How Can I Finish My Memoir by the End of the Year? Three plans for right now

Many of you have begun your memoir.

Many of you are almost done with your memoir.

And some of you are still thinking about it and writing it in your head.

Here are three strategies for the Return to School spirit you feel in September that will get your memoir done by the end of this year.

  1. If you have begun your memoir but aren’t making the headway you’d hoped, your task is to write 1000 words, three times a week. That’s four pages, three times a week. That’s put your butt in the chair and tap out—stream-of-consciousness—a shimmering image on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday after work, when the house gets quiet, or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays before work at 4 o’clock in the morning. Or Saturday mornings, before grocery shopping for 30 minutes, and Sunday and Wednesday nights before falling into bed.

Whatever the strategy, it’s yours to develop, but the assignment is not negotiable. Three times a week: four pages. By the end of the year you will have composed another 50,000 words of your story. That chunk of writing should get you to the end of your draft.

2. For those of you who are almost done with your memoir, your task is similar but slightly different. You need to keep up whatever writing routine you have developed, but be sure you are writing 3000 words per week.

In addition, if you desire publication, and are committed to going beyond self publishing, you need to research editors who can help make your manuscript as good as it can be. Find someone who is a good match. You’ll find many people online. Others come via word of mouth, or you earn about at a writing conference. Whatever information gathering process you use is fine, just don’t assume you can skip this step.

The marketplace is grueling, and if you think you’re going to prance out there with your (brilliant) story and capture the spotlight, think again. Get a smart, savvy editor in your pocket, and then listen to what he/she tells you. And get ready to edit. Between now and the end of 2019, you need to orient yourself to this reality: finishing your draft is the first step, finding a smart developmental editor who can help you knock that draft into shape is the next step.

One word of advice: While there are a lot of editors out there, be sure you find one who can not only wield the editor’s pen, but can help you understand why something isn’t working and show you how to fix it. This requires a good communicator, and a person with a teacher’s gene. Not all editors are alike. And be sure you understand the difference between a copy editor who is tasked with correcting your grammar and punctuation (something that happens at the end of the book process when your manuscript is ready to go to print), and a developmental editor whose genius is helping you see how a story works and how to make yours do what it needs to do to be successful.

 

3. Now, for those of you who are dreaming of writing a memoir, but just haven’t gotten started, or you’ve started—kind of—but no idea of where you are going with ALL THAT STUFF THAT’S HAPPENED IN MY LIFE, here is your strategy:

First, decide if it is, in the deepest part of your soul, something you NEED to do before you die. Yup, it’s that serious. Because it’s going to take time, and heart energy, and money, and hard, hard, work. In a word: dedication, or rather obsession. If you can honestly say: Yes, I have to do this or I will die incomplete, then step up and find someone to help you start.

Yes, books, can help, but it’s like an exercise routine. You can read about it, but you are apt to be more successful if you get out of the house and go to the gym and engage in an organized routine. Same with starting your memoir. Find a class where you have to show up (and then SHOW UP), or find a writing editor/coach/mentor/teacher who can set deadlines (AND THEN MEET THEM), explain how memoir works, guide you in the composition process, and help you sort out the story thread from all the dross of daily living we each pile up in our years, months, and days of time on this planet.

You need guidance, wise teaching, and support in the initial often clunky, exhilarating, and confusing process of getting the memoir rolling. Once you are into it, over the hump of procrastination, you will be into a different stage of writing, and you can reevaluate your strategy. (See #1 above.)

If you select the option that fits your situation, and do the work, you will finish your memoir by the end of 2019—or in the case of the beginner, you will be chugging within view of that final station, smile on face, bragging to your friends.


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