Book Doctor’s 10 Tips 4 Memoir Writers

by P. Braithwaite

Still in the throes of this weird writer’s blocky thing, I came across this Huffington Post article by David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I really love their work. Here are some tips they’ve included in the article:

10 Tips for Memoir Writers

1) Do absolutely fascinating, and/or horrendously horrible, and/or utterly unusual things; or have absolutely fascinating, and/or horrendously horrible, and/or utterly unusual things happen to you. The memoir market is so glutted your story has to be unique, new and fresh.

2) Don’t die. Staying alive is one of the most important things a memoir writer can do.

3) Don’t lie. You can change names. You can change physical characteristics of people if it doesn’t alter the story. But you can’t make stuff up.

4) A memoir is a book of memories. It is not an autobiography, which is more about getting all the facts right. Not that you don’t have an obligation to get the facts right. You do. You must (see James Frey). But memoir is about memory, which by its very nature is subjective and unreliable. When writing a memoir, try to invoke as many senses as possible. David has found again and again, when he recalls the smell of a scene, lots of memories come flooding back. For better and for worse.

5) A random collection of true stories does not a memoir make. A memoir has a beginning, a middle, and an end. One of the most difficult challenges of writing a memoir is constructing a narrative out of the seemingly random events we call life. Make a list of the most meaningful moments of your life in chronological order. It’s very revealing and slightly horrifying. But it’s a good place to start.

6) Write the whole manuscript. Gone are the days when a memoir can sell on a couple of excellent chapters. As illustrated by Sam’s story.

7) Don’t give up. Never give up. But always keep evolving. Making the book better, looking for people who can help you, researching, networking, writing, persevering.

8) Have a great support team of readers who will tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In a kind and gentle way.

9) Don’t worry about getting sued yet. Just write your story. Your publisher will vet the book before they put it out. Unless you are self-publishing. Then find a lawyer who specializes in this stuff. If you don’t know one, contact us; we do.

10) Be kind to others and hard on yourself. No one likes a pity-party whiner. Or a writer grinding their ax into someone else’s back.

This is an excerpt. Read the entire article here: