Make “Reducing Decisions” When You Plan Your Memoir

Make “Reducing Decisions” When You Plan Your Memoir
This essay we’re examining all summer, “How to Write a Memoir” by William Zinsser, is so rich with good advice that it may take us well into the fall. So here’s another Zinsser pearl of wisdom: think small, not grand. You may start out to write a comprehensive, final-word story of your entire life, complete with a history of your heritage, a review of every school you attended and job you held, a roundup of your friends and details about all of the significant episodes that happened over your lifetime. But, really, that would take volumes, and it would be daunting to start. Zinsser suggests you begin with a wide lens and then narrow your focus.
“ Most people embarking on a memoir are paralyzed by the size of the task,” Zinsser observers. “The past looms over them in a thousand fragments, defying them to impose on it some kind of order. Because of that anxiety, many memoirs linger for years half written, or never get written at all.”
To point you in a direction, he continues, “you must make a series of reducing decisions….Remember that you are the protagonist in your own memoir, the tour guide. You must find a narrative trajectory for the story you want to tell and never relinquish control. This means leaving out of your memoir many people who don’t need to be there. Like siblings.” Leave out siblings! That just sounds wrong! But it’s not their story; it’s yours. You can mention them without going into a parallel story of their lives.
“Families are complex organisms, especially if you trace them back several generations,” Zinsser notes. “Decide to write about your mother’s side of the family or your father’s side, but not both. Return to the other one later and make it a separate project.” That’s something we often forget—nothing says that this has to be your first, last and only memoir. After you write about one aspect of your life, you may find it easier to start on a new, still autobiographical, book on a whole new topic—proving it does take volumes to cover your fascinating life.
http://theamericanscholar.org/how-to-write-a-memoir/#.UaTLItKsjTo

The essay we’re examining all summer, “How to Write a Memoir” by William Zinsser, is so rich with good advice that it may take us well into the fall. So here’s another Zinsser pearl of wisdom: think small, not grand. You may start out to write a comprehensive, final-word story of your entire life, complete with a history of your heritage, a review of every school you attended and job you held, a roundup of your friends and details about all of the significant episodes that happened over your lifetime. But, really, that would take volumes, and it would be daunting to start. Zinsser suggests you begin with a wide lens and then narrow your focus.

“Most people embarking on a memoir are paralyzed by the size of the task,” Zinsser observers. “The past looms over them in a thousand fragments, defying them to impose on it some kind of order. Because of that anxiety, many memoirs linger for years half written, or never get written at all.”

To point you in a direction, he continues, “you must make a series of reducing decisions….Remember that you are the protagonist in your own memoir, the tour guide. You must find a narrative trajectory for the story you want to tell and never relinquish control. This means leaving out of your memoir many people who don’t need to be there. Like siblings.” Leave out siblings! That just sounds wrong! But it’s not their story; it’s yours. You can mention them without going into a parallel story of their lives.

“Families are complex organisms, especially if you trace them back several generations,” Zinsser notes. “Decide to write about your mother’s side of the family or your father’s side, but not both. Return to the other one later and make it a separate project.” That’s something we often forget—nothing says that this has to be your first, last and only memoir. After you write about one aspect of your life, you may find it easier to start on another, still autobiographical, book on a whole new topic—proving it does take volumes to cover your fascinating life.

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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 that extra 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. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!