Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Another Key Memoir Writing Principle: Don’t Squander Your Words

Make sure every word and sentence you include in your memoir has a reason to be there.

With this next guideline, we’ll be halfway through Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing short stories that I’m tweaking to apply to your non-fictional memoir.

Rule 4: Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

You might think that because Vonnegut intended these rules specifically for writers of short stories, not even novels, that the word “short??? is key to understanding why a story should embrace Rule 4. But I would argue that even if your memoir is as long as Ulysses at roughly 268,000 words, you should keep this rule at close hand. In fact, I’d swap out “sentence??? for “word???—you should be able to justify the inclusion of every single word you write. If you don’t need a “very,??? a “really??? or an “I think,??? what’s it doing in there?

However, I will permit playing a bit fast and loose with determining what information reveals character or advances the action. In your autobiography, you’ll have to provide explanation and background, which at first glance does not seem to meet either of Rule 4’s requirements but, in my opinion, it certainly can if crafted properly; it’s okay if the payoff does not show up until chapters later. If the sentence truly does not contribute in even a minor way toward revealing someone’s character or advancing the action, though, then I agree with Kurt: your tale is better off without it.

Like this article?

Login

Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!