Your Life Is A Book: How To Craft & Publish Your Memoir by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann is my favorite book on memoir writing. Written by women in the publishing business, it’s heavy on the practicalities, light on the sappy girlie “dig deep inside” stuff.
Favorite quote: “Start anywhere. Because no matter where you start, you’ll end up where you’re meant to be.”
Other main points:
- Consider these subjects: gender, race, politics, class, culture, religion, location, food, sex. All can provide a thread for the narrative.
- Memoir must include epiphanies that you build up to after which the person’s life is changed.
- Read other memoirs.
- Ask what is the story you’re telling to yourself about yourself? Write it down in a few pages, then see if that’s your main theme.
- Write down your dreams. Reread your old letters.
- Your journal is not your memoir.
- Writing prompt: What is one scene from your life that explains your whole life?
- Each scene has 3 jobs: – To advance the plot, to deepen the characterization, to engage a major theme.
- Don’t start with waking up or with the weather. Scenes should be unique.
- Bring in a sense of place and time, good settling details. Your settling is another character. Make stories memorable. Don’t be in “no time.” Engage the senses.
- Tell what the body is doing, what place and year or era it is.
- Write about food! When in doubt, it’s a go-to. Describing meal details is very emotionally provocative and symbolic. Also very relatable.
- Write about a journey.
- If your book is channeled, channel a good editor, too.
- Write about moral dilemmas.
Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.