In my last post, I said I’d provide tips for writing about your family next, but I realized I had a few more memoir writing tips to share with you. I’ll post about writing about your family next. Promise.
Last week I posted a few things for aspiring memoir writers (or even more experienced ones) to avoid when writing a memoir. These apply even if you’re just working on briefer stories about your life. In your writing you want your actual experience reflected. By that, I don’t mean just telling the truth (as much of it as you’re comfortable with) but presenting your story as more than a mere recitation of bare facts. To do that . . .
Here are more mistakes to avoid:
1. Starting big. Start telling your story in small bits. For example, you can write down a single memory. Then write down another. Keep going. Don’t worry about the order these are written in. You can rearrange them later.
2. Sugarcoating. When writing about your life, it’s important to dig deeper than the surface appearance of events and relationships. You’re involved in a process of discovery.
3. Reaching for clichés and overused phrases, especially those that are trendy at the moment. I know it’s easy, but it’s also unoriginal. Find your own words, those that clearly express your story and convey its uniqueness to a reader. Befriend a thesaurus to find what a woman in my life story writing classes calls “juicy words.” In fact, if you’re working on a writing project, go through it now and see if you can replace a few boring words with words with power.
4. Having events take place in “nowhere.” Everything happens somewhere. So be sure to include the setting of your stories. Tell the reader a little about where things are happening, and describe the places (though beware of filling your stories with too much description).
5. Forgetting to include gestures. I find this is among the biggest challenges for new writers. But gestures are critical to bringing your story and your characters alive. We don’t speak to one another in frozen poses, with our arms glued to our sides.
If you need help getting off to a strong start on your memoir, or help making significant progress on it, get in touch with me. Unsure? Check out what my students, colleagues, and clients say about working with me.