I’m happy to announce that I’m speaking for Nina Amir’s Nonfiction Writers University March 17, 3 PM PST. I’m focusing on one of the most challenging parts of writing a memoir: the Muddy Middle!
The Muddy Middle—this is where you wrestle with truth, the inner critic, family and how to bring a focus and universal message to your story. Here is where your healing and transformational journey deepens and you find yourself exploring the larger territory of your story and your life.
During this teleseminar, you will learn about these issues:
• You find out that you’re writing a healing memoir after all.
• You’re starting to see new perspectives on the past and how you want to tell the story.
• Truth—you have been wrestling with it alone, and now you’re doing it for a memoir? Yikes.
• Family—what will they say; will they cast you into the darkness?
• The inner critic—what if it’s right?
• The now narrator—you were feeling brave and wanted to share your knowledge about life…but now?
• You make surprising discoveries—that are not so comfortable.
In May, I present the final section of these talks about “The Three Stages of Memoir Writing.” This series is based on my book Journey of Memoir–The Three Stages of Memoir Writing. We’ll be talking about the final stages of writing a memoir: Birthing Your Book—this stage includes developing your platform, and the revision and editing process that leads to you having a book that’s ready to be published and shared with the world. This stage is usually longer than we wish!
Sign up for this FREE event by clicking this link: http://writenonfictionnow.com/landing/nfwu-teleseminars
Writing a memoir is like finding yourself on a journey: you thought you knew where you were going, but eventually you are lost! We all experience several stages that lead up to your journey: As you pack your suitcase, you think about the thrilling and interesting moments you will encounter. And as you start your journey, you are still excited and moving forward with great energy. Then reality sets in. Life still presents challenges. And it is this way when we write our memoir.
A couple of years ago, I visited France and was thrilled to be in Paris again with its iconic symbols–the Eiffel Tower, the parks and museums. The charming coffee houses. Then I made my way to the southern mountains where Cezanne and Van Gogh used to paint. I encountered the usual challenges–the suitcase was too heavy to lift up stairs, I was crushed in the Metro by sweaty people, and I got lost many dozens of times on tiny country lanes! There were highs and lows, moments of exhaustion and exhilaration. The imaginings of how the journey would be when I packed my suitcase collided with the real journey, and it changed me—for the better. My story changed, and I experienced France in a brand new way.
So it is when we write a memoir. We begin by filling our suitcase with memories of people and events that we are eager to celebrate and share. Even if our story is dark, we’re sure that we can handle it. We have been journaling for a long time, and we think we know what we want to write. Eagerly, we launch into our writing, capturing images and moments, writing and remembering. We even feel brave enough to tell people we’re writing a book!
Then the doubts creep in, “I’m not sure what I wrote is the truth. My sister says I make things up.”
“Gee, I don’t want to reveal x and y and z. It’s too personal. I can’t have people knowing all those things about me.”
Or you read a bunch of famous memoirs and realize that you can’t write all that well. Suddenly it’s really too big a job, this memoir project, even though you love it. You agonize and even try to leave it behind like an overfull suitcase until it begins to take on a life of its own as it tugs at your heart.
There’s another scenario: You’ve started to remember things, memories you thought you’d handled; you begin to reflect on the past in a new way, and start to write about it, but you feel sad, depressed, or angry. You try to put it all aside, but you can’t. The writing doesn’t work. You’re stuck in the middle of your book.
This is all good news. I know, it doesn’t sound like good news to you. You just want to get your memoir done, you want to brush away the doubts.
The good news is that you are in the middle of your memoir journey, and you’re doing fine. This is the way the journey goes! There are three major stages in writing a memoir. The first is the eager beginning, which I call “freewriting.” Then there’s the” muddy middle,” where themes, stories, and memories begin to build into a larger story–you can feel a bit out of control here just as I did when I got lost 10 times. The muddy middle is the biggest part of the journey, and the largest section of the book. Brooke Warner and I talk about this journey model in our course Write Your Memoir in Six Months.
In the last stage you’ve found your stride, the journey has changed you, and you’re grateful for the discoveries and the epiphanies. It is not the same journey-book that you imagined. You are different. The writing becomes your teacher, your mentor. Dr. James Pennebaker, the psychologist who researched the healing power of writing, said, “Story is a way of knowledge.” When you write a memoir, you discover your story. I write about these stages in my book Journey of Memoir–The Three Stages of Memoir Writing.
