Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How To Write a Memoir

Writing a memoir takes a lot more effort than just recording the events of your life as you recall them happening. Here are just a few tips to get you started.

1. Pick a theme
The difference between an autobiography and a memoir is the focus of the narrative. An autobiography is the telling of someone’s life. A memoir focuses on the theme (or themes) of that life (or episode in the life). Think of what you are writing about. What is your message? What is going on? What is the moral to your tale? Are you writing about your life as a cautionary tale? Was your life changed by one spectacular event? What events in your life led up to that?

Picking a theme helps narrow your focus so that you don’t get distracted with stories that have nothing to do with that theme. For instance, if I was focusing my memoir on how I am the unluckiest person in the world who ended up winning the lottery, I’d choose to share events in my life that illustrate that. Share unlucky episodes, anecdotes, and events that led to me winning the lotto. I would steer away from writing about my first puppy or my first car or my high school graduation…unless those events helped to support the theme I want to get across.

You want to tell the story of your life…but a lot of stuff happens to us in the course of a lifetime…you need to find a way to narrow that down and trim a bit of the excess.

2. Make it conversational
You gotta make it interesting. Don’t drone on and on about your less than stellar childhood – make the reader feel like you are speaking directly to them. Pull them into your narrative, make them feel what you were feeling, experience what you experienced. Put them in the story.

3. Use your senses
This is a good way to draw your readers in. When you write a scene, think about your five senses. If you are describing a trip to the beach, what did you smell? What color was the ocean? What sounds did you hear? Could you taste the salt on your lips? Did the hot sand burn your toes, or did it feel cool and silky?

4. Ground your story in the real world
This seems like a given, but when you are writing about personal experiences, you are (naturally) focused inward. Add details to your narrative that help place what is happening to you in the real world. Things like cultural references (what movies were playing, what songs were popular, etc), modes of transportation (were wood paneled station wagons littering the roads, or was everyone driving a hybrid?), popular clothes fashions (shoulder pads and teased hair or bell bottom jeans and long, shaggy hair?)….these types of details can be woven into your memoir to help set the setting.

5. Be ethical when writing about living people!
This one can be tough, and it is completely up to you if you will use real names or not. But consider how your story may affect those you include. Telling the world that your sister had an affair might be great for your story, but how will it affect your sister? In my opinion, changing the names of the major players in your narrative don’t adversely affect your memoir in the slightest – and using the real identity of someone who would prefer to remain anonymous could hurt you (and them) much more than it could help your book.

Again, this is only my opinion, and this is a subject that can get really touchy, but if your sister’s affair is something you need to include in your book (maybe it is what broke up your own marriage, etc), I don’t consider it dishonest if you change your sister Patty to your cousin Susan – the event is the same, the results are the same, the STORY is the same. Changing a few details to protect someone who has no choice over your freedom of speech is not, in my opinion, dishonest.

Now, saying you were a drug dealer that lived on the streets when in fact you were raised in a million dollar mansion in Beverley Hills is another thing entirely. Changing the facts and events of your life is dishonest…that isn’t a memoir, that is a fiction novel. But changing a name or two…making a sister a cousin…you aren’t changing anything that affects the outcome of your story. Just think long and hard before you include someone that might not want to be included. You have the right to tell your story, but they have the right to keep their lives private if they wish.

6. Above all…KEEP IT HONEST!
As we just discussed, fabricating the facts of your life doesn’t do anyone any good (as some writers have discovered). When you label something a memoir, you are making a sort of promise to your readers that what you are telling them is the truth, that the events that you are sharing really happened. If the events of your life aren’t enough on their own and you need to fabricate experiences to complete the story…then do what you wish, but don’t call it a memoir – call it fiction, because that is what it is.

