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A Memoir is About Connections

Every book has a known and an unknown. For a memoir, the unknown is the connections.

Working from a database of what you remember, what you may have previously written down in a journal, or what others may remind you is the raw material of memoir. As such, it may seem like just execution to get it all down.

But what if you took time to think on the page? To dig, not only into why something happened, but what it meant for other times in your life?

The ability to make those connections is what will matter to the reader, not the details of your life. The connections are what connects.

Editorial Feedback: The Seven Levels of Reaction

I have noticed that when a writer — myself included — receives an editor’s comments they go through a continuum of reactions.

  1. Hell no, I’m not doing that. Is this person stupid?
  2. Almost certainly a terrible idea but I’ll think about it one more time.
  3. That’s interesting.
  4. Oh crap, of course. I’m going to pretend that was there all along.
  5. Can I just steal this comment and put it right in the manuscript? Or do I have to ask?
  6. I wonder if they understand this subject matter better than I do?
  7. I am blessed to be in contact with someone this smart!

P.S. These aren’t really like the five stages of grief; it’s okay to live all of these places at the same time. I mean, it will have to be… ’cause it’s real.

2017 = Opinions. 2018 = Ideas.

I’m ready to take a break from I’m right and you’re wrong, and not even just proclaiming angst about the “polarization” of our world while secretly waiting for my turn to talk…so I can show you why you’re an idiot.

I’m ready to ask a question and listen for an answer. I’m ready to hear your ideas and not be mortally offended by them but see what sticks as I further discover my own values.

And I’m ready to embrace those values without forcing you to do the same. 2017 was the year of the opinion. 2018 will be the year of the idea.

A Disappointing Bag of Chips

Too much flash-forwarding makes for a disappointing bag of chips…you open it to find it is two-thirds air.

The reason is the same in memoir and fiction: every time you jump into the future, you lessen the narrative drive. In real life we don’t know what’s going to happen. We have to endure the drama of the present and try to figure things out then and there.

A flash forward when you are rounding out a theme, strengthening a narrator’s relationship with the reader, making additional connections while hinting that life goes on outside of the immediate frame of the story…great.

Just make sure to limit your flash forwards to preserve proportion, emphasis and momentum.