Posts Tagged ‘memoirs’

I was thinking of writing a post about how to write a book/your memoirs but then I realised, hey, I have no clue, that’s why I read all your posts, isn’t it?

Alexis Grant recently wrote about feeling overwhelmed by a new wave of revisions. I can really relate to that feeling. That’s when I realised, I have knowledge to share about writing – something I am getting particularly good at actually…

How to not write a book

Step 1. When you sit down to write each day, take time to “just quickly” check your emails/facebook/blog.

A good, strong coffee is absolutely essential to any writing project

Step 2. Once you’ve revised your emails/facebook/blog realise your coffee has gone cold and, hey, surely you can’t be expected to writing anything in pulitzer/booker/nobel contention (hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?) without caffeine. Go make another cup. Perhaps notice that the dishes need doing/cat needs feeding/bed needs making/TV needs watching while you are at it and consciensiously deal to these small matters before returning to your desk.

Step 3. Finally sit down to write only to discover you’re not in the mood. As everyone knows, creative people do their best work when they feel inspired so it would be pointless to push it now. It’s better to wait until inspiration strikes (please note, it may take weeks or months for inspiration to strike so please be patient.)

Step 4. Tell all your friends and family, neighbours, workmates, and strangers on the bus that you are writing a book and describe in detail what it is about. This is a really good way to make yourself commit to the process.

Step 5. Read widely in and around your genre for inspiration. Be floored by the brilliance of your favourite writers and then feel intimidated and curse yourself for having the audacity to even want to be a writer when you are nothing more than a talentless hack who will never amount to anything.

Anne's diary was a best seller

Step 6. Start writing by copying out notes from your journals. People love reading other people’s diaries, right? I mean Anne Frank’s diary was a best-seller.

Step 7. Write about 10,000 words and then realise a major flaw in the current structure/point of view. Begin revisions now before you go too far down the wrong path. It is very important with writing to start out on the right foot.

Step 8. When your word count isn’t hitting the mark include words written in your blog/work emails/shopping list – it will make you feel much better about your progress.

Step 9. When all other steps are completed and you are well on your way to not writing a great book, be sure to write a brilliant and incredibly useful post about it on your blog so other aspiring do-not-writers can follow in your footsteps.

If you faithfully follow these 9 steps I guarantee that you will be not writing a book in no time! Good luck!


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I’m feeling tense. Here I am, writing my memoirs, and I keep jumping between present and past tense as I write. I know that just won’t do but I can’t decide which one feels right. I like the immediacy of the present tense, but I would have to re-write my beginning (which begins at the end, so to speak) in order to use it. (Let’s face it though, I’m going to have to re-write a LOT either way.)

If I don't decide on a tense soon my head might explode, and then there'd be brains all over my manuscript

Is anyone else having this problem?

I would really appreciate some advice from the more seasoned writers amongst us – I have no real training in writing per se so I am lost when it comes to all this. I just write on instinct, but that seems to be failing me on this one. (Actually, as I just wrote that I realised it wasn’t strictly true. I had decided to write in the past tense but, as I am writing, I keep slipping into the present-tense style that feels more natural. Does that mean that I should be writing in the present? Or is it just that I am a schizophrenic or undisciplined writer?)

Can I write in the present tense and still allude to future events or realisations? Or is that only possible if I write in past tense, and hence from a position of hindsight?

Are the rules so important in writing? Can I break them if I want to? Don’t you know I have a problem with authority? Aaaaaaaagggghhhh! I really am getting tense about my tense.

Help please!

By the by, I just read an interesting little article by Marg McAlister about cutting back the use of “I” in your first person writing (which will no doubt be a major focus of my editing process).

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I am writing a travel memoir. Most of it is about me, obviously, but there are a few key “characters” that come and go from the tale. I am struggling a little bit with how to deal with them.

Do you kiss and tell?

First of all, I have changed their names, and occasionally melted two or more real people down into one character in the story, but it is hard to know where to draw the line on exposure. I am trying to keep other characters as a distant tertiary focus to (a) myself and my own journey and (b) the places I visited. I don’t want to use other people’s stories as key elements in my narrative, but sometimes they are/were key elements. In particular I am worried about exposing too much about lovers and longer-term travel companions.

Is anyone else grappling with a similar dilemma? Should I talk to them first? Let them read what I’ve written? Completely fictionalise the characters in my story? Or just publish under a pen name and hope they never wise up? Advice please!

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