So, you’re writing a memoir. And maybe you’re not sure how to start, or you just want to make sure you’re doing things right before you go off in a cave, or on retreat, to get it done. There are 5 mistakes I see all the time in memoirs:
1. Too broad a scope
4. Overreliance on visual details
You won’t have to make those mistakes when you keep these 5 points in mind:
1. This isn’t an autobiography: An autobiography is about a famous person, like a president or celebrity or sports figure, and tells the story of their life. Your memoir should read more like a novel, from a specific period of time. Often, a short period is more dramatic and compelling. Flashbacks can help you fill in important childhood details—or other details from the past. Click Here to Tweet This.
2. Clarify your theme: What’s your book about? The theme of your book will make it easier to know what should go in the book and what to leave out. You’ve heard the expression “murder your darlings”? While you’ll need to let go of beloved scenes or side-splitting stories that don’t serve the theme, you don’t have to commit any violent acts. In fact, you can save those babies and use them in a blog post—or another book!
3. Trust Your Readers: Novice authors tend to summarize and draw conclusions. A good memoir lets the reader draw conclusions based on the picture painted by the words. For example, let your real life characters’ actions, idoscyncracies, body movements, expressions, dialogue and thoughts speak for themselves. You often don’t need to be the intermediary to interpret.
4. Come to Your Senses: Novices tend to rely on one sense—the sense of sight. A stronger writer uses all the senses, but not all at once. Click Here to Tweet This.
5. Get Specific and Quirky: It’s easy to write a “boy,” “dinner,” or “a dog” but your work comes to life when the 5-year-old towhead feeds his turkey tetrazzini to the poodle under the kitchen table. The quirkier or more unusual the detail, the more your memoir will ring true as life and become real for your readers.
You may also find these posts helpful: Do You Include Backstory in Your Memoir? and How to Publish a Memoir and this post has some additional publishing tips from Literary Agent Regina Brooks.
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