You are in good company if you’re battling mid-story sag. Nearly all memoir writers hit a point where they ask: What is this thing about? Where did I think I was going with this story? The rush of insight and excitement that drove their […]
Author: Lisa Dale Norton
In today’s marketplace, a memoir that attracts the attention of an agent pursues some story question. Without a story question, your memoir runs the risk of falling into family history, which may be deeply important to you, but not so interesting to anyone else. A […]
September is America’s traditional back-to-school month, and with it come renewed desires to finish that memoir you’ve been working on. Writers always ask: How can I stay motivated to finish my memoir? Here are three tips:
First, you must have a heart-to-heart with yourself about whether you want to do the work it takes to complete a book. Many people would love to have a memoir written about their achievements, their childhood, or difficulties overcome. But whatever the topic, the work is still the same, and beneath that work is the bedrock need for honesty.
The act of writing a memoir amounts to hours of solitary tasks, one after the other, and often in repetition. There is much learning, both about the self and about the art of writing, some of which can be quite emotional, and in the end can add up to years of time spent—just to complete a first draft that may need more work. This can be a horrifying prospect for some people, and recognizing this early on will help you stop beating yourself up for not staying motivated to write your book. Perhaps you really do not want to do the work involved. And that’s okay.
If you can say yes, to the apprenticeship, then read on to tip number two, but if you feel yourself yawning at the thought of the work, or skittering for the exit, that can be a sign you’d rather be doing something else. Again: That’s okay. You have been honest. What now? You can hire someone to write your story, and if that is not an option, you can join a group in your community for storytelling, writing, socializing and use that forum to tell your story. No it’s not a book, but it’s still a way to have voice.
For those of you who can commit to the work of finishing your memoir, tip number two: Dogged belief. You must believe beyond all naysaying—the doubting voices in your head, and the less-than-supportive folks around you—that your story idea is solid, worthy of all the labor, and important. You must believe this deeply. You must be stubborn about it. You must see yourself as the dog gripping the grand old slipper and refusing to relinquish, back on its haunches, teeth bared, low growl rumbling, as it works to keep its prize. It will take this kind of determination.
You must keep a schedule. It needn’t be every day (although that consistency, will aid in staying motivated), but it must be a recognizable schedule that you keep, against all odds. This very act of defying the complexity of life and keeping to your schedule will stoke your motivation.
Honesty about commitment.
It’s that simple. Welcome back to school.
October 2017—Memoir continues as a hot seller for the main body of book buyers in America: women. For the first six months of 2017, BookScan reported sales growth in the category Biography/Autobiography/Memoir—up 8% over sales figures for the same period in 2016. This is good […]
No matter what form of writing you practice, whether you are a memoirist, novelist, poet, essayist or journalist—or you are just beginning your dream of writing and publishing—you need to know and care about publisher Macmillan’s recent stand against Trump. What happened: If you have […]
The memoir writing lesson of 2017 leaps out at us from Annie Proulx’s acceptance speech given last week (mid-November) at the National Book Awards ceremony. Proulx (Brokeback Mountain, The Shipping News, and Barkskins, among other books) was awarded the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American […]
Memoir continues as a hot seller for the main body of book buyers in America: women. For the first six months of 2017, BookScan reported sales growth in the category Biography/Autobiography/Memoir—up 8% over sales figures for the same period in 2016. This is good news […]
I found a note the other day I’d written months ago about words and how well chosen ones can evoke a world of story. That’s a trick with memoir—finding words brimming with emotion and then chasing the stories right out of them. When a reader brushes up against that story, his life bridges with yours; he recalls a similar time and place and thinks you’ve captured his life and feelings.
What stories come to mind with these words? Flight, beach, explosion, olives, toe, bicycle, guilt, locket, hideaway, newspaper, lips, jacket, trumpet, horseradish, soccer, flood, haircut, tomatoes, piano, eyebrows, lost, sailboat, oak, passport, storm, weep, sand, hammer, theater.
Make your own list. Choose words significant to you—you don’t need to know why. Write each on a scrap of paper and toss it into an elegant bowl you keep on your desk, or tucked into your writing corner. Draw one word each day and write a page or more. Tell the story brought forth by the word. At the end of the week you’ll have a mini-memoir.