You Have a Story to Tell

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Maya Angelou, memoirist and poet, “is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences.” [Wikipedia.org]

Strictly speaking, they were memoirs, not autobiographies because each one dealt with a portion of her life.

 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

—Maya Angelou

Every life is unique and every life has moments of great joy and moments of great sorrow. Sometimes these moments mark major intersections and major shifts of direction. Sometimes they lift the individual above the ordinary, and sometimes they sink the individual into the depths of dispair. These moments are noteworthy and well worth chronicling.

Your special moments may be inspirational, or they may be cautionary tales. Either way, they are worth sharing. Whether you are a seasoned writer or a newbie, writing memoir is different. All writing is hard work, solitary work, and the big problem with memoir is that it is also intensely personal and frought with emotion and decisions about what to include and what may be better left unsaid.

Memoir doesn’t have a plot, but it does have characters. Sometimes it has more characters than you know what to do with. Where do you start? What makes a memoir memorable? How should the differences in your story and that of Cousin Betty be handled? Where can I turn if I need help?

Everyone has a story. Make yours extraordinary!

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Question: What’s the most extraordinary event in your life? Please share.

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Give Yourself the Gift of Time

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Time is the most important asset a writer has. Yet it leaks between our fingers with a steady tick-tock that no one can stop. All we can do is try to make the best use of it as it passes.

We all have twenty-four hours in each and every day—and it’s never enough.

The obvious and often suggested hint is to set the alarm a little earlier. This is a great suggestion unless you’re barely getting enough sleep now. Sleep deprivation can have devastating effects on both your physical and emotional health. Irritable, impatient, and quick to anger, you will make those around you as miserable as you are. Your immune system suffers, and chronic health problems can result, as well as premature aging. (Hey, let’s not go there, time is passing too fast already.) But the worst effect of lack of sleep is a decrease in cognitive thinking. Not a good thing for a writer. Time and brain power combine for good writing.

What’s the solution? Look for ways to increase your efficiency. If you type “How to save time in the morning” into a search engine, you’ll get almost 300,000,000 hits! Sure, a lot of them are not applicable to your life style, and a lot of them are duplicates, but that still leaves gazillions of ways to shave minutes off your morning routine and make a few minutes for writing.

  • Don’t hit the snooze button—it gives interrupted and poor quality sleep.
  • Let your hair half-dry naturally while you do other things. Saves on blow drying.
  • Set out your clothes the night before. Ditto if you pack a lunch. If you can, pick your clothes for the week, and pack a week’s worth of lunches at once. Freezers work.
  • Turn your gadgets off. Do not check your tweets or emails before writing.
  • Keep a pad and paper by your bed, or make a voice memo on your phone. Before going to sleep, plan what you will write in the morning. That way you hit the keys running and make use of each of the minutes you saved.

A minute saved is a minute to use for writing. Cute 3d santa with shopping cart and christmas gift

Question: Do you have any tips that save time during your day? Please share.

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3 Tips to Keep the Keys Clicking

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DON’T LOOK BACK

Everyone wants to write faster, but writers get obsessed over it in November, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month. Believe me, that is not an easy task. So here are 3 ways you can speed up your writing.

  1. 1. First and foremost— Turn off your internal editor. Keep moving forward. Do NOT stop to look up a word or wander off to do research. Highlight questionable words and phrases or write them in all CAPS and add –SP? –L/UP after them so you will know why they’re in caps.
  2. Don’t Look Back—Do NOT start the day by reading what you wrote yesterday. That leads to making changes, which will eat away at your writing time. If you stopped in the middle of a scene, read the last paragraph or two to remember exactly where you were, but don’t stop to change anything. One writer I know kept working on Chapter One for over a year before her writer friends convinced her that an imperfect story is better than no story at all.
  3. Set realistic writing goals—If the 50,000 word goal set by NaNoWriMo is too ambitious for you, set your own. Use long and short term goals. Break your writing into small steps you can realistically accomplish and even exceed. Immediate goals can be bites of time. Perhaps write for 20 minutes, then get up for an exercise break. Walk around. Have a piece of chocolate. Your goal can be 500 words before lunch, another 500 after lunch, or even 500 words in the full day. It will vary by the amount of time you have available to write and your own writing style and ability. Do, however, try to stretch your comfort limits. Don’t let the numbers scare you. Five hundred words is only two double spaced pages. Remember, they don’t have to be two pages of perfection. Fast writing that churns up the word count is for rough drafts. Polishing comes later.