Will you get hauled into court and called a fraud if you couldn’t remember that it was raining the night you fell overboard into the sea so you said it was a clear night? Probably not. It’s a small, insignificant detail that doesn’t affect the outcome of the experience. Are you being dishonest if you say you fell overboard when you’ve never set foot on a boat in your life? Yeah. You are. Don’t do that. :)

Now, these few tips are just the bare basics of memoir writing. For more detail and specific How To tips, you might want to find a book or two on memoir writing. I recommend Judith Barrington’s Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art, to start you out.

Come back next Tuesday for tips on how to find an agent for the masterpiece you are writing :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reading List 2009 Update

Well, once again, no new books to list. I spent the week trying (and I stress TRYING) to write, and in honor of the recent Twilight movie release, rereading the Twilight series....I'm just about done with Breaking Dawn now (and yes, I DO like it, though parts of it drive me nuts - but then I can say that about most books) :)

How is everyone else doing?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

Things are coming along...slowly but surely. I am actually enjoying the writing in the notebook thing, although it gets a little painful sometimes because the pen doesn't keep up with my thoughts quite as fast as my fingers on a keyboard do. But, with the notebook, I can scribble off a sentence or two whenever I get a chance, so I am making more progress than when I try and find a whole chunk of time to get something down.

I've only been getting about a page or so a day done, but it's a page more than I had so I am very pleased :) I also am collecting quite a few pages of notes and various lines and sentences that will be stuck in throughout the book at some point. And I am loving my pretty blue gel pens....very fun :D

Oh, and I also got some more research done on my non fiction book. I've found more poems that fit what I need than I thought I would, so I'm going to take the book in a slightly different direction. But I'm very happy with the new ideas and might finally start some actual writing soon :)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How To...Succumb to Real Life...

I know I was supposed to post tips on how to write a memoir today, but Real Life has reared its ugly head and I'm going to have to skip this week's entry. But please come back next week...the memoir post will be here bright and early next Tuesday!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Blog Chain: A Ballad for My Heart

Blog chain time, and this one really threw me for a loop! Jess started this round, and she wanted us to get in touch with our creative side. Her post set the bar so high, I haven't slept since I read the topic :) Kate did an absolutely phenomenal job before me, and Sandra, I'm sure, will knock our socks off next.

So, here are Jess's directions:

WRITE! I want a short story people. 100 words, 300 words, 500 words, 1,000 words - whatever you're comfortable with! The only requirement I have is that the theme of the story have something to do with HEARTS. Someone stealing someone else's heart. Someone pining away for true love. A thief of hearts... Go wild!!

Well, as I sat thinking about what to write, words started popping in my head. Now, I have just come off a month of poetry blog posts and I've been working on my non fiction book (centered around poetry) - so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that poetry is what came out for this topic. I decided to write a little ballad - it is what it is and I make no excuses (but I do apologize should your eyes start to bleed as you read it) ;-)

A Ballad for My Heart

You’ve broken more than I can count
And oft’ I’ve wished you dead.
You never heed the pleas I shout
Or care for tears I’ve shed.

Betray me, break me, traitor mine,
How treacherous indeed.
More pity I’m forever thine,
Entwined within your greed.

For you will always crave the feel
Of something I can’t find.
Despite your claims, there’s no ideal
And yet I search, though blind.

You torture, tease, and torment me
No matter how I pray.
When will you stop and set me free,
When under dust I lay?

I know, you beat once, happily,
But now you must forget.
For he for whom you beg and plea
Has left us bereft.

In fact, I speak to empty space.
There’s nothing left to hear.
The tears of death course down my face,
He’s stolen you I fear.

He left me, then you left as well,
A double sword to take.
Alone inside an empty hell;
In hollowness I ache.

They tell me someday you’ll return;
I doubt, but hope lives too.
For him I will forever burn,
I cannot yearn for you.

It wasn’t he that hurt me so,
That left me scarred and bruised.
To bleed so painful, die so slow,
So wasted, tired and used.

Without you, he could strike no blow,
Without you, when he fled,
I would have still been whole I know;
Instead I’m merely dead.

