On Writing Memoir and Agents...

Author:
Publish date:

I spent much of these past few weeks on vacation, but now I'm finally back in the office, plugging away on projects and glancing through the brand new 2009 Guide to Literary Agents, which will be available nationwide soon.

One of the projects I've spent several nights on recently is freelance editing a memoir. To back up a bit here, let me first say something about the memoir genre in general: Everybody wants to write one, it seems. When I go to writers' conferences, there are a disproportionate amount of writers who are trying to sell memoirs (with picture books probably a close second). So I am often listening to memoir pitches and hearing about them. It is rare, though, that I get to read an unpublished one front to back like this and dive into it.

So fresh from editing the manuscript, I humbly offer four tips for those out there penning a memoir:

1. Give us only the best parts.
A lot happens in your life, so writers may summarize lots of information in their pages, but this approach backfires. In your quest to get it all down on paper (in a much too diary-like fashion) and leave no month un-summarized, you have "told, not shown" us everything, and we never slowed down to enjoy scenes of the best moments. Realize that you will end of leaving plenty of the cutting room floor.
2. Ask yourself: Is your life that interesting that someone will spend $25 to read it? If you say yes, identify why. Make that the crux of your book.
3. Establish the themes early.  Is your book about redemption? Family commitment? Overcoming despair? Figure it out and have that theme tie the book together.
4. Write it like a novel. Use cliffhangers, quotes, white space, character development, and the three-act structure. Make sure it begins quickly and hooks us in.

The good news for memoir writers is that plenty of agents want to rep your books, but the bad news is that you're fighting against lots of other writers, so make sure your writing stands apart. You must either have a tremendous story to tell, or a fantastic voice that can make an ordinary story very entertaining.

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Payal Doshi: On Letting Rejection Bring You Clarity

Middle-grade author Payal Doshi discusses the sometimes-disheartening process of querying a novel and how she used rejection to fuel her passion for writing.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: Writer’s Digest Conference Announcements and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce that our 2021 Annual Conference will be virtual, registration is open for our 2021 in-person Novel Conference, and more!

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

Rajani LaRocca: On Letting Your Synopsis Guide Your Writing

In this article, middle-grade author Rajani LaRocca discusses how the synopsis for her newest release, Much Ado About Baseball, guided her writing process.

From Script

Adding Your Personal Connection to Your Stories and Building Your Brand As a Writer (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, Script’s Editor Sadie Dean interviews Dickinson creator/showrunner/EP Alena Smith, learn how to divide and conquer as screenwriter in the business and creating fruitful relationships. Plus, a brand new Script Talk video interview with writer/director/actress Djaka Souaré about her journey as a mentor and mentee in the WOCUnite and #StartWith8Hollywood mentorship programs.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Penfyr: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn penfyr, a Welsh tercet form.

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial Road-Mapping: Start Your Self-Editing Process Here

Editorial road-mapping begins with a challenge of willpower and ends with a battle-plan for transforming your manuscript into the book you dreamed it could be. Let editor Kris Spisak give you that map!

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

6 Tips for Writing a Summer Romance Novel

Summer. Three whole months of bright sunsets and glittering water and endless possibility. Here are 6 tips from romance writer Rachael Lippincott for capturing a tiny bit of that magic in the pages of your next summer romance novel.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Running Empty

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, consider what happens when resources begin to run low or out.

5 Tips for Creating a Fully Realized Historical Setting

5 Tips for Creating a Fully Realized Historical Setting

Research is more than just reading books and articles. Here, author Nekesa Afia gives her top 5 tips for writing a historical setting that will engage and wow your readers.