(Or: The glue that holds your Memoir together)
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Not everyone writes their memoir in a chronological order. Often, we write as we remember. But once we’ve written some or all of the chapters of our lives, we find ourselves with a puzzle. What we have is a bunch of stories without a main thread tying them together into one journey.
How to put some order on the disorder? Make a single narrative out of the wonderful chaos of our memories?
Here are 6 tips to help you transform what you’ve written into one story — the powerful story of your remarkable life.
1: My first suggestion: Leave it, then Re-read it. This time, you’re looking for the theme/s and progression of your story. Try this process:
- Put the manuscript aside; leave it alone for some days.
- Now reread,
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When it comes down to it there is really only one rule about writing a good ending for a story: the ending you write has to fulfill the promises you made during your story.
The much tougher part can be coming up with an ending that succeeds in doing that. I think as authors we all want that amazing ending that not only satisfies the reader but makes them think about what they read and remember it years down the line.
Sadly, I can’t tell you how to write the perfect ending, but I can give you some tips about things that will make the ending of your story work. I will leave the creative and artist decisions that make it truly stand out to you.
1.) Don’t Leave Any Questions Unanswered
Throughout your story, your job as a writer is to raise questions (i.e. conflicts). But by the end…
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If my memoirs were only a capture of the facts and events as they’ve happened, I’d be able to publish one on my books this year and likely the other one next year.
But writing memoir is not about just chronicling facts and events. Writing memoir is about recalling and interpreting facts and events into something meaningful.
Yes, the events of our lives happened. BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
“What it means” is the whole point of writing memoir. For many of us who write or read memoirs, it is what drives us to write our own and to voraciously read someone else’s. We don’t want to regurgitate the facts or read someone else’s regurgitated facts. We want to piece together the clues of our own lives and determine what it all means. We want to read someone else’s clues and see what they believe it all means compared…
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‘If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.’ – Rudyard Kipling
There is an understandable propensity for confusing narrative non-fiction with the notion of “made up facts”. Alternatively referred to as “creative non-fiction”, it is no wonder that some people focus on the implication of “invention”. However, this is not (or shouldn’t be!) the case.
As Chuck Sambuchino writes for Writer’s Digest, ‘[n]arrative nonfiction is unique … because it tells a true story … but it’s told like a novel’. The genre is a creative form of reportage or otherwise factual storytelling, which utilises literary devices and techniques to create factually accurate pieces that read like stories. It is the presentation of facts in a way that makes people want to read them.
Memoirs are another example of narrative non-fiction: true stories about people’s lives or experiences, presented as accurately as possible. Consider a straight, factual account of a…
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Struggle is universal. People love reading stories about people triumphing over obstacles, overcoming bad circumstances and abuse, and redeeming themselves. We watch them in movies and read them in books. And you don’t have to look far to find suffering and loss in the human experience. Lots of people have amazing stories, and unfortunately those stories aren’t always pleasant. If you’re writing a memoir, or thinking about it, then perhaps you’ve got some difficult stories to tell, too.
Many of us write a memoir or a personal essay after, around, or during a dramatic event in our lives. Cancer. Death of a loved one. Running a marathon. Climbing Everest. And many memoirs and essays remain unpublished because a dramatic event isn’t enough.
Think about it–any newspaper front page is covered in dramatic situations, worthy of reporting but mostly conveying information. The emotional reaction of the reader is grounded in their own experience meeting the facts, rather than empathy for the protagonist, or a desire to see them “win.”
Car Crash Claims Three
is a dramatic situation. It’s not a dramatic journey unless the reporter goes for a larger picture, and the larger picture has to include a protagonist taking a dramatic action.
Crash Claims Three:…
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This story unfolds in a laundromat about 35 years ago. The text revolves around a girl named Brenda, her best friend, Lilia, and Lilia’s mother. Brenda is naive and curious. She wanted to learn how to talk in Spanish. The problem was that she thought she figured out how to say something new on Spanish, but she said it wrong. She overcame this by taking Spanish lessons. Readers learn that it is challenging to learn a second language and that it is ok to make mistakes.
It was a late Saturday afternoon when I went with Lilia and her mom to the laundromat. Over the past few months I had been learning Spanish with Lilia and her mother.
Of course I wanted to spend time with my best friend and the best thing a best friend would do is help her and her mother fold the clothes…
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