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What Memoir Writers Fear Most

Beck came to me last spring with a vague idea about the story he wanted to write.

Snippets of experiences from my childhood living as a girl and moments of parallel in adulthood, as I re-experience firsts as a man.

Okay.

I knew there was an important story there, and I also knew that "snippets" weren't going to do it justice.

"What are you most afraid of?" I asked. I figured the snippets approach was a way for Beck to protect himself, to guard his heart from further trauma and judgment.

Snippets! So light and breezy!

Because this is a writer who has been abandoned over and over by the people who are supposed to love him most.

"Oh, I'm afraid that people will think my book is a narcissistic journey into nothingness," Beck said.

I chuckled, not because this was funny but because I hear a variation of this fear all the time from writers.

Being afraid that people will think you're a narcissist if you write your story really means you're afraid that no one will...

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Memoir and The One Thing Rule

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!

The One Thing Rule

"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...

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