No one can tell your story but you.
I came across this article about what the Sun Magazine seeks for its Readers Write section. Everyone is eligible to tell their story. These are some of the best mini-memoirs you’ll find anywhere. If you’re not familiar, I hope you’ll take a look.
- What story would you put in each frame?
- What if family stories were told in words instead of pictures?
There’s some scary news, backed by statistics, in this article on Book Riot. What can you do about it? Share the news. Go to the top of this page and consider writing an Op Ed about it.
“Good writing can’t be rushed.” ~~ Linda Strader
9 TOP TIPS TO DETERMINE IF YOUR MEMOIR IS READY TO PUBLISH
By Linda Strader
Finished your memoir? Or close to finishing? Congrats! Whether your goal is to publish traditionally or to self-publish, you need to be sure your book is ready.
If you’re anything like me 8 years ago, you’re anxious to get it to print. I’d finished my book and told my story. I began the querying process but ran into a brutal reality check: My book was not ready after all. Of the agents that responded, all were rejections.
It took me a while to admit that I queried too early. I should have let more people read my story; I should have paid more attention to feedback. I have no doubt my confidence cost me a book deal. Once an agent passes on a proposal, the odds of her giving you a second look are practically zip. It really is a one-time shot.
Before you take the plunge, please check these elements:
1. Ask yourself why you are writing a memoir. Why? Because you are going to get asked that question often, and not just by friends or acquaintances. Literary agents and publishers will want to know as well.
2. Did you answer the question above with: I want everyone to know what I went through in order to help those going through the same thing? Yes, I get it. Your story is different. But trust me: Literary agents and publishers want to see something that sets your story apart. There are hundreds of memoirs out there that have the same theme.
Just how many recovering alcoholic, childhood abuse, and traumatic divorce memoirs can the market support? I learned this from the agents that I queried. They also told me the memoir market is flooded—not promising. If you want an agent to notice you, your story must be unique in ways that will grab the reader. Agents receive hundreds of queries a week. If your story doesn’t grab them immediately, you’ll land on the rejection pile.
3. How is your story told? Memoirs that sell do so because they have universal appeal. In other words, the story may be about you, but your reader feels as though the story is written about them.
How do you accomplish that? With your writing style.
Is your memoir mostly narrative? All narrative? A balance of narrative and dialog is more relatable.
The best advice I’ve ever received? Instead of telling what happened in the scene as though you are floating above it, write the scene as though you are in the moment. Inhabit the moment. You may have heard it called “show don’t tell.” Regardless, of what you call it, do it.
The more personal your story, the more universal it becomes. Look at very successful memoirs. I’ll have to say that rings true.
4. Does your story start out with action? Or does it start out with an ordinary day? You want your reader to be excited to find out what happens next.
The rule for writing a great screenplay, “Save the cat,” works for books too. Make the reader care about what happens to you. Make them want you to succeed.
5. Does your story have a plot? You may be thinking, but my book is a memoir; who needs a plot? Sorry, but a memoir needs a plot. It should have a distinct beginning, middle, and end. It should read like a novel, not like a chronological outline of your life. Be sure it also contains a message. A take-away. At least one lesson learned.
Does that mean it needs a happy ending? No. Many successful books, both fiction and nonfiction, don’t have a happy ending.
6. Is there some kind of revenge in your book? Please don’t go there. Even though it feels good, don’t make your book a public rant about the ex who cheated on you. Or publicly expose awful parents, a misdiagnosed disease, or the drunk who caused a crippling accident. It will take a considerable amount of diligence to write about these events and not turn everyone off—or worse—generate a lawsuit.
7. Is your formatting up to par? Make sure your manuscript is formatted correctly. Extra sure. Most errors occur in writing dialog. There’s a right and wrong way to structure dialog. Don’t assume close enough will work.
There are plenty of examples of proper dialog punctuation and structure on the internet. Editor’s Note: Writer Advice’s Manuscript Consultation Service can help you if you’re still confused.
8. Have you edited to the best of your ability? No one wants to read a draft full of misspelled words, missing punctuation, or typos. There’s software out there that can help but remember that even spell-check can be deceiving. The word may be spelled correctly, but it’s not the word you want.
It’s still amazing to me how a misspelled word gets past multiple revisions. That’s why it’s a necessity to have a second (or third) set of eyes look for errors that you just plain can’t see.
9. Have you enlisted Beta readers? Beta readers are people (writers or readers) that read your entire book and provide feedback. They are NOT friends and family members.
Scared to let a total stranger read your book? If that’s true, ask yourself why you want to publish. Obviously, if you want your book to be out in the big wide world, you must be okay with strangers reading your book.
One more important factor to remember: Good writing can’t be rushed. It took me eight years to perfect my story and find a publisher that believed in me. It was worth the wait.
I didn’t know how to write a book when I started, and although I’ve written two, there’s always more to learn.
The most important message I’ll leave you with is this: Don’t be in a hurry to publish. Once it’s published, you can’t take it back, especially if you publish traditionally. Be sure in your heart that your book is the very best you could make it.
Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women hired on a U.S. Forest Service fire crew.
Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love and Courage was released on May 1st, 2018 by Bedazzled Ink Publishing. It became a finalist in the 2018 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. Her second book, Uprooted, the prequel to Summers of Fire, was released December 1st, 2021.
