Memoir Writing from an expert
Today I welcome Doreen McGettigan write a post on Memoir Writing based on her experience of writing two memoirs. I’ve been connected to Doreen for a while now and was privileged to work with her as one of Arlee’s Ambassadors on the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014.
Doreen has written for several Philadelphia area newspapers. She is a freelance journalist, blogger, content writer, ghostwriter and an author. She works part-time as a caregiver for the elderly most of who are in Hospice Care.
Her first book, Bristol boyz Stomp is the true story of the random road rage murder of her brother, musician David Albert. Her second book The Stranger In My Recliner is another memoir based on the time her husband brought home an eighty-year-old homeless and mentally-ill woman. She lived with them for two-and-a-half-years.
She lives in Delaware County, Pa. just south of Philadelphia with her husband John. They have 5 grown children (2 more in heaven) and 13 grand children (their own little cult).
Their lives are not boring. 🙂
Some in the publishing business would have us believe that memoir is completely unsaleable and unless, you are famous with a global platform your book has no chance of making it into print and even less of a chance of making it onto a bookstore shelf.
I can tell you first hand that is flat out not true. If memoirs don’t sell, how do publishers explain the success of Elizabeth Gilbert‘s Eat, Pray, Love; or Jane Hawkings’ The Theory of Everything; Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and most recently. the record breaking book sales and film opening for Chris Kyle‘s, American Sniper? These are just a few examples of recent memoirs that not only sold well but were made into major motion pictures that also sold well.
The truth is a well written memoir does sell.
A memoir is based on a memory, something that happened and that ‘something’ has changed your life for the good or the bad. A memoir is completely different than an autobiography or a biography which are the stories of an entire lifetime.
Where do you start?
My favorite question is, “What is the difference between a pile of rocks and a pyramid?” The answer of course is a plan.
With a memoir the best place to start is not at the beginning. If I were walking down the street and came upon your house just as your life changing event was happening and I looked in your front window, what would I see? That is a good place to start.
An outline is a good way to plan your memoir. Start with the synopsis (think of the text on the back cover of the book.) One page that tells the reader who, what, when, where and why as well as the beginning, middle and end of your book. Then add a page for each chapter. When you are ready to start writing you can work on whichever chapter you would like.
How to go about it?
Writing a memoir as revenge is a bad idea. Readers of memoir want to learn something from you. They want to feel good and inspired when they finish reading.
That doesn’t mean you should write without feeling. You definitely want to write using all five senses.
You want to pay particular attention to the main event, the arc of your story. A memoir should read like a novel. Focus on the people in your memoir. They are real people but they should be written with depth.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Your memoir is your story based on your memory and you own everything that happened to you so tell your truth.” quote=”Your memoir is your story based on your memory and you own everything that happened to you so tell your truth.”]
Do not waste time worrying about hurting someone’s feelings. Your memoir is your story based on your memory and you own everything that happened to you so tell your truth. You will never get everyone to love what you write.
Ask yourself if you want to be a writer or do you just want to share your story. If you are not interested in a writing career, perhaps you should consider a ghost writer. It is your story but publishing is a business that is about readers so your book has to be saleable.
Attending workshops, conferences, taking classes and joining writing and critique groups are a great way to gain knowledge and to find encouragement and support from other writers.
They say everyone has a story, are you brave enough to tell yours?
Another week and another round of #WritingWednesdays. We look forward to you telling us about topics you’d like covered here.
This week we have a prompt :
Do you think you’ll ever attempt to write a memoir?
It’s totally up to you whether you want to respond to the prompt or not. We invite you to add links to your posts from this week. The linky will be open until next Tuesday.
Please do the right thing – comment on the posts of others and share the love (use the hashtag #writingwednesdays). Thank you.