Friday, January 22, 2016

What Memoirists Always Ask: How Much of My Story Can I Tell without Hurting Others?

Anyone who has written creative nonfiction (memoir, particularly) has probably run into the question of story ownership.  How much of your experience do you really have the right to write about?  When your story crosses into other people's lives, is it still yours to tell?

I've long admired Patricia Hampl's approach in I Could Tell You Stories.  She discusses the lines she's crossed and what came of it.  Mostly, she lost people in her life.   I remember how angry one of my family members became when I wrote about my very religious grandmother's mugging and loss of faith in God because of it, her eventual death.  "That's not the way it happened," this dear relative said.  But it was the way it happened, from my experience.  And I wrote about it as honestly as I could, to the best of my memory.

Who is right, in terms of memory?  Brain science tells us that memory changes as soon as we remember something.  Just the act of remembering will shift the details. 

And are my stories always my own?  Do I write them without considering the others who were involved?  Sometimes, I do.  Sometimes, not.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Three Essential Tools for Getting through Any Post-New-Year's-Resolution Slump

Making New Year's resolutions about my writing is fun.  Energizing.  At New Year's, anything is possible.  I look at what I haven't managed in 2015 and set my sights high for 2016.

I ride the high until around mid-February, usually.  Then I need to have three essential tools in place to help me get through the post-New-Year's-resolution slump.

These three tools are the main reason I've managed to write and publish thirteen books in three genres. 

They are:  (1) accountability, (2) inspiration, and (3) determination.   They usually matter in that order.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Emotional Peaks: How to Make Sure They're in Your Scenes and Chapters

When you read a great story, you don't even notice how you're engaged.  You just are--right?  But skillful writers plant a rhythm into their writing.  Like breathing, there are peaks and valleys of emotion and tension through all great scenes, chapters, even whole books. 

In a class I taught, I drew a diagram of a river on the board to illustrate this.  "This makes it very easy.  I just put heightened moments of tension at each bend in the river," one student noted.  "Maybe a big decision, a change of heart, a new understanding.  Or an external shift, like a move or a marriage or a big loss."  It made a big difference in her book structure to finally understand these "emotional peaks:" to view her scenes, chapters, and manuscript like a flowing river.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Goal: Submit Your Manuscript! But First, Learn to Write a Killer Query Letter and Book Synopsis

Is one of your New Year's goals to finally get that manuscript submitted?  Get off your endless revision-hamster-wheel?  

For your New Year's reading pleasure, check out these three great articles--what you need to know before you submit.

How to write a killer query letter.  A guest article for Writer's Digest website, written by agent Barbara Poelle.  Click here.