Vonnegut’s Rule 1: Don’t Waste the Reader’s Time

Last time, I listed celebrated author Kurt Vonnegut’s eight rules of fiction writing. Although your memoir is a work of nonfiction, these rules still can guide you in crafting a piece of writing that is interesting to read.

Rule 1: Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

For most of you, your memoir will not be read by strangers. However, your friends and relatives deserve just as much consideration! They’re interested in your life’s events but still do not want to have their time wasted. It’s important to remind yourself frequently of this rule. Since you’re writing your autobiography, apparently you feel that your life is interesting. Don’t make your memoir boring!

Include stories that your readers may not have heard before. These can be just small tales that you didn’t bother to tell people but now provide insight into who you are. Be candid about your emotional reactions to the events you recapture. Write in a compelling fashion to create a vivid picture of your early years so that your children and grandchildren will truly understand what it was like to grow up when you did. Describe in detail the visuals, sounds and smells. Mention what the weather was like on the day you’re recounting. Using these devices will keep your readers wanting to continue reading about your life and feeling that the hours they spend reading about you is time well-spent.