Small goals strung together make large manuscripts. setting goals

Question: Do you have any tips that churn-up your word count? Please share.

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3 Memoir Myths

 Myth #1 – Only old people write memoir

elderly_man_holding_a_custom_text_sign_12871Not true! Whole sub-genres exist written by younger people. Mother-daughter books, stories of addiction and recovery, stories of growing up in all sorts of difficult or unusual circumstances…the list goes on and on. Even the stories written by senior citizens usually revolve around events that took place when they were young.

Kimberly Rae Miller’s Coming Clean: A Memoir is a great example of a young author telling a tale of an unusual childhood. She has over 2,200 reader reviews averaging 4.5 stars.

 

Myth #2 – Your life has to be exciting (or horrible, or miserable) to write a memoir

Again, not true! While many memoirs, like many novels, depend waves_of_direction_800_wht_20801on the excitement of the action or horror or other negative emotion to draw in readers, that is far from the only way to write a memoir. Just like novels, some memoirs depend on humor, or romance to keep their readers engaged.

Don’t Sing at the Table: Life Lessons from My Grandmothers by Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times bestselling author, is a lovely example of a memoir that shows the warm side of life.

 

Myth #3 – You have to be famous for your memoir to sell

stick_figure_on_red_carpet_800_wht_5614No, you don’t have to be a regular at red-carpet events for you to have a great memoir waiting to be written. A simple search for “memoir” in Amazon books will show the success of the not-yet-rich-and-famous authors—ample proof that the most important characteristic of good memoirs is a strong voice and engaging story.

A Girl Name Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland Indiana by Haven Kimmel is just one of the many successful memoirs written by authors whose names are not immediately recognized by everyone.

Everyone has a story to tell. Each life is unique and every life contains fascinating stories—you just have to write them down.

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Bring Out Your Extraordinary

Question: Want to tell your unique story?

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7 Ways to Speed Up Your Writing

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 If you are headed for the finish line in NaNoWriMo, here are seven ways to turn off that pesky internal editor that slows down your writing.    

 

  1. If you use Word, turn off the preference to check spelling as you type. It is distracting to have Word constantly second-guessing you. Typos are not the problem; going back to fix them is a problem, and the little red lines can drive you nuts.
  2. Start with the easy part. If you hit a snag, move to another chapter and write the easy part of that one. You may find the rest of the first chapter is processing itself through your subconscious. Sometimes I get the answer as I’m falling asleep. There is something about my half-asleep-half-awake brain that solves problems.
  3. If you absolutely hate the paragraph you just wrote, don’t try to fix it. Leave it on the page and start over. Writing it a second time will be faster than writing it the first time was. Leave both versions in your draft. When you go back and reread, you may find parts of each version appeal to you. Leave the judgement for the months that follow.
  4. Never start the day by rereading what you wrote the day before. At most, read the last paragraph to remember where you left off. Even that is a trap ready to suck the most valuable productive part of your day into editing. Insert a page break in your manuscript at the end of the day and start the next day with a fresh screen. If the transition between yesterday’s writing and today’s writing is a little rough, that is easy to fix.
  5. Set goals. For example: To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words per day. Setting a daily goal of 2,000 words allows you to take a deep breath on Thanksgiving, or even treat yourself with a shopping trip on Black Friday. You can break a daily goal down further and say 500 words before breakfast (that’s only two double-spaced pages), another 750 before lunch, or whatever suits you own writing routine.
  6. Try closing your eyes and typing as you say the words out loud. This gets rid of the need to fix typos. Something about saying the words out loud makes you type faster. Alternatively, you might try turning on dictation in Word and just talk to your computer. I have to dim the screen and not look at it so I’m not tempted to fix it as I go. Try a page or two before looking at the results. It takes getting used to, but if it works, it is a great time saver.
  7. Don’t second guess yourself until you get the whole thing on paper. Remember, no one but you ever has to read your first draft. First drafts are lousy by definition. That’s why they’re called first drafts. You can always fix a first draft. There’s no way to fix a blank page.

Question: Do you have any tips on how to turn off your internal editor? Please share.

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