Writing a memoir means digging deep into your soul—doesn’t it? Writing is a solitary act, right? Yes to all that. I’m the first one to tell my students to keep their work private for a while, though maybe you’ve decided to show it to your family.
Good luck with that, but it’s just the beginning of how you’ll be putting yourself and your writing out into the world. A memoir is different from journaling—you’re writing a story, not just writing from an internal place where you don’t have to create a world that makes sense.
The Basic Three Things Needed for a Good Memoir
You have to write so the reader understands you; as you get to the later stages of writing your memoir, you need to see it objectively, targeting your audience and your readers—who will someday become fans.
Your writing creates ripples in the world once you move out from your private writing space. As you probably know by now, your memoir needs to deliver
- New information to the reader—knowledge that alters the reader’s view of life.
- A new experience—which means feelings, insights, and ahas.
- These experiences need to be in story form—shaped for the reader—each chapter with a reason to be there, a point or a theme to be understood.
Beyond Writing—Finding Success with Marketing, Social Media, and Publicity
Penny Sansevieri, guest speaker for the National Association of Memoir Writers upcoming Telesummit says, “Memoir writing requires more than writing skills. To become a successful author, you need to understand how the media works and what you need to do yourself—no matter who your publisher is.”
This means thinking outside of your writing cubicle—and seeing yourself objectively, and learning how to present yourself and your work so others can benefit from what you have to say.
There are so many ways now to share your nuggets of wisdom—the internet is our best friend when it comes to getting the word out. Now social media helps us shape our message in sound bites or the well-known “elevator speech” that you learn to give at conferences to get the attention of agents and publishers.
In one sentence you say what your book is about. For instance, for Don’t Call Me Mother, I would say, “I was the last of three generations of mothers who abandoned their daughters. It’s a story of how I broke that pattern and found forgiveness for my mother.”
I had variations on that speech but it summed up the essence of the book. Another student is writing about how giving up her daughter for adoption changed her life-what she did to forgive herself and make amends with her daughter.
You have to think: what am I offering the reader that can help them in their lives? What is the overall theme and message of my book? This is the question you have to answer for each chapter as well.
If you’re like most writers, thinking about publicity and marketing is the last thing on your mind while you’re writing, but along the way you do need to start learning, taking workshops, reading about how to think about ways to sell yourself.
I’m looking forward to hearing Penny speak more about these skills at the NAMW Telesummit October 21—Truth or Lie: On the Cusp of Memoir and Fiction. Sign up here.
Join me there for a great day. It’s Free for all.