It’s a journey worth taking. Pack your suitcase now.
Nine tips for your trip:
- Understand that writing your memoir is a longer journey than you imagined. Be patient.
- Take good care of yourself on the journey. Set a schedule, make a map.
- Allow the writing process to guide you; accept the underside of what you planned to write, the darker stories and images, the memories that squeeze in. They have something to teach you.
- Trust in your creative muse and the excitement you felt when you began your journey. Allow this energy to urge you forward.
- Invite your unconscious to help you write and remember. Put your writing under your pillow. Before sleeping, ask your unconscious mind to help you. I did this, and it worked!
- Know that you will write the same story repeatedly but it will shape shift, it will evolve with each version.
- Accept that you will find your muddy middle, and that you’ll get stuck and lost. Keep going anyway. You’ll find your way out of the muddy middle if you just keep writing!
- Writing your life is like entering a labyrinth. You need to find the threads that will lead you out. It’s there somewhere, and you need to stay long enough for it to reveal itself. It’s a little like magic!
- Write, listen, be still, and invite. Your story wants to be found and shared with the world.
To learn more about memoir writing, subscribe to this blog. Join me on the Write Your Memoir in Six Months site where you can download ten free memoir writing lessons. Sign up for our free newsletter at the National Association of Memoir Writers.
See you on Facebook and I’m @memoirguru on Twitter!
Today I’m giving away my two books for Free! Yes, through the KDP program in Amazon. I’m jazzed about doing this, and ask you to please download my books, completely for FREE! And I want to tell you all about this program that can boost your rankings, build platform, and earn you sales, fame, and fortune–ideally!
First: The Giveaway dates are August 27th through August 29th
Just click the link and “buy” the book for FREE $0.00 on Kindle to read when you have time. No Kindle, no worries. You can get the free Kindle App for your computer, smart phone, or tablet/pad.
You can support my efforts as an indie author by downloading this freebie, passing the word to friends, and posting the announcement on your social media sites. This is how lesser-known authors gain visibility for their books and compete on even turf with famous authors who have giant advertising budgets.
Here is the link for Don’t Call Me Mother
You can read more here and see the slide show at http://www.dontcallmemother.com
Here’s the link for Journey of Memoir
I sincerely hope you enjoy these books and find them useful personally and professionally. Please, spread the word! Share the links with your friends.
What You Need to Know about Kindle Direct for your Books
If you have an eBook or plan to create one, you should absolutely know about the Kindle Direct program (KDP) with Amazon.
KDP allows you to arrange giveaway days for your ebook. Why in the world would you want to give your book away for free? That’s a reasonable question. The answer is that by giving away books (sometimes many thousands of books, if you’re lucky) you are getting free billboard space on Amazon’s giant site, making your book conspicuous to potential buyers following the giveaway.
It’s all about search engines, rankings and a bunch of back-shop mechanics at Amazon, but the ultimate payoff is more potential book sales for you. The more you give away, the higher ranking you get. The more books get read, the more reviews you get. The more reviews you get…you get it, the more conspicuous your book becomes for new readers you’d otherwise never have reached. Through a giveaway your book has a chance to earn more readers, fans and reviews, and the free giveaway can stimulate sales after the giveaway is over, which is good for your bank account!
Free Books? Is that a good idea?
You might say—”Free? Why is that a good thing?” If your book is available for free, your readers take no risk in downloading just to take a look. Chances are, they will open it and read some of it, or eagerly devour all of it. Presto—you have a new fan, and who will share the book with someone else. This builds your platform, gives you great numbers on Amazon—and yes, agents and editors go there to check—and most of all, makes you feel great that you have more readers and fans. Let’s face it—we spend months and years writing and publishing our books—we want readers!
How Does It Work?
- Select the dates for your program after reading more about KDP on Amazon. The rules are listed there. Ideally you’ll offer it free for at least 3 days in a row, but you can split the days up any way you’d like. KDP allows you to offer it free for up to 5 days within a 90 day period.
- Contact your publisher to release your book from all online vendors EXCEPT for Amazon for the 90 day period.
- Look for online sites that feature eBooks discounted and for free. Apply for your book to be featured on their lists on your giveaway days. This will help others to learn about your giveaway. Remember, your goal is to give away as many copies as possible! (I know, it’s a weird idea, and one that takes getting used to.)
- Write PR about your book, and submit it to online PR. I used Webwire. There is a fee for this.
