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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year Writing Resolutions - Time to Start Writing: Guest Blog Post with Judy Watters

We've wiped the slate clean it's now a great time to get your writing goals in gear. If you're uncertain where to start, why not consider writing a memoir? We're always told to "write what we know." What do you know more about than yourself and maybe your family history?

To give you some great writing tips, I've enlisted the help of a wonderful writer who knows all about memoir writing. She actually runs memoir writing classes and has written her own memoir entitled, The Road Home.

So for today, I'm turning my blog over to her. Take it away, Judy.

Thanks, Chris for letting me share my ideas with your readers. So, should you write a memoir?. Why not? How I wish I had known my paternal grandmother. I would have loved to hear her stories of escaping Russia and the Bolshevik Revolution. Those stories were lost forever when she came through Ellis Island and died after giving birth to my father. Many of my father's experiences in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in New York City are also lost to me and to the generations that follow me.

The first question you need to consider in writing your memoir is what will you write? Usually a memoir covers only a small segment of a person's life. The focus could be on early school days and how different family members helped in developing your own character. Perhaps it covers the long-term care you gave to a loved one and how you coped with letting go at his/her death. It might reveal the turmoil in a troubled marriage and lessons learned by both you and your spouse as your bond strengthened and healed. 

The next question goes hand-in-hand with your first question. What is your purpose for writing your memoir? Several people who I have worked with have the burning desire to finish their written memoir to give as gifts to their family. Their hope is that many generations to come will read their story and know some of the family struggles and joys. On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps you dream of being the next New York Times best seller with your memoir of how you pulled yourself out of a devastating pit of despair and lived to tell it all. Your end goal will determine your voice. If it's written for your family alone, you might use a more familiar tone than if you are writing for the outside world.

What format will you write your story? In mine, The Road Home: The Legacy that was, is and is to Come, I used life lessons. Each chapter's story ended with a moral—something I learned through that experience. Alma Wakefield wrote her memoir Amanda Grace about her Downs Syndrome daughter, using character traits her daughter taught her through the years. One chapter she titled "Patience" and another, “Acceptance.” Sheri Hunt wrote her memoir The Oldest Sin in the Book as a self-help book. Through her own pain of food addiction, she writes about how she found the source of her healing.

Now that you know what you will write and how you will format your story, you are ready to outline your book. Some writers prefer to just wing it. They start writing and let the pen take them through their story. I actually did this until I got so confused, I had to stop and organize my stories. So here's my old fashioned suggestion. Get 3 X 5 cards and write a short one to two sentence synopsis of each chapter or just give that story a title. For instance, one chapter in my own book involved my older sister knocking out my brother’s two front teeth. I wrote “Life is Painful at Times.” Under that, I wrote “Virginia knocks out Rodney's teeth.” After I had finished thirty cards, I organized my cards in a logical storyline and started again. I understand the Scrivener software program does the same thing, but I have not tried this yet. I'm still of the old school. 

Now that you know your purpose for writing, what you will write, the format in which you will write
Get those stories written down for the generations to come, and while you’re at it, enjoy the process. 
your story and you have outlined your book, you are ready to write. It's at this time that your marketing begins, but that's for another post. 
Thanks, Judy for your suggestions. If you'd like to learn more about Judy and her classes, here's the link to her blog.
Now, start writing! You can't get published unless you complete a book.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, Christine, and nice to hear from Judy Watters again. The suggestion on using 3X5 cards might be old school, but it's still a good way to organize the main points you want to include in your writing.