How to Find the Unique Angle for Your Memoir

"We're really excited about your book," the thirty-something editor said to me. "Because we want to publish the plurality of the queer experience."

Maybe that was her nice way of saying that there aren't a lot of books out there by middle-aged white women who discover they are LGBTQ+ in their fifties :)

For a long time LGBTQ+ literature has been largely “L" and “G” and white.

Yes, we needed and need those stories. But we also need a plurality of LGBTQ+ stories to share the plurality of the queer experience.

Stories like IN THE DREAM HOUSE and GENDER QUEER from BIPOC queer writers like Carmen Maria Machado and Maia Kobabe, respectively. From lesbians, gay, trans folx, bisexual, nonbinary, young and old queer folx. From every color in the rainbow.

But what if you're not part of the rainbow? Does the editor's comment have anything to do with you?

Yes. Here's why it matters to ALL writers:

I've never forgotten something another editor once said. She was from one of those big New York publishing houses, not a university press like my editor.

"I'm looking for books that are exactly the same and completely unique." this New York editor said and laughed.

Say what?

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about how to make your memoir "exactly the same."

Here are two important ways you can make your memoir completely unique:

#1: No one on earth has lived your exact experience in the exact same way.

If you write compelling scenes with specific details and dialogue, your story will come alive and meet the uniqueness test.

Example: Someone else could come out in their mid fifties like I did and her story would be “unique” to her experience and different from the story I share in my memoir, THE ONLY WAY THROUGH IS OUT.

Example: Someone else could've lost a daughter and had to take care of their grandchildren and their book would be very different from Roger Rosenblatt's MAKING TOAST.

The key is getting very specific and writing in scene, not summary.

#2: Identify your fresh take on a subject and lean into it.

A story about coming out looks very different if you are a twenty-something Latinx from a religious background than a fifty-something white woman who lived in a liberal bubble. What does that twenty-something Latinx from a religious background have to say about the coming out experience that may not have been said before?

A grief story by a thirty-year-old lesbian who lost her wife looks a lot different from one by a sixty-five-year- old woman who lost her husband of forty years.

This is exactly what Carmen Maria Machado did in her masterpiece memoir, IN THE DREAM HOUSE.

She took a subject that has been written about before—domestic violence—and examined it from the angle of a same-gender relationship, an angle she had not seen written about before in memoir.

If you're worried that your story isn't unique enough or that the world doesn't need one more [fill in the blank] story, now you know what to do.

Get really specific and find your unique way into the story.

We need all kinds of different stories from all kinds of different writers.

Because representation matters.

I'm doing my best to represent the middle-aged white woman LGBTQ+ space.

What's your unique angle?

Find it. 

Because your story matters too.


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