I have been gathering information to share for The Writer’s Chatroom Memoir Month for so long the actual word, “MEMOIR” began to distract me. Just look at it.
MEMOIR MEMOIR MEMOIR
I haunt a few Memoir Writers Groups on Facebook and discovered many people feel compelled to write because they consider themselves a black sheep and simply want someone to validate and understand them.
Some writers are filtering their Memoir through a very dysfunctional lens. They are writing to simply get all the crap out there. I call this the giant flipping off.
Another type of writer becomes very confused about the difference between Journaling, Therapy, and Autobiography.
Every life is unique, worthy of a movie about the life and times of you.
The challenge you’ll face is getting the story out of you. When we write, we often hear ourselves think. We scribble or tap, we walk away, and we come back, sometimes hours, days or even weeks later. It’s then that we re-read our own words and decide on what is most important to us or to anyone else who may read it. This is a process but a really important one, engaging our brains and helping us become more concise in expressing ourselves as we become better and better at it.
When you write your Memoir you are writing the Story of You.
Those writing their memoirs often have a burning need to do so.
When you write a memoir, you are writing your version of what you think happened from your own perspective. Someone else might have another version, and years and years later your perception of an incident might eventually change.
It’s also important to note why you should not write a memoir—and that is for revenge. Revenge does not serve anyone well. Think Angry Birds. In fact, the best revenge is to live a good life. It’s also difficult to read a memoir that judges rather than reflects upon the past. Take Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes (1996), for example: he had a horrific childhood, but after reading his book, you empathize with him, but you don’t pity him. He wouldn’t have wanted that.
Your memoir is primarily pain focused, or an act of catharsis.
This problem often goes hand in hand with the first. Someone has experienced something traumatic, and as part of their therapy or recovery, they write about the experience. Before long, they have a book-length work, and friends and family say (as a form of well-meaning support), “You should find a publisher.”
You probably shouldn’t. If your writing was:
- undertaken as a way for you to deal with a painful experience
- if that painful experience is in the recent past (within the last few years), and/or
- if you have no other writing experience or ambition to publish …
… then publishing a memoir is rarely the next best next step. It’s great that you’ve used writing to aid in recovery, but it doesn’t mean you have a book that will appeal to agents or big publishers.
Your memoir is really an autobiography.
This happens the majority of the time I read a memoir chapter outline or synopsis: it begins in childhood and ends in the present day. In other words, it looks more like an autobiography.
You’ve written a series of vignettes.
A vignette is a story that stands alone and is little more than an anecdote about your life. Some memoirs consist of nothing but back-to-back vignettes. They might be beautiful and touching vignettes, but the manuscript lacks a narrative arc. There’s no real story; there’s no question that keeps us turning pages.
I have included snippets from three blogposts. I hope before Month’s end you will check them out. Use what you want.. leave what you don’t.
Chat begins at 7PM EDT Sunday