Monday, August 10, 2009

Dear Kerrie: Memoir Writing


Every Monday I will answer your writing questions. So send me them by Friday each week. No question is too small or too big and I will do my best to get to all of them.





Dear Kerrie,

Thank you so much for your help with writing. Your answers are very helpful.
I have a non-fiction question about writing a book with somebody. The book is not a biography but more about their current life. Would this be considered a memoir? Would it be written in first person? Would you use first person, even if the ghostwriter was writing most of it? Would you start it with something current(exciting) , and then go back to their past?

Bill
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Dear Bill,

These are all good questions. Let's look at each question separately.

1. The book is not a biography but more about their current life. Would this be considered a memoir?
This depends on how you write it.

A memoir doesn't have to take place way in the past. A memoir tells a story about someone. The time table of that story can be a decade, a few years, a few weeks or even a few days. When it happens doesn't matter but how you write it does.

Typically a memoir reads like a novel and is in first person. There are real-life characters, a plot, tension and resolution. A memoir provides a snapshot into an event in someone's life. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert is a story about nine months of her adult life and her quest to find herself. Frank McCourts, Angela's Ashes takes place during a longer time span, from when he is two until he is a young adult.

You can also write your story as a nonfiction book. Here you can tell the story but also weave in informational pieces. A nonfiction book becomes more of a resource. Jack Canfield, in his book The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, weaves his personal stories with information on how to create success in your life. Award winning speaker LeAnn Thieman starts each chapter of her book, Balancing Life in Your War Zones: A Guide to Physical, Mental, and Spiritual Health, with a part of her personal story about operation babylift. She then follows it with the life lesson and information on how to lead a more balanced life.

2. Would it be written in first person?
If it is a memoir-absolutely

3. Would you use first person, even if the ghostwriter was writing most of it?
Yes. This is called an "as told to" story. You write is as if you are the other person. These are one of my favorite things to write. Make sure you interview the person thoroughly, especially with a book. Then on the cover of the book it would have by Jane Doe as told to Bob Smith.

4. Would you start it with something current(exciting) , and then go back to their past?

Yes. Remember a memoir should read like a story, so you need to get your reader hooked at the beginning. You don't want to start chronologically. Hit the reader with something exciting and then weave in the back story throughout the rest of the book.

I have written about memoir writing in previous blogs. You can click here to read those posts. One post even recommends some memoirs to read (very important if you are going to write one).

Happy Writing!
~Kerrie

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