Tips for Successful Memoir Writing
Recently, someone asked me what are the biggest barriers memoir writers face to successful memoir writing. Three came to mind right away. Below, I write about them and offer suggestions for eliminating these barriers.
1. Writers often put off writing a good memoir in favor of struggling unsuccessfully to create a perfect one.
This is insidious because no one says they are putting off writing a good memoir in favor of a perfect one. Instead they say, “I want my story to be meaningful” or “I want to be sure I have something to say” or “I don’t want to bore my readers.”
Develop Vivid Characters
- Are the characters your memoir going to bore—rather than impress—your readers?
- Are you at a loss—“Help! What can I do!”—about how to make the people in your memoir more interesting?
- Are you embarrassed by the “stick” characters you have presented? “She really was a complex person, but I don’t know how to show her that way.”
No one wants a boring memoir or a meaningless one. Most writers I’ve worked with do have it in them to turn out a memoir that can appeal to its audience. It may not be a perfect memoir but it can be a good one. Keep in mind that perfect is the enemy of good.
Remedy: Tell yourself every day, “I am writing the best book I can. It need not be perfect to be worth my time to write and my audience’s time to read.”
2. Writers shrink from the difficulty of writing a memoir.
Producing a 200 page book is not easy. But neither is raising kids or going to work every day. No one said it was going to be easy or fun every time you sit down. Writing a memoir is hard work but the results—like keeping your commitment to raising a family through all the difficulties—are worth it.
One mindset that is a deal breaker when it comes to writing a memoir is dwelling with how long it will take you to write the whole book and how many things you will have to struggle with to get the book completed. Instead of this terrible doom and gloom, commit to writing one day’s worth of memoir at a time. Don’t let the big picture defeat you.
Remedy: Tell yourself every time you sit down to write that you are writing only a small part of the book. You can write two to three pages on any given day. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s hard.
3. Writers work without support to maintain their writing effort—month after discouraging month.
Writing can be lonely work. The isolation can sap your energy. As you spend more and more time alone with yourself, you begin to doubt what you are doing, you begin to fall into perfectionism, you tell yourself it is too hard. You decide to quit. Finding support can keep you going. This can be a sibling or friend who is helping you with research, a writing group at the local library that meets regularly (be sure they can provide critical help not just the sort that never gets beyond, “That’s nice!”), a writing class where your writing can receive constructive criticism, or a writing coach.
I hope these tips for successful memoir writing will help you. Do you have your own tips for successful memoir writing? Include them below.
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