3 TIPS FOR WRITING A MEMOIR

MEMOIRS DON’T SELL.

MY STORY Anyone who has ever broached the subject of writing their memoir with an agent, publisher, coach, editor, anyone, has heard the same reply – “Don’t bother, memoirs don’t sell, unless you are incredibly famous.” So what to do if you are not a former president, A-list celebrity, or much publicized convicted felon? What if you have an interesting story to tell, or you witnessed an event that you feel compelled to write about or simply want to leave a legacy for family and friends? What if you decide that you are going to go ahead and write a memoir, regardless of the advice of all of the so-called experts? First of all – good for you!

Heeding the advice of experts leads to committee-based decision making in which mediocrity becomes acceptable.

So, if you have decided to write your memoir anyway ( it’s a great place for early stage writers to get their feet wet), then let’s see if we can make it the best that it can be. Good principles of both non-fiction and fiction writing can be applied to help the process and we will deal with three of them here:

  1. WHO WILL READ IT AND WHAT VALUE WILL THEY RECEIVE?    Before you start any writing, consider who will be your target readers and what should they expect your book to deliver in the way of value. How will it make their life better, easier, more interesting? What will it cause them to stop doing, start doing or do differently? Include this thought process even if you are writing your memoir purely for the benefit of your offspring and don’t expect it to ever find a public audience. There’s nothing worse than taking your children for granted with a boringly told tale without a purpose.
  2. LIST FIVE HIGHLIGHTS THAT YOU WILL WRITE ABOUT.    Name the highlights or events and target your writing to revealing the interesting or unknown parts about them. I was once asked to work with a man who had written a 650 page family history but could not name the major events. He was also convinced that he didn’t need an editor because he had “spell-check.” I promise you that no one will make it through your opus unless you respect their need to be not only informed, but entertained, as well. If your life has been so eventful that it requires dozens of separate and unconnected events to be explained fully, consider a follow up book. “FIVE” is a target but a reasonable one to offer your readers a glimpse into your story. No, I didn’t take on the “family history” project – he knew better than I.
  3. USE DRAMATIC TENSION TO MOVE THE BOOK FORWARD – JUST LIKE A NOVEL.    So, you need to be careful here – if you make up something in the story that is not true – it’s not a memoir, it’s fiction based on real life events (see A MILLION TINY PIECES for what can happen here). The only way to keep the reader interested is to create, or reveal, the drama in the events so that they can understand that the protagonist (you?) ran the risk of either losing something significant or not getting something that you really wanted or needed. Maintain the idea of suspense throughout your writing and let the reader be relieved or peeved with the results. They will want to read more if the outcome is in doubt.

Memoirs are kind of a hybrid writing project based on actual facts and events but in desperate need of a good dose of excitement, challenge and plotting. Start with an outline and look carefully for those ways of pacing your story like a novel with suspense, and the possibility that life doesn’t always work out the way you planned. Have fun with it – who knows where it could lead.

One last thing, write from who you really are rather than that public persona you have been wearing and your readers, no matter who they are, will become your fans.

(previously published on “Book Mentor” with my own permission)

BOXER VS. BRIEFS

I originally posted this piece on January 22, 2008 on my old blog, Mindgass but for some reason feel compelled to reveal it again. If you are sensitive to certain sexist comments… well I apologize… sort of. Perhaps it was a degree of discomfort while sitting at my desk yesterday that has encouraged me to re-share this age old dilemma in the male world. For whatever reason, I offer this for your reading comfort and joy.

Well, sometimes we just have to take on the major issues of our time. We can’t get our shorts in a knot, become frustrated or shrink from our responsibilities. Ladies, this here is man talk and we must ask you not to read any further. We will be revealing feelings, confronting age old beliefs, and uncovering situations far too sensitive for your delicate eyes and ears. Thank you for reading no further.

OK, guys, now that it is just us, let’s get to business as we confront the age old question of mankind, “Whether ’tis nobler in the hind to suffer the slings and horrors of outrageous skivies, or is it better to cast aside our constrictions and embrace a modicum of independence.” Shakespeare said something like that until his editor insisted on a rewrite – really! I had thought about adding a poll to this blog to discover how many of us wear boxers and how many wear briefs, but I figured some of you would use a different spelling of the word “poll” and then we would degenerate into a series of bad puns, short jokes and all sorts of word mayhem would ensue.
It seems to me that there is a time and place for both voluminous boxers and form-fitting briefs alike.Underwear+1Let’s face it, the women have it easy – they can wear almost anything, or better still nothing, so long as whatever they choose is combined with a garter belt and high heels – job done, the perfect outfit for any occasion. We, on the other hand, must give careful consideration to so many factors like colour, size, comfort, “dressing” preference and of course the potential for some kind of exposure. As you know, some things are just not right, for instance, while sitting on the patio in a pair of shorts, boxers are so inappropriate when your legs are akimbo and we can’t help but notice a significant degree of discomfort from those sitting across from us. In this case, briefs keep the package wrapped and there is little risk of sunburn as an added benefit. If the colour you choose is close to the colour of your outerwear, then a certain degree of mystery can heighten the curiosity of the opposite number (hopefully, they are also the opposite sex, but who am I to judge?). This is very important gentlemen, white briefs, sometimes referred to as, tighty whiteys, are only appropriate on two occasions – when you are playing tennis at a conventional club and if you are in the U.S. Navy and going on parade. briefsOtherwise, choose a colour. You can just imagine the embarrassment of finding yourself in the bedroom unexpectedly, and as the moment of truth arrives you stand with your back to the bed to allow your Dockers to slide down your thighs and hear a slight gasp as your lady-love spots the vertical residue that has attached itself and is in high contrast to its snowy white host and then as you turn to face her, you realize that you didn’t shake before reentry and the humiliation doubles. All thoughts of romance now destroyed because you didn’t take the necessary precautions and at the age most of you have reached – it may be your last chance. Don’t let this happen to you – wear anything but white! And while we are at it, the leopard skin printed thong, sometimes called a banana-hammock, is never appropriate if you are over the age of 20.
Boxers also present a few issues that need to be discussed. Because of their excess fabric, we find that they often cling to our trousers and after sitting for any length of time, a certain adjustment is required to release their folds from our folds. This can be awkward in restaurants and other public places. I also find it dangerous to be hurtling down the highway and requiring a massive shift of undergarment in order to return my voice to its usually dulcet basso tones. Also, we need to address the manufacturers of said garments; the type of material you use is very important. Too often, we have found that boxers with funny sayings, beer signs and sports team logos are made of a very stiff fabric thus causing excessive chafing and discomfiture to the nether regions. And one more thing, is it too much to expect a button on every flap – for God’s sake, I’ll pay the extra 5 cents to avoid the feeling of helplessness when the boys are accidentally set free! This usually happens as I address a room full of people expecting wisdom and no lectern in sight.underwear Oh, the travails of being a man – if only women understood the oppression and stress of maintaining this high standard of excellence. “Woe be unto us!”pleaded Bill Shakespeare, until his wife made him change it.