in the next year or two. These journals, which are collations of Martha’s and my journals, are about the two years after Martha had been stricken with intraductal breast cancer and during which it progressed through her body. These journals are full of her illness, her resistance, and her time of acceptance. This was, of course, my time, too, of resistance and acceptance.
Martha died on August 18, 2008. There was a long time during which I was unable to write about her. Eventually, however, after a couple of years, I was able to work on her journals and her stories. I created a book of the first year from the two journals she and I had kept. The book of the second year is still in process.
My original intent had been to make these two journal books my next publishing project. But when I thought about it, I felt these journal manuscripts had something missing. What was missing, I believe, was a large historical context – “historical” meaning her earlier life: what context did she come out of? What influences had marked her for life?
I will write more about the memoir writing process in the next post.
[A Sugary Frosting was published in both hardcopy and e-version on March 30, 2016. I welcome any reader who is interested in writing a review for A Sugary Frosting / A Memoir of a Girlhood Spent in a Parsonage to be in touch with me for a complimentary e-copy.]
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. ]
To help you to get a fast start writing and to write your memoirs more prolifically–and even bring them to a finish in the form of a published memoir–I offer these eight suggestions. They are tried and true tips that bear repeating and repeating.
Writers sometimes struggle with how to begin a story and will not write the story until they have the beginning—the first paragraph.
This is not a good way to proceed.
The first paragraph of a memoir sets the tone.
The first paragraph creates the tone and often presents imagery that will shape the reader’s appreciation of your story—whether a vignette or a full memoir.
In a short story I wrote many years ago, I did not compose the first paragraph until I had written the whole story. Frankly, I was stumped and did not know how to begin the story, how to launch the reader.
Writers ask me what they can do the most easily to write a better memoir. While I can understand the wish to write more quickly and easily, I’m going to share with you that writing a better memoir needs to be done slowly and thoughtfully. A rushed job is probably going to be a botched […]
Note from the Editor: This first installment of Before Sending a Manuscript to an Editor series offers basic editing tips around self-editing techniques. For Part 2 Use of Time Click here. For Part 3 Time Sequencing and Flashbacks Click here
Self-Editing Techniques and Tips
I have been a memoir and fiction editor since 1990. In that time, I have worked with hundreds of manuscripts.
Some have come to me requiring only slight tweaking. The texts are nearly ready for publication. The authors have created an interesting and well-crafted piece of writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
People who are writing a memoir will sometimes say, “I want to write my stories but I have forgotten so many details. Is there any way I can get them back? Should I use writing prompts?” There is one tool above all others that makes the experience of life writing successful. That tool is not […]
DL: the following is an adaptation of a reply I made on LinkedIn to comments about how writing autobiographical fiction was pretty much the same as memoir. You will read that I disagree strongly. (If you are a member of LinkedIn, I would love to have a LinkedIn connection with you if we are not already connected.
Should I write memoir or autobiographical fiction?
I sometimes get asked this question and I have to confess that my reaction is firm. They are not the same.
There is a clear difference—a chasm really—between the choice of memoir or autobiographical fiction. While one has chosen to write one or the other, one does not have a choice to call one by the name of another. The writer owes it to the reader to be clear. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]