Teaching yourself how to write a book must be the longest way to learn.
I know because I’ve never taken a writing class that wasn’t required to graduate from high school or college, and, I’ve been writing my book for six, yes, six, years.
My degree is in Aviation Management which is probably the complete opposite of a literary arts degree, so, you know, it’s been a long road.
I’ve only aspired to be a writer for the last maybe five years, because in the beginning, I just wanted to write down my story to share with my kids when they grew up, since they were so young and since they were there living it too.
But then I decided maybe I could publish it which meant it had to be more refined.
So I’ve been tweaking it, working it, fixing it, improving it. But I only just recently learned how it really must be written.
If you’re writing memoir and struggling with how to make it AWESOME, this is what you need to tell yourself every time you sit down to write:
My memoir is not about what happened. It’s about ME.
Saying that gives me the heebie jeebies. I can’t stand it when people are all ME, ME, ME. But that’s the ticket to writing good memoir.
The “what happened” is the action so it’s got importance but every single action where you’re present in the story must revolve around what YOU were doing, thinking, realizing, anguishing over, triumphing about. If it’s not, it’s boring.
Even if you think the course of events of your story is fascinating, which I did, which is why I decided to write my book, it will bore your readers if they aren’t feeling what it’s like to be YOU in every moment of the story.
This brings challenge to a writer who isn’t used to sharing their deepest thoughts with complete strangers. But you have to.
I fought it.
A friend of mine who is an editor and graciously agreed to read 100 pages of my book proposal summarizing my chapters told me the most interesting part of the story was when Brian (my husband) blew up at me for getting him into our situation.
I was grateful for my friend’s feedback and decided he was right about adding more emotion, but really what I was thinking was: “That wasn’t the most interesting part at all! What about the yachties who faked a robbery, or the stormy night my parents got dumped in the sea and we had to bush whack in the dark and Brian and my Dad ended up with that awful rash, or the nudists! That was a crazy weekend!”
Well those stories are interesting too, but only when you know my every thought throughout them. They’d also be interesting if you knew my husband’s every thought throughout them, but that would be his story and collaborating with him to write his story would be nearly impossible these days.
So that’s what I’m doing. Adding my every emotion to each scene. And as I write, I’m pretending no one besides me will ever read what I’m writing because otherwise, how can I put all that down on paper?
And now that my wheels are turning, I’m thinking, Maybe I SHOULD write it from Brian’s point of view also. My point of view vs. his. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Because we would tell two very different stories…
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