How to Write a Memoir that Someone Other than Your Mom will Want to Read
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How to Write a Memoir that Someone Other than Your Mom will Want to Read

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Let me help you learn to use storytelling principles to strengthen your work and broaden your audience. Just like a novel, your memoir should have a beginning, middle, and end; and provide a ...

Let me help you learn to use storytelling principles to strengthen your work and broaden your audience. Just like a novel, your memoir should have a beginning, middle, and end; and provide a life-changing moment worthy of a best seller!

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How to Write a Memoir that Someone Other than Your Mom will Want to Read How to Write a Memoir that Someone Other than Your Mom will Want to Read Presentation Transcript

  • How to Write aHow to Write a Memoir that Someone OtherSomeone Other than Your Mom Will W t t R dWill Want to Read Using Storytelling Principles to Strengthen Your Work and Broaden Your Audience Melanie Rigney Writing Your Personal History SymposiumWriting Your Personal History Symposium May 12, 2011
  • What A e Yo Goals?What Are Your Goals?  Why am I writing this?  Who do I want to read this?  What do I want the reader to feel/know that he or she didn’t before picking up my memoir?  What makes my experience special? Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 2
  • P inciples of Memoi W itingPrinciples of Memoir Writing Memoir writing is the nonfiction form closest to novel writing  Memoirs must have a beginning, middle, and end.  They must tell a compelling story about a life- changing time if they are to be commerciallychanging time if they are to be commercially successful.  Because their benefit is somewhat intangible, the experience or the writing must be earthshattering to be commercially successful. Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 3 successful.
  • Sta t ith the ActionStart with the Action As with novel writing, you must begin with as t o e t g, you ust beg t a problem; watch the tendency to give too much background. Let the story unfold from the point of crisisthe point of crisis. Every scene must move the story along to its logical, satisfying conclusion. Watch thelogical, satisfying conclusion. Watch the tendency to include everything that happened. Show, don’t tell. Write in the moment. Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 4
  • M bl O i P hMemorable Opening Paragraphs “I was sitting in a taxi wondering if I hadI was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster. It was just after dark A blustery March wind whippedIt was just after dark. A blustery March wind whipped the stream coming out of the manholes, and people hurried along the sidewalks with their collars turned up I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the partyup. I was stuck in traffic two blocks from the party where I was heading.” “I wake to the drone of an airplane engine and the f li f thi d i i d hi ”feeling of something warm dripping down my chin.” “My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 5 y born.”
  • Q ick Tips to a St onge BookQuick Tips to a Stronger Book The Basics  There is no such thing as a publishable first draft  That said, finish that first draft before you start editing in a serious way!  Consider setting up a time line on paper or on your wall or in Excel to track your plot and characters.  Look at other memoirs. How long are they? Do they include pictures? What do the interiors look like? If you’re self-publishing, go look around thedo the interiors look like? If you re self publishing, go look around the bookstore on at Amazon for cover treatments.  Know your limits. Writing quality work is almost impossible to do more than an hour at a time. Remember the golden rule of storytelling: Something happens somebody Remember the golden rule of storytelling: Something happens, somebody changes. Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 6
  • Q ick Tips to a St onge BookQuick Tips to a Stronger Book Self-Editing  Know the rules of grammar before you break them.  Keep an eye on the length of your sentences, paragraphs and chapters. It’s good to vary them somewhat, but that doesn’t give you license for 200- word sentences, 10-sentence paragraphs and 80-page chapters.  Is each scene/anecdote/sentence essential to move the story to its ultimate, satisfying ending?, y g g  Does your dialogue sing? Is it consistent and distinctive?  “Said” or “asked” is all the attribution you’ll ever need.  Do run spell-check. Just don’t rely on it exclusively.  Cross out all the adverbs, then think about adding them back. Judiciously.  Where are you showing instead of telling? Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 7
  • Truth in Memoir WritingTruth in Memoir Writing Novelists have an advantage overg memoirists: they don’t have to worry as much about including real people in their storiestheir stories. Libel/defamation hold people up to public ridicule. And generally, especially for public ffi i l if i ’ bl i iofficials, if it’s provably true—conviction, arrest record, and the like—you’re safe. You cannot libel a dead person But in someYou cannot libel a dead person. But in some circumstances, their estates or survivors may sue you if your work opens them, not the dead person up to ridicule Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 8 person, up to ridicule.
  • What Is T th in Memoi ?What Is Truth in Memoir? What if what you remember is hurtful to other people? When you write about private citizens, you are also open to the possibility ofyou a e a so ope to t e poss b ty o invasion of privacy suits, even if what you write is true.you te s t ue Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 9
  • What Is T th in Memoi ?What Is Truth in Memoir? What if you’re just writing it to let off steam? What if you turn it into fiction?  changing someone’s name or not being a best-g g g seller doesn’t protect you from litigation.  You need to be sure the person is so different from real life as to not be recognizable to peoplefrom real life as to not be recognizable to people who would know him or her. Prepared for the Bridge to Publication Conference, November 2009. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 10
  • What Is YOUR T th?What Is YOUR Truth? An exercise from real life The takeaway: As Shakespeare wrote:The takeaway: As Shakespeare wrote: This above all: To thine own self be trueTo thine own self be true, For it must follow as dost the night the dday, That canst not then be false to any man. Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 11
  • Q estions?Questions? Thanks for coming! Melanie Rigney Editor@editorforyou comEditor@editorforyou.com Prepared for the Writing Your Personal History Symposium. Please do not copy or redistribute without permission: info@editorforyou.com 12