Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writing and Selling Memoirs - Common Pitfalls - Part V

Unless your name is a household word no one but possibly your immediate family care that you were married six times or robbed a liquor store at the age of fifteen. The real truth is....

The odds of your memoir being rescued from the slush pile are close to nil and impossible…unless your hook is well developed.  (this post is adapted from Writer’s Digest July/August 2010 issue) One of the most challenging facets of writing a memoir is being able to view it with the perspective of someone who has never lived your experience.

Bring ordinary situations to life with dazzling details. For example, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a story about ordinary events such as divorce, travel, spirituality and food. Gilbert takes the reader along with her to experience every tear drop, laughter and epitome along her journey to healing.

Take care not to fall into the pitfalls below: 

Five Ineffective Memoir Hooks
  1. Do not mistake bitterness or anger(neither one is a good reason to write a book)  for passion.
  2. If your theme is not relatable to readers they will not read
  3. Don’t take too long to build or start too late in the story.
  4. When you follow too many different paths your plot becomes confusing.
  5. Don’t follow through to the end of the story. Your life story is not over yet. Focus on pivotal events that caused your life to do a back flip. Once you understand what a good hook is and what it should do, you will be ready to write, write, write.

Three Exercises to Define Your Hook

Write your own cover copy.

What do you do when browsing in a book store? Read the back cover or jacket flap. According to Writer’s Digest, some publishers begin working on this before a manuscript is completed because it is so essential to success.

Push your theme to the limit.

List 10 things that are unique to your situation. What makes your divorce different than your neighbors? Why should your bout with cancer be any different than others?  What range of emotions does your list hit?

Shift your focus.

Select five different starting points for your memoir then make a list of five different plots from those points. What track does the memoir follow when you start from a different position? How do you feel about each new story and where does each one end?

Also, here is a neat site at with many related videos on writing memoirs. Check them out.

Until next time,

"Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you." Madeline Bridges