Friday, August 27, 2010

Writing & Selling Memoirs: Know Where Your Memoir Fits - Part IV

“The Hook” is the center of every marketable book and is the key element in making a memoir marketable. Your uniqueness, controversy, tragedy, inspiration, shocking or funny story is the thin S-curve device clutching the heart and mind of a reader and publisher. Once “The Hook” grabs your audience, it will be up to your strong writing skills to keep them turning your pages.

According to Paula Balzer's  article in Writer’s Digest  July/August 2010,  “A Hook for Every Book”, memoir writing is not just about a history of your life. The article shares many tips to help you present your story in an interesting and marketable fashion.Yes, your hook will capture the attention of agents and editors but it will take your writing style and story to keep the momentum moving.

Distinguish Hook from Theme

You want your good book to be a great one and not just another spiritual journey for example. Your hook will take the reader along and as you painfully scratch crusted scabs from your wounds your audience will experience the healing process with you as you live it. It is important to note that your hook and the underlying theme of your memoir are not necessarily the same thing. You must be able to discern the difference between the two if you want to write an unforgettable memoir.

Effective hooks:

  • Bring something new to the table.
  • Go beyond the theme of the memoir.
  • Can be summed up in a sentence or two.
  • Are provocative and memorable.

Know where your book fits  
a few categories to get you started

Self-discovery, soul-searching, healing, survival and courage, a journey defined by pain but can show hope for others there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Example, “The Middle Place” by Kelly Corrigan

Love and relationships is not always about romantic love. Susan Richards’ “Chosen by a Horse” about a broken woman learning more from an abused animal than she ever imagined.

Family secrets – oh yes the juicy stuff but more than that, a unique perspective on courage and understanding can cover a wide variety of subjects. For instance in Bliss Broyard’s “One Drop” she investigates her father’s secret of having African-American roots. This is not exploitation but exploration of family dynamics which could make or break a family unit.

Read a Memoir
It’s a good idea to see how an author develops a hook and how they take an ordinary subject to make an unusual tale about pursuit of truth. Go to Writers for the rest of the story.

I hope your interest is peaked for writing memoirs. Look for Paula Balzer’s new book “Writing and Selling Your Memoir” forthcoming  spring of 2011.

Next week - Part V – Ineffective hooks and more exercises on how to define your hook.

You will become as small as your controlling desire; as great as your dominant aspiration.
James Allen

Until next time

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Memoir Writing: Build Your Arc - Keep Your Memoir Afloat - Part III

When writing your memoir remember you are the action hero and the arc of your story is essential in determining what part needs dramatizing. Building your arc should be done before you begin any form of outline. An arc looks like the Bell curve used in some schools to bring up the grade average of a class. You begin low, reach a crescendo then begin the decline to the climax.

Beginning steps for constructing an arc.

1. The Desire Line - What was your life's desire? This will drive the book.
2. Actions and Obstacles - What did you do or want and what got in your way?
3. Emotional Beats - A memoir is an emotional journey. The events are not there because they happened but to show emotion you go through.
4. The Initiating Incident - This comes near the beginning and is the main cause of your troubles.
5. The Ending Incident - Your desire will define the ending.

Adair Lara's article, "Elements of an Effective Arc", in the July/August issue of Writer's Digest, explains in detail how to draw an arc and how emotions and obstacles are the heart beat of your story.

Lara says "Drawing your arc is not something you can knock out in the half-hour before dinner."

Get your toolbox ready,

Next week, Part IV - Turn Your story into a marketable memoir.

Write Better, More Powerful and More Engaging Nonfiction in a 52-week eCourse

Writing is a solitary profession. Most of the time it is just you, your creative mind and dim glow of your computer monitor. Also, if you are just beginning to enter the professional world of writing it is easy to get confused, overwhelmed and not know where to turn.

The best way to learn new things is one step at a time. Since I have enrolled in Suzanne Lieurance's 52-week eCourse How to Write Better, More Powerful, More Engaging Nonfiction, it is working well with my busy schedule. The one step at a time format is easy to follow and the best part is the weekly bonus links. These links are not easily found and yet Suzanne places them at your fingertips each week. Writer's research depends on quality links.

What are you waiting for?



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Memoir Writing: Don't Gloss Over the Tough Stuff - Part II

No one knows your story like you do. However, reliving your past will raise memories that have been tucked away in the darkest corner of your mind. If you are driven to tell "your story" the darkest memories are what will drive it forward. They are the crux of your life. You learned and grew because of  them. They must be brought to the surface.

Read Laurie Rosin's full article "Full Disclosure" in Writer's Digest July/August 2010 issue and learn why full disclosure in a memoir is important. This is an eye opening article. Below are my notes.

Three Reasons to Disclose Painful Memories

1. Omissions can leave holes in your narrative.
Once you build the suspense to white knuckle level, you can't say "and next the police came". Whoaaa. I am at that point in my memoir. I have deep dark secrets I don't want my family to know but they need to know what shaped me and my readers deserve the full story.

2. Readers are drawn to authentic, motivated characters.
If your story is one you hope to encourage others with, tell the truth. Did you face a devastating rejection marring your sense of self worth for forty years, claim it. Your readers want a hero.

Laurie writes "First and foremost, remember that readers will be rooting for you. Memoirists are the protagonists of their own books."

