I spoke for an hour – flat out. In the end there was applause and a few participants bought my books, nicely displayed on a table near the door (so they couldn’t miss them).
A lot of participants who attend the Creative Writing Circles I facilitate are writing memoirs. A lot of them don’t know where to begin, how to structure or write their stories. I thought a workshop that addressed these issues would at least get them started off right, saving them a lot of time and frustration revising.
They might even be grateful enough to buy a book. Some apparently were.
Here’s the workshop outline I distributed to those who attended. You might find this information helpful if you’re considering writing about an event in your life. If you do (and your feeling grateful) sign up for my Advance Reading Team and I’ll send you a FREE E-BOOK edition of my latest novel The LOCAL RAG.
Here’s the link. http://eepurl.com/cj5wjj
Introduction to Memoir Writing
Facilitator: Rod Raglin
Amazon Author Page – https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B003DS6LEU
This short program is designed to set you on the right path to writing a memoir.
What is a memoir?
A memoir is not the story of your life (autobiography) but rather a story of one of your life experiences. It has a distinct beginning and end.
How to plan your memoir
Your memoir should be structured like any good story. Before you begin writing you should decide the story’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict.
Goal: What did you want?
Motivation: Why did you want it?
Conflict: What was stopping you from getting it?
Be specific about your Goal
It’s best to be specific and not generalize – I wanted to be happy is a generalization. I wanted out of the marriage I was in with an alcoholic so I could be happy is specific. Rather than wanting a good job which is a generalization; write I wanted to be a neuro-surgeon.
Dig deep to discover why you wanted what you wanted. You might think you wanted to start your own business because you hoped to make a lot of money but was there more – the prestige, the power, the independence?
These are the challenges that are preventing you from attaining your goal. Here again dig deep. What was stopping you from writing that novel – the responsibility of a family, lack of time – or fear of failure?
Where to start
Start with the inciting incident. The moment you decided things were going to change, or the moment something happened that changed the status quo.
Don’t start with backstory – your personal history – fill that in as the story unfolds and only what is necessary for the reader to understand your motivation. Always make it minimal and relevant to this memoir.
The story arc – begins with the inciting incident and the tension rises as you are confronted with one obstacle (conflict) after another that you have to overcome to achieve your goal. The highest point of the story arc is the climax – the final battle that will resolve whether or not you achieve your goal.
Then denouement – wrap up loose ends and finish.
Some tips about writing
Always ask Why and How – and answer these questions honestly
Evoke emotion – how did you feel about the person, the event, the award, the death? Reading is an emotional experience and if you don’t tell the reader how you felt about the events you’re writing about your memoir will be uninspiring and not entertaining. Remember the paradox of writing – the more personal you write, the more universal the appeal.
Show don’t tell
You want your reader to feel like they’re actually experiencing the event not being told what happened. One of the best way to do this is to use lots of dialogue. Dialogue is action and action is showing not telling. It doesn’t matter if you don’t remember exactly what was said – this is your story.
Consider the writing technique Scene/Sequel. Write an action scene and then a sequel reflecting on the action.
Use specifics – don’t generalize
Once you’ve written your memoir you need to put it away until it’s out of your system. You need to get perspective on it. That could take anywhere from a minimum of three months to? Then take it out and re-read and revise. You’ll likely have lots of revisions.
Once you’ve done the re-write, you need to find as many “objective” people as possible to read, proof and comment on it. Try to find people who can be honest and do not have a conflict of interest.
Consider joining a local writing group or register on an online critique site. Then revise taking their comments and corrections into consideration.
Once you’ve done all the revising you can decide to self publish on Amazon – free with a 70-30% royalty split or begin the submission process to publishers.
Books that are helpful:
The Writer’s Process, Getting Your Brain in Gear by Anne Janzer
Writing MEMOIR, The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life,
by Jerry Payne