Where do I even start with my wishes and what I had known before penning several memoirs? I think I’ll begin with I wish I had been braver.
Writing a memoir means exposing your innermost self to the world. It means being vulnerable, and when I look back at what I have written, I know there are things I wished I could have said, but I felt deep shame and guilt. It is only after much healing I can see that I didn’t do anything to feel either shameful or guilty about because the abusers did things to me, not the other way around. As I embark on this next book, I’m already feeling my old friend Mr Cringe peeking over my shoulders, but, ah, what the hell, I want to share now. He can stare all he likes. I want to tell my tales of abuse and of my derring-do.
When you come to write your story, honestly, get it all out. You can edit the rawness and decide what to share based on the theme of your story and the outcome you want for your reader. Don't be afraid to reveal your flaws and the not-so-glamorous aspects of your life. Authenticity is what readers crave. And remember, if you're tempted to blur the lines between fact and fiction, well, you might as well write a novel instead!
Under my cool exterior lies a little scamp who loves seeing the funny side of life, and my inherent wickedness might be better used on stage at the Comedy Club rather than in polite company. But as I embark on a novel which sees the protagonist's dead alcoholic father move in with her, I know I have the perfect outlet for humour. As far as memoir goes, being funnier means pacing and offering lighter moments among the darker parts of life.
Remember to pace your story. All lows and your reader might not continue. We all need a bit of levity.
Embrace the Unpredictable Roller Coaster Of Memoir
Writing a memoir is like hopping on a roller coaster blindfolded, which makes me feel quite icky just thinking about it. One moment, you're laughing, and the next, you're screaming. And screaming. Having written so much in previous memoirs and each chapter evoking so much pain, healing, and peace, I know it’s a weird adventure. I think I wished I’d known it would be unpredictable. I sort of don’t because I bizarrely like the unpredictability!
Your story will lead you down unexpected paths, unearthing buried memories and stirring emotions you thought were long forgotten. It's exhilarating and cathartic all at once. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!
The Art of Selective Memory
I’ve said I wished I was braver, and I do, but some things don’t need to be shared because they don’t add anything to the book. I could tell you about when my mum taught me how to use Tampax. The experiment failed, and she had to fish it out. It amuses me, but does it add anything to my story? Well, you’ll have to wait and see. The thing is, I have written stuff that I wanted to share, and actually, it served no purpose.
While honesty is crucial, selective memory is your friend. Our minds have a way of romanticising the past, and sometimes it's perfectly fine to omit details that aren't integral to your story. You're not writing an autobiography, after all. Be selective in what you include, focusing on moments that resonate with the themes and emotions you wish to convey. Your readers will thank you for it.
Editing Is Your Trusted Companion
If you are anything like me, you can waffle write forever. I plan all of my books and have all the chapters mapped out, yet I manage to put my fingers on the keyboard and write rather a lot. I am from the school that says to get it all out and then edit hard. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
There is no secret that first drafts are never perfect, and that's ok! Embrace the messy process of editing. Revision is where your memoir truly comes to life. It's where you refine your prose, sharpen your voice, and polish your story. Editing can be gruelling, but it's worth it. Take breaks, get feedback, and don't be afraid to kill your darlings. Remember, your memoir is a work in progress, just like you.
Every Memoir Needs a Narrative Arc
I plan my books, but it wasn’t until I learned about narrative arcs and started to deconstruct stories that I discovered the wonder of doing things ‘properly’. I sound like a fun person, don’t I? But this is what I do. When I learn something, I want to study and understand it. For example, in our novel class, we recently covered scenes. I also teach this, but because it was a reminder, I went off to buy a recommended novel, listened to it and purchased it on Kindle so that I would study it. Ok, perhaps I should leave this one off my dating profile.
The magical narrative arc is the backbone of any engaging memoir. Your life may not have followed a neat and tidy narrative structure, but your memoir should. Think of it as crafting a beautiful piece of art from the chaotic puzzle pieces of your life. Begin with a compelling hook, build tension, reach climactic moments, and provide a satisfying resolution. Give your readers a satisfying journey through the ups and downs of your life.
Celebrate the Journey, Not Just the Destination
I wished I had stopped, reflected, and eaten cake more while reflecting and celebrated each milestone. I was always so wrapped up in writing that I rarely stopped to celebrate. I am when I get my teeth into something like a demon-possessed, and I have to finish. I have learned that this is pure madness, and I no longer do it. Pacing, which we touched on earlier, is important in writing as it is in life. Celebrate often.
Remember to savour the process. Writing a memoir is a labour of love. It's not just about the finished product but also the personal growth, self-reflection, and healing that come with it. Cherish the moments of inspiration, the early morning or late-night writing sessions, and the triumphs over writer's block. Celebrate every milestone, big and small, and be proud of yourself for daring to share your story with the world.
So, my friends, take these seven nuggets of wisdom as you embark on your own memoir adventure. Let your words flow, your memories dance, and your story shine. Happy writing, and may your memoir touch hearts, evoke laughter, and inspire countless others on their own journeys of self-discovery. Here’s to the power of storytelling!