I once heard an editor from one of the Big 5 publishers say: “I’m looking for books that are both completely unique and exactly the same.” And she laughed.
I laughed too.
But now I've come to believe that the intersection of “completely unique” and “exactly the same” IS the key to writing an effective memoir.
Agents, editors, and publishers like to put books in categories, in boxes. That’s how they know whether they can sell them or not, whether there are readers for those books.
Here are some common categories for memoir:
Cancer journeys. Addiction. Abuse. Trauma. Grief (I read a lot of these). Travel memoirs. Food memoirs. Coming of age. Spiritual journeys. Coming out memoirs.
When there isn’t a clear category, it makes your book more difficult to sell.
Your memoir can’t just be...
Insert sad face.
If you’ve read my latest newsletters or you follow me on social media, you know that I had an essay go viral on today.com.
Haven’t read it yet? Here it is!
What a high that was to have that piece published and to hear that it was one of the site's most viewed posts that week.
And then the comments by members of the general public rolled in…
Some were lovely:
“This is a beautiful story. I applaud her!”
“Love the Slinky story!”
Some were in the vein of: “I’m not a lesbian and I drive a Subaru.”
Are there really that many people incapable of understanding irony or taking a joke?
Or as one commenter wrote: “The number of y’all declaring your heterosexuality because of an inside joke in the LGBTQ community is both...
If you’re contemplating writing a memoir, you might be wondering “How long will it take?” Roll your eyes if anyone tries to give you a definitive answer. There’s so much variation in the writing process, and then there’s the path to publication, another journey altogether.
Here's my memoir timeline, but yours may look totally different, and that's okay.
My new book coaching clients are on fire right now! They have a story or a big idea they are burning to share with the world. We're digging in together to further focus their idea so they can write forward with purpose.
But inevitably there will come a time (or two) when doubt will creep in. When writing feels like a slog. When they will start comparing themselves to more established writers.
When they wonder if it's all worth it. When they wonder if they have anything new to share with the world. When they wonder if anyone will even care.
I get it. I've been there.
Those kinds of doubts creep in when I'm in the messy middle of a draft ... or in the middle of a revision.
Truth be told, those doubts have crept in recently for me.
But instead of getting a book deal, I'm back in the middle of a major revision. I'm tearing my draft apart to write a better book.
And it will be...
I handed my friend J some of my favorite books on memoir, including Mary Karr's The Art of Memoir and Beth Kephart's Handling the Truth. J was an accomplished writer already: she'd had a YA novel traditionally published and also had placed essays with national publications. But this was her first foray into memoir writing, and I could tell she was struggling.
"It's a memoir about my dad," she said, then listed several angles she was hoping to include in her book. Red flags went off in my head. I'd been down that road before with clients and also in my own writing process. There's a natural temptation to want to throw everything in, which often comes from one of two places: First, the feeling that this is your ONLY chance to share everything you want to say. And/or second, you really don't know what you want to say so you'll say it all!
"What's the one thing you want people to walk away from your story knowing?," I said to J after listening to her for a while...
Writers go on a hero’s journey when they make the decision to get their story out of their heads and onto the page.
Queer writers go on a Queero’s Journey!
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