I ask you once, please don’t return,
I beg of you, please see!
If I can heal, if I can learn,
You must be dead to me.

Do not return, don’t ever beat,
I rip you piece and part.
Disowned, disloyal, clever cheat,
My gentle traitor heart.

Reading List 2009 Update

Okay, well this week wasn't so great with the reading :D Actually, I did read the sixth and seventh Harry Potter books...but I've read them before so I won't count them :) Sooo, no new books to add to the list this week. I wanna give everyone else a chance to catch up ;-)

(p.s. that is my kitty Cyrus in the picture - and that is Harry Potter he's "reading") :D

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Well, this week I've actually gotten some work done. Mostly revisions though. I am currently revamping my adult historical romantic suspense into a YA historical. And it's been fun :) It's coming along great and I should be done with it by the end of the week (I hope) :)

As for my current YA urban fantasy WIP, I started writing in notebooks again, and it's going a little better than it did before. I only have a page done (front and back) but that is a page more than I had last week, so I count it as a success :D

And nothing on the non-fiction front this week. I've got another poetry book to thumb through sitting on my desk though, so I take a look every now and then when I get a second.

All in all, I am very pleased with my revising work this week :)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reading List 2009 Update

I had an FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC reading week this week! Not only did I squeeze in an extra book, but they were all made of awesome - much enjoyment, oh yeeeeeeaaaahhhhh :D

15. The Hollow by Jessica Verday - this book will be on the shelves in October this year, but Jess was kind enough to allow a few writing buddies to read it and just gotta say LOVED IT!!!

16. Hunted by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast - Book 5 in the House of Night series - again LOVED IT!! I polished this one off in one day and am already anxious for the next installment :D I know, it'll be a while....

17. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - yes, I hang my head in shame that I am just now getting to this one, but it was worth the wait, excellent book :) The next one in the series, Ink Exchange, is on my list for next week (in fact, I will be starting it as soon as I get all those nasty household chores out of the way!)

And I'm almost half-way to my 50 new book goal for the year! Wahoo!!! I've been getting the urge to reread some Harry Potters, so the new books might slow down a bit (it's the cable company's fault, they've been playing the movies....)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Work In Progress Wednesday

Okay, well, this week I focused on my non fiction WiP...more because I can work on it while my kids are buzzing around than because I really wanted to :) But I did go through two massively huge poetry books, combing through them for any hint of heroic couplets....I found a total of 20 heroic couplet poems....out of a hundred or so poets (I didn't take the time to count, but there were two books over a thousand pages each....so, a lot of poets) :D Now, that isn't very many poems...especially because I probably won't be able to use all of them.

Heroic couplets are good people! Why won't anyone use them anymore? *le sigh*

On the fiction front, I've got bubkiss (is that how you spell that?) I do have a really good scene floating through my head that I will madly scrabble down sometime tonight. I have no idea how it will fit in with my storyline, but when your MC is writhing on the floor in excuriating pain while her friends stand around looking at her...I gotta fit it in somewhere :D

I also think I'm going to try writing by hand a try again. Elana seems to be enjoying it :) Perhaps my problem is I'm trying to write in those large notebooks you'd take to class for notes...or maybe I'm using the wrong color ink. Perhaps composition books and blue pens will make all the difference ;-)

In any case, once again I will make the resolution to work harder and accomplish more :) In my defense, several very awesome books came my way this week (I will post about those tomorrow in my reading list update). So, the vast majority of my spare time was spent devouring other people's work....not a bad way to spend my time actually :D

Friday, March 6, 2009

Blog Chain: It's Market Time!

Okay, this round definitely made me pause. Carolyn posted before me and tackled this brilliantly, as always, and Sandra will post something equally fabulous next. Heather chose the topic and she wants to know:

What plans do YOU have to market your novel? How will you make sure the public finds your work?

When I read this topic, my first reaction was "Uhhhhh....I dunno."

