YOUR STORY —— TOLD YOUR WAY
If you’re thinking about writing a memoir, but wondering how to start, or when to start, or whether to start—here’s a couple of tips.
Tip One: A memoir, unlike an autobiography, does not strive to capture the entire life story, It focuses instead on memorable moments, key turning points, and peak experiences. Each of these these mini-memoirs may possess an inner unity, and each may stand alone. Taken together, however, they may (probably will) tell a larger story.
This episodic structure can provide some immediate payoffs. It eases the writing task. It clears away the need for smooth transitions and a strict linear line—and it allows for stories that don't easily fit together.
Famed American novelist John Steinbeck, writing to a friend, offered this advice:
Don’t start by trying to make the book chronological. Just take a period. Then try to remember it so clearly that you can see things: what colors and how warm or cold and how you got there. Then try to remember people. And then just tell what happened. It is important to tell what people looked like, how they walked, what they wore, what they ate. Put it all in. Don’t try to organize it. And put in all the details you can remember. You will find that in a very short time things will begin coming back to you, [things] you thought you had forgotten. Do it for very short periods at first but kind of think of it when you aren’t doing it. Don’t think back over what you have done. Don’t think of literary form. Let it get out as it wants to. Over tell it in the matter of detail—cutting comes later. The form will develop in the telling.
Tip Two: Superb writers require good editors. Merely good writers require superb editors—but all writing requires some editing. Don’t go it alone. I can provide a range of manuscript editing services, while also serving as writing coach, creative consultant, and overall booster—helping you maintain momentum and keeping you on track.
A well-structured, image-rich book needn't be lengthy. Moreover, you needn’t wait until retirement years to begin assembling your story, or stories. Indeed, many active professionals are finding rewarding (and career-enhancing) uses for autobiographic writings. Others, those less interested (for now) in a strictly personal account, are moving toward a family history—a more inclusive narrative. Still others are choosing to recount the story of a beloved family member, or other significant figure. Lots of ways to do it.
I’m always up for some “book chat.” An initial consultation will get us started. We can assess your writing and editing needs—and go from there. We may find creative ways to combine your personal, family, and career histories.
Orlo J. Otteson
408 Spring Street North 202 Northfield MN 55057