3. Strong stories require dramatic unity.
It takes courage to relive traumatic events. When I write about my father's sudden death when I was sixteen and my first divorce at eighteen; it will be painful. Some memories are like snapshots in my mind. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words". Don't hold back events that shaped you into the success you have become.

What's it all about-----?

Friday - Part III - Build your story around a Foolproof Framework


Monday, August 9, 2010

Memoir Writing: The Inside Story of - Part I

According to Writer’s Digest July/August 2010 issue, there is a viable market for Memoir writing. However, Literary Agents do not want to read another story about “lovely you”. They want the same page turning suspense and interest compelling fiction has. Literary Agent Byrd Leavell of Waxman Literary Agency asks “Why would John Q. Bookbrowser spend $25 and commit hours of his life reading about you? Answer that question and your golden.”

One thing Memoir writing has in common with fiction and non-fiction is the Query letter or Book proposal. Do your homework and pay special attention to guidelines. Some agents want proposals while some want queries.

A Few Key Points about Memoirs
  • Distinguish Hook from Theme
  • Know where your book fits
  • Break your story into Key pieces
  • Never underestimate the power of the smallest memory

Below is an opening/introduction draft to my memoir. Does it peak your interest or does it leave you looking for something else? Any thoughts?

It was August in L.A. 1962 and Billy Graham’s crusade was at the Coliseum. Here was my chance to challenge…. no….dare God to save me. I took a taxi from the all-girl boarding house I had moved into a few weeks earlier. As the majority of the crowd squeezed for seats near the stage, I climbed the molded concrete stairs to the nose bleed section to smoke. Truth was I didn’t want to make it easy for God to find me and I did not want to get too close to the power of the Word. The top row was my fig leaf. Besides if God was there He would reach me no matter how high I sat. 

I defied Reverend Graham’s words to touch me with Truth. The invitation was given; I lit another cigarette. “Sinner, come home”, Beverly Shea sang. I watched hundreds move forward toward the stage. God made it to L.A. that August but I didn’t leave with Him. I turned aside, squashed my cigarette onto the stadium steps and with a military toe heel turn I entered the wide gate to destruction.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13

Come back Wednesday for Part II – Memoir Writing - Don’t Gloss Over the Tough Stuff.

Truth is Stranger than Fiction,

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Start the Day The Morning Nudge Way

Every writer needs a little prompting at one time or another. In today’s hectic lifestyle multi-tasking has become the norm. Yet studies have shown it isn’t possible to perform a slew of tasks at the same time without confusion setting in. Our brains get used to jumping around and are not able to focus for any quality of time. Instead they switch back and forth over and over and over. I’m dizzy already.

Also productivity is significantly decreased for writers when the brain does not stay focused on one task long enough. Each writer needs time to daydream as they figure out plots and writing scenes with dialogue. Non fiction writers need time to focus on research and continuity.

When you subscribe to The Morning Nudge you will receive daily tips loaded with motivation to get a little writing done each day. Watch the video and see for your self.

I have been receiving The Morning Nudge for several years now and I am always happy with the volume of information Suzanne Lieurance offers her Morning Nudge Club members. As a member of The Morning Nudge club you will have many opportunities to enroll in workshops, teleseminars and network with other professional writers like yourself.

In addition, Suzanne Lieurance offers a wide variety of writing Ecourses and guest teachers that you cannot get anywhere else for the price. Go to the Morning Nudge Link and see for your self.

Writing requires a clear mind.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Five Essential Tips for Beginning Writers

“If a story is in you it has to come out.”
William Faulkner

1. Establish Your Writing Time

This is the most obvious because to improve your writing skill you must write on a regular basis. Writing on a regular basis is the best way for a beginning writer to learn the craft. Yes, you can take classes and read books, and you should, but there is no substitute for action. Your writing frequency is critical for success. Be consistent with your time.

2. Avoid Distractions

My advice…..Turn Off Your Email. Turning off the sound won’t keep you from clicking the tab; that is why you need to close it completely. Turn off your phone, and use earplugs to block other unexpected sounds during your writing time. Also clear your desk. Don’t leave folders and other to do lists lying around during your writing time. We all have the wandering eye.

3. Create a Log

Keep track of your word count so you can track your progress. If you journal, add the word count to your personal journal each day. This is a two-for-one action that will give you a permanent record of ideas, plots, characters and overall progression of your project.

4. Become an Idea Monster

Ideas come when you least expect them. You may receive your most brilliant idea when you are in the shower. Keep a note pad in every room in the house. Think about your project, when you are doing things like cleaning house, exercising, or grocery shopping. Your sub conscious is always working and looking for the idea you commanded it to look for. I like spiral 3 x 5 ruled index cards in counts of 50. they fit neatly in your purse or pocket and are easily retrieved when you have that AHA! Minute.

5. Rewrite, Rewrite, Rewrite

Arghhhh! This is more important than establishing a daily writing schedule. Think about this. No one gets it right the first time. Do you think Stephen King wrote one draft of Pet Cemetery? Don’t try to develop this habit immediately. Develop your writing habit first and the rewrite habit will follow effortlessly. I don’t mean rewrites are easy, I mean the habit will follow naturally.

There are tons of writing resources out there. You may want to check out Stephen King’s On Writing and William Zinsser’s classic guide to writing nonfiction – On Writing Well. You might also enjoy reading about habits of successful authors like Tom Robbins, Norman Mailer and more as written by Alan Rinzler on The Book Deal blog.

It's all at your fingertips,