- Announce your giveaway to friends on social media and by email to ask them to download your book. Give them the link and ask them to share it with their networks. This is going viral in the best kind of way.
- Offer to do this for them when their book is out!
Results? Sales, fans, Reviews?
It’s hard to predict of course exactly what your promotion will produce. In any case, it’s all online and fun, and you don’t have to pay plane fare to visit bookstores. The online sites reach people all over the country, and in many countries in the world.
I was inspired by my friend and writing colleague, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder to start my promotion. Her success was amazing, with many thousands of downloads for her novel. Thank you Betsy, for helping me to learn how. Another helper angel was Julie Valin, who helps authors with their websites and book campaigns. I learned so much from them!
And thank you to She Writes Press for being my publisher and helping me with the promotion! As we authors are always saying, “It takes a village to write a book.” It takes a village to get the word out too.
Good luck with your promotions! And please tell others about my giveaway the next three days!
Enjoy downloading and reading!
“I was a skeptic about the whole idea of a giveaway, but I listened, learned, and acted. I did a lot of promotion and it paid off. Fire & Water was downloaded a whopping 38,101 times in 3 days! It was ranked number 1 in women’s fiction, #1 in commercial fiction, and #3 in overall fiction among all free downloads. What’s more important is that I started with 19 Amazon reviews, and as of this writing, I now have 100, and 83 are 5-star. I’ve received dozens of letters from fans I’d never find without a giveaway and sales have held steady since the giveaway.”
Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, author of Fire & Water
Most people writing a memoir are learning to write while also excavating the terrain of memories and learning about elements of the past can be painful.
If you have started your memoir, or are about to start, you know that writing a book is a journey with several stages. As you go through the stages, you build one upon the other to get to your goal. As you write, the journey will change you. It’s important to understand what a memoir is, and isn’t.
A memoir is a story with structure, a theme, and a reason for a reader to be engaged. Memoir writers are challenged by the many layers that compose a memoir: from finding memories and confronting truths—the psychological aspects of memoir writing—to craft and skill questions: what is a scene, how do I structure my memoir, can I just copy my journal and have a memoir?
If you keep a few things in mind, you can begin your memoir journey—something you’ve always wanted to do. The idea is to keep your writing to the basics, keep it simple, and give yourself permission to write. Then celebrate your courage!
What a Memoir Is:
- A memoir draws upon the skills and tools of fiction in presenting a story—with scenes, dialogue, sensual details, creating a world for the reader.
- A memoir is not a journal. In a journal, your personal writing is without a structure and written to be kept private. A memoir is written for an audience.
- A memoir has an overarching message that a reader is left with, the reason for the book.
- A memoir is a focused topic or theme.
- A memoir has significant messages and takeaways for the reader—it’s not just about you and what happens to you.
Tips for memoirists, from my book Journey of Memoir—The Three Stages of Memoir Writing
- A memoir is your story—no one else’s. Write from the “I” point of view about your experiences, feelings, and perspectives.
- You’re writing to discover, not only to report. You will be discovering memories, truths, and events that you don’t always understand.
- A memoir is about memory and how you understand events and inner truths. Your memories are unique to you. Even if you write about an event where there are twelve witnesses, chances are that each person saw, heard, and interpreted different things about that event.
- You will write your memoir like a novel with scenes and plot using the tools of good fiction.
- You will learn about how story works, and how to bring a template of structure and story to the long complexity that is your life. Your memoir will focus on a slice of that life. A memoir is more than a journal—it’s a story to be read by others.
- As your memoir delivers d takeaways that are of value to others, you are creating a universal story.
How to Begin:
- List the ten most significant events in your life.
- Chart your significant moments or events on your timeline to see when they occurred and get a visual picture of how events clustered together or were spread out in time.
- Write each significant moment as a story.
- Write using scenes—a specific moment in time, interleafed with reflection and your inner experience.
- Write quickly, write in twenty minute bursts without editing or censoring.
- Use Anne Lamott’s “shitty first draft” permission to write without editing—you can edit later. Don’t crush your creative sparks!
- Honor your point of view and your truths as you write.
- Write another vignette the next day.
- Do this exercise for ten days and then see what you have!
- Be Brave—Write Your Story!
You can find more exercises, the timeline template, and a three part course on memoir writing in my new workbook Journey of Memoir–the Three Stages of Memoir Writing.