In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist.
Barnes and Noble: Summers of Fire: A Memoir of Adventure, Love, and Courage
“Write a letter to a character giving you trouble, or let her write a letter to you.” ~~B. Lynn Goodwin
Whether you’re having a problem with your plot, character development, structure, theme, or anything else, there’s always a way to move forward. Here are a few tips:
1. Write about the problem.
2. Talk to yourself as if you are a writing coach. What would you, the writing coach say to you, the author?
3. Set a schedule or find an accountability partner.
4. Work on a different project. Ideas will churn in your head soon.
5. Write a letter to a character giving you trouble, or let her write a letter to you.
- Consider what she wants or what she yearns for.
Write back to her or launch into the manuscript again and try her ideas.
6. Or define a plot problem and brainstorm solutions.
7. If you have a writing partner, read a section that’s troubling you and ask what she likes and what trips her up. Or have her read the passage to you and take notes identifying anything that doesn’t sound right.
8. Ask questions about the story and where it’s going.
9. Highlight or italicize the problem and come back to it later. 10. Read a book—preferably in the genre you’re writing.
11. Trust the process. No book was built in a day.
12. Set goals and deadlines.
Here are 3 articles in web sites that may help:
- https://getnovelize.com/articles/how-to-continue-writing-your-novel- when-you-get-stuck
- https://litreactor.com/columns/storm-the-brain-15-methods-to-get- unstuck-prompt-ideas-and-solve-problems
Still stuck? We can talk you through it. If you need anything from a sounding board to a brainstorming session to a developmental or copy edit or proofreading, please take a look at our Manuscript Consultation Service. We give free samples for the first 500 words. Thanks for considering it.
“If you are committed to achieving your goals, now is the best time to be a writer.” ~~Michael Larsen
The following writing advice is excerpted from a presentation Michael Larsen made to the Sacramento Branch of the California Writers Club in January of 2022. You can learn more about Michael Larsen, one of the founders of the San Francisco Writers Conference, by looking at his bio on the Winter 2022 Writing Advice page, https://writeradvice.com/winter-of-2022-writing-advice/.
Questions? Comments? Reactions? Please feel free to share them with us. Thanks!
The Guerrilla Way to Build a Writing Career
How the World is Conspiring to Justify Your Passion
Here’s why despite the turbulence and uncertainty we face, the world is supporting your passion for writing. This is a golden age for writers and readers–the most important people in the publishing process. If you are committed to achieving your goals, now is the best time to be a writer:
- Now is the best time for reading:
* You are writing in English–the international language of culture and commerce–in the age of instant translation.
* Now is the best time for serving the human family:
* The need for your knowledge, vision, values, guidance, and inspiration is greater than ever.
* You have more power and opportunities to make a difference as well as a living.
* The right book will change the world.
* More outstanding books are being published.
* More people in more places are reading books in more forms: ebooks, print, and audiobooks.
* Access to books, ebooks, and audiobooks is easier, faster, and less expensive: you can buy them at a discount, by subscription, or borrow them for free from your library.
- Now is the best time for writing:
* Your writing will be a gift and a legacy for those you love and future generations.
* You can write anything you want as well as you want and publish it.
* Writing is one of the easiest of the arts to enter, succeed in, and keep practicing. If you disagree, try ballet.
* Writing can be a healing process that helps you understand and accept your life and yourself.
* You can develop your craft and career in your spare time.
* There are more books to use as models for your books.
* You have more subjects to write about and more ways to write about them.
* You have more ways to learn what you need to know about writing, agents, and promotion, including a bottomless ocean of free advice online.
* You have more tools to help you write.
* You have more ways to get feedback on your work.
* You have more ways to prove your books work before you sell or publish them.
* Technology, the communities it enables, and the growing numbers of readers worldwide keep generating more opportunities to profit from your work.
We’d like to hear your reactions to any of these suggestions. Write to us through the contact box on the home page. If you have questions for Mr. Larsen, you can send them here and I can pass them along, or you can write to him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your book about, and why aren’t you writing it?
Suggestions, Unsolicited Advice, and Possible Direction:
Hopefully, these are not the same old suggestions.
- Do a free write about why you’re not writing. Read it over. Underline what’s enlightening.
- Do a second free write from your protagonist’s POV. Let her ask you questions about your process and the storyline. Listen to his suggestions.
- What do you really want to say?
- What are you afraid to say? What would it take for you to move beyond that fear?
- If you want to market your book, Google “What makes a book marketable” but don’t spend too much time there. Spend more time writing and polishing.
- Hire a professional editor for ideas and developmental editing. Use what’s useful and save or disregard the rest.
- Can’t afford an editor? Join a critique group of writers who don’t yet know your strengths and weaknesses or do a manuscript exchange with a writer you trust.
- Do a free write about what you want the book to convey. Read it. Edit it. Condense it. When it’s as good as it can be, it should show you who your audience is.
- When I imagine a specific reader, usually someone I know, I write with more care. Would this technique work for you?
- Trust yourself, trust the process, and trust that no one can tell your story (real or imaginary) in the same way you can.
Questions? Comments? Please let me know. We’re here to help and will respond.