The thought of marketing scares me a little because when I think of marketing, the first things that comes to mind are book signings and radio shows and interviews. I'm kind of on the shy side (I know, you never would have guessed, huh) :D I love the thought of myself as an eccentric recluse that lives in some drafty castle in Scotland and only has contact with the rest of the world by email...maybe by phone if I'm feeling feisty.

Yeah....probably not going to happen....

I suppose in reality, I'd probably have a blast doing book signings and live interviews (aside from the staggering fear that no one will show and I'll be sitting all alone at a table full of my own books (*shudder*)

And let's face it, I really do love to talk, so I'm sure I'll get through interviews, live or otherwise, with no problem...although if it's going to be someplace where people can actually SEE me as opposed to just hearing me, I'll have to lose some weight first :D

Now, since all of those things are far in the future of unlikely possibilities, I think I am already doing what I can to market my work. This will be a bit of a repeat from Carolyn's post (as she gave me most of these ideas a while ago) :D But, I have this blog, I have a website, I have links to both in my email signatures, I belong to several writer forums where I talk about my work as much as I can...I have made a book trailer, although this is an old one (here I was all excited to procrastinate by making a new one and I didn't have time!), and if I ever do get this thing published, I will make (or more likely pay someone else to make) a really nice one.

Also, my book, like Jess's, involves a necklace, which would be very fun to see made real (though it wouldn't be very practical as it is a very elaborate pile of gems). But it could be fun to make a toned down piece. Or make a replica of my character's wedding ring, which is very pretty, if I do say so myself :) A diary plays a big part in my book, so producing a Courtland Diary could be fun. And since my book is sort of a mystery/treasure hunt, maybe I could come up with a board game or something where you'd have to follow the clues to find the necklace while dodging squares that say things like "got shot, go back 3 spaces." :D

Hmmm, maybe this marketing thing isn't so scary after all :) Could be kind of fun :)

Be sure to head on over to Sandra's blog to see what awesome marketing ideas she has!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reading List Update and a Meme :)

The update this week is really quick as I only had time to read one book...ooo wait! Just kidding - two books :D

13. Frostbite by Richelle Mead

14. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

These are books 2 and 3 in the Vampire Academy series and I highly enjoyed both of them.

Next up are Hunted by P.C. and Kristin Cast (book 5 in the House of Night series) and The Hollow, soon to be published by Jessica Verday (and I am so flippin excited about this book...in fact, I will be rushing through this post so I can go read it!) :D

Now to the meme....I had no idea what this meant until I read Elana's post on the subject....and even now the only thing my brain is focused on is the fact I must share seven things about myself and meme five other people. Emily over at Lefty in my Write Mind (and yes Elana, that is seriously an awesome blog title!!) memed me, so here you go Em!!

1. Linking to Elana on this one....It took four universities or colleges before I got my bachelor's. I started out with a year in Hawaii (my mom made me come home for the summer and I never went back...I still haven't forgiven her - that year was AWESOME!), then I took a little time off (didn't mean to, but hey, things happen) - then I went to a community college in TN and finished up my generals....then on to a university in TN....then I met my husband, and left TN for Utah to get married (one semester before graduation...I don't know what I was thinking!! Must have been in love or something) ;-) Soooo, I finally graduated with a BS in History from Weber State University in 2001...7 years after starting college....I just stuck to one school for my Masters degree - although I did my courses online through a university in CA while living in WY and UT :D Now how is that for complicated :D

2. Also linking to Elana - I have one son and one daughter; they are both the light of my life and the cause of my insanity....I love them more than I could even begin to express; I can't imagine my life without them and I wouldn't (mostly) want to.....but oh, I am so thankful at the end of the day when I can gaze upon their angelic, SLEEPING faces :D

