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