Back to Basics: Writing & Publishing Memoir

It can be very difficult to sell a memoir when you’re
not famous. Without
a celebrity’s fan base, or a loyal and captive audience, then you
need to write like a master, or have such a fantastical story that no one
can divert their attention from it!

The other question that often arises with memoir is: How true does it have to be? That may sound like a funny question, but it’s a valid one.

Below you’ll find links to the most useful advice I’ve seen (or offered) in the past couple years on writing and publishing memoir.

OR: If you prefer to have someone present material to you in a focused and interactive format, then I highly recommend How to Write a Marketable Memoir presented by Paula Balzer. This online event is apart of Writer’s Digest’s free writing webinar series.

From Writer’s Digest magazine

The Market for Memoirs (July/August 2010), an agent roundtable on what they’re looking for and what sells

The Key Elements of Writing a Good Memoir (July/August 2010), on story arc

A Hook for Every Book (July/August 2010), by agent Paula Balzer on finding a salable hook for your memoir

Do Memoirs Have to Be True? (July/August 2010)

Full Disclosure by Laurie Rosin (July/August 2010), on why you shouldn’t gloss over the tough stuff when writing your memoir (look on right-hand side of site for link to article)

My own advice at NO RULES

5 Common Flaws in Memoir Projects

Your No. 1 Challenge If You’re Writing a Memoir

Your Self-Help Book Should Not Be a Thinly Disguised Memoir

Guest posts at NO RULES

Creating Memoir That’s Bigger Than Me, Me, Me

Writing Memoir: Art vs. Confessional

3 Important Privacy Issues in Memoir

My favorite agent & editor advice on memoir

Why is it so difficult to find representation or a publisher for a memoir focusing on overcoming personal adversity? from agent Rachelle Gardner

Agent Rachelle Gardner on writing memoir [similar to above, but different angle]

My favorite book on personal stories & memoir

The Situation and The Story by Vivian Gornick

What are your favorite articles, blog posts, or books that specifically address memoir writing? Share in the comments! I’d love to find more resources. In my mind, this is a topic that’s not covered often enough.

Photo credit: godutchbaby

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22 thoughts on “Back to Basics: Writing & Publishing Memoir

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  9. Barbara McDowell Whitt

    James Michener’s Writer’s Handbook-Explorations in Writing and Publishing was published in 1992. I feel fortunate to own a copy which I found at a second hand bookstore. It is a trove of actual examples from Michener’s own files in the days of onion skin and carbon copies. Included are Michener’s and his editors’ handwritten corrections and suggestions. It also shows how incredibly far the writing and publishing industry has come in 20 years.

  10. Lisa McKay

    Thanks for this! Just finishing up draft three (or, uh, really nine or so if you count "partial completes and reroutes) of my memoir and found it really useful to browse through these links. All the best.

  11. Les Edgerton

    Jane, great material! I’ve got a couple of dozen how-tos on writing memoir and all of them have something to offer, but in my opinion, none of them even remotely close to Tristine Rainier’s "Your Life as Story." Absolutely brilliant craft book on memoir and she’ll show you how to structure your memoir according to the material you have. Along with Janet Burroway’s "Writing Fiction" these are the two best books on writing I’ve ever read.


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