3. My husband is 10 years older than I. He is also the baby of his family while I am the oldest. This has created some interesting family dynamics. For instance, my mother-in-law is the same age as my grandmother. I have a brother-in-law who is older than my father. My nieces and nephews on my husband's side are my age...my nephew Clint is only 2 days younger than I am (and a couple of them are older) - this also means that my children are the same age as their children, so my mother-in-law often gets the grandchildren and great-grandchildren mixed up. And, my stepson is the same age as my youngest brother. Oh, and my father's youngest brother is the same age as my husband, so it's a little weird for my parents too :D

4. I have a weird and irrational fear of spiders. I won't even look at a picture of one. I even hate those fake, plastic ones - and get seriously ticked off if you try to tease me with one (I have noticed that I often channel my fear into anger...more on this in a sec)

This fear plays out in two different ways, depending on the size of the spider. If it is relatively small, my fear of it makes me so angry that I grab the nearest hard object and pummel it to death until there is nothing left of it...at all....however, if there is any size to it whatsoever (especially in the body region - I don't like the legs, but I can handle a tiny body and long legs) - then I am paralyzed with fear. I'd kill them if they came after me or the kids....but usually I will call my husband or whoever is handy (I had my landlady come over to kill a few for me before). There was one on my doorbell once...I didn't see it until I went back in the house from being outside. After seeing it, I was trapped in my house until a neighbor came to visit - she very sweetly took off her shoe and squashed him :D

5. I like bananas, but I don't like anything banana flavored. I don't know why.

6. I am severely addicted to reading...it gets in the way of everything. If I am in the middle of a really good book, I will let the house fall down around my ears until I finish it. Luckily, I read really fast, so a 300 page book will only take me a day.

7. I can bake but not cook. This one also confuses me...I mean, a recipe is a recipe, right? But for some reason, regular dishes just don't turn out all that great, but cookies, cakes, brownies, etc....oh yeah, yumfest :D Of course, maybe that is because I pour all the love into the baking :D

Okay, there you go, seven things about me :) Hmmm, not sure who to tag back, so I'll think on it for a bit.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

WIP Wednesday

Well, nothing much to report this week. I did get a great start (a new one, the old one got scrapped) :D on Same Mistake, so I am very excited about that.

Other than that, nothing much has happened in my WIP world :D I've been doing more editing, revising, and rewriting than anything else this week. But all of that is going great, so the week hasn't been a total loss!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Monday Mayhem

Well, no real "mayhem" today, unless you count the fact that my house is still destroyed. I've been painting for a week or so now and everything that should be in the bedrooms is now in the halls and spread throughout the other rooms....and I have been on a cleaning and laundry hiatus while I try and get the bedrooms done so I can put all the stuff back in them.

With any luck, I'll be done with my son's room today and then I can start putting the house back together. But I am pretty sure someone will stop by before that happens, because that is how it always works. My house could be spotless for weeks and I won't hear a peep from anyone. But today, with dishes piled on the sinks, baskets of clothes (at least they are clean) all over the front room, furniture and toys spread EVERYWHERE, the bathroom looking like something from my fifth grade science project, and me in my paint covered sweats.....SOMEONE is going to decide today is a good day to visit :D

You know, I used to really hate Mondays, back when I was in school and working. Now I look forward to them. Why? Because then my kids go to preschool and I get 2.5 hours of sweet, heavenly peace and quiet. It is MY time, the time I have set aside to write....and guess how many Mondays I actually get anything done :D It is just so hard to do anything productive, and so easy to just sit and do absolutely nothing, with no one there to demand anything of me.

Today, my husband came home about an hour or so before the kids did. He had been at work all night so he went right to bed. So, instead of writing today - I WENT WITH HIM!!! I took a nap for the first time in years! I think the last time I took a nap was when I was pregnant with my daughter....or maybe every now and then when I've been really sick.

But let me tell you, while I feel completely guilty for not getting anything done (remember the state of my house?), and while my characters are nagging at me to WRITE........that nap felt sooooo good! Maybe I'll be productive next Monday :D