Telling Your Personal Story

Telling Your Personal Story Dear Rachelle, People are always telling me, “You should write a book!” For years I have been ignoring them, but more and more people are telling me that I shouldn’t let my experiences be wasted, that I need to share them because they are not only inspirational, they will make people laugh, make them cry, and entertain them. I’ve finally decided I need to bite the bullet, so I’m starting with you. Can you help me? Signed, Hopeful Memoirist * * * Dear Hopeful, I get several query letters each month that begin with some variation of: “For years, all my friends have been telling me I should write a book.” Maybe it’s because of an amazing incident or an inspiring life journey. Maybe you’re funny or have a way with words. Whatever it...
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4 Tips for Writing Your Personal Story

4 Tips for Writing Your Personal Story Guest Blogger: Dan Miller Recently at church I was introduced to a gentleman who insisted I take a copy of his brand-new book. Being a book guy, I opened it later that evening and began reading. It tells in graphic detail about a horrendous experience the author had at 10 years old that has continue to be the central defining theme of his life. As I was reading it, some points for authors came to mind: 1. Don’t assume that everything that has happened to you is interesting to everyone else. Why would something that is gross, violent, aberrant, or atrocious be interesting to someone else – other than as an unhealthy voyeur? In the age of Twitter and Facebook it’s easy to assume that people are interested in knowing you ate a Twinkie for breakfast – but frankly, I don’t believe...
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When Should You Write Your Memoir?

When Should You Write Your Memoir? I just finished reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, a memoir by Cheryl Strayed. This is an incredible book, a bestseller since its release in March, about the author’s 1,100 (that’s eleven hundred) mile solo hike through California and Oregon. She undertook the hike as a way of coping with devastating loss and her own reckless behavior that had left her life in tatters, and it turned out to be a transformative experience. The memoir is beautifully written, seamlessly weaving Cheryl’s hiking experiences with the events of her past that had led her to the Pacific Crest Trail. She is unflinchingly honest about her pain and her failures; her writing avoids sentimentality, and it never feels like it’s asking for sympathy—things that are often...
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Being Authentic While Protecting Privacy

Being Authentic While Protecting Privacy Guest Blogger: Susan DiMickele As a non-fiction author, I tend to air my dirty laundry. After all, it’s my choice whether or not to share personal information with the public, isn’t it? Enter my husband. Does the spouse of an extrovert writer have a say in what gets published? I happen to be married to a very private person. When I told him I was going to write a book about my journey as a working mother, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “Please leave me out!” So I tried my best. And I almost cut him completely out of the first draft of Chasing Superwoman. Then I got “the call” from my editor. “Susan, if you’re going to write a credible book about your life, you have to include your husband.” Rats! She noticed. Now What Do I Do? Was I supposed to put my writing...
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Should You Write the Whole Book?

Should You Write the Whole Book? Classic wisdom for unpublished authors seeking traditional publication has been this: If you’re writing a novel (fiction), you need a complete manuscript. If you’re writing non-fiction, you need a book proposal plus two or three sample chapters. If you’re writing a memoir, who knows — everybody has a different opinion. Here’s what is true and will always be true: unpublished fiction authors MUST have a complete novel before trying to get an agent or publisher. No question, no exceptions. But things are changing in publishing, especially when it comes to non-fiction. In some ways, the standards are higher. It’s more of a risk for a publisher to say “yes” to an unproven author. And in light of this reality, I’m going to make a bold and...
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Itching to Tell Your Story?

Itching to Tell Your Story? Dear Rachelle, I have wanted for years to write a memoir. I endured violence all my life, first at the hands of my preacher father, then from my husband. A death threat finally got me out. I want to write a book about these experiences and how I overcame them. Therapy is helping me understand the battered woman’s syndrome and how to overcome these character traits to become a stronger and better person. I want to use these experiences to help other people overcome their fear of abuse and rejection. Outwardly I appear to have a successful life, with a career and a son in his 20s. Most people have no clue I have a problem, since I’m good at covering up my problems in public. Do you think this is a book idea that is worthy of pursuing? Thanks for reading my e-mail and offering...
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Memoirs of Overcoming Adversity

I apologize for the late post today… Internet issues! Dear Rachelle, I’ve heard you talk about how difficult it is to sell a ”personal story of overcoming adversity.” You’ve mentioned you won’t consider this kind of memoir unless the author has a significant platform and the story has built-in marketing potential and an obvious media hook. Would this include being a cancer survivor (two completely separate cancers) at age 45? While there are a lot of survivor books in the market, I have not found many with a Christian perspective. Just wondering…A Survivor *** Dear Survivor, Congratulations on beating cancer not once, but twice. What an amazing story you must have. I’m sad to say that your story is exactly what I’m...
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Resources for Writing Memoir

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/TB5U8QLJ_aI/AAAAAAAAD7c/H6DEc7QoUWg/s200/orange.jpg Last week I tweeted this advice on writing memoir: “Please don’t submit your memoir until you’ve read 20 good memoirs and 5 books on writing memoir – and learned from them.” I was serious about that. We are overrun with queries for memoirs these days, and 95% of them are not written well enough to stand a chance. It’s tough with a personal story, because the writer is usually too close to the material to be able to objectively assess its viability in the market. With your personal story, it’s more difficult to keep in mind the fact that the craft is even more crucial than it is in a typical non-fiction book or novel. After my tweet, many people asked me for recommendations, so here they are. My favorite books for writing memoir: Your Life As Story...
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Guest Blogger: Margot Starbuck

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/So__MVRTq0I/AAAAAAAADH8/a4_JC4uZz5U/s200/orangedresscover400.jpg A Few Do’s & Don’ts of Writing MemoirThis summer I’m traveling around promoting my new spiritual memoir, The Girl in the Orange Dress: Searching for a Father Who Does Not Fail. (As much as any mom of 3 elementary-school aged kids can “travel around”) Folks have gathered in living rooms, church fellowship halls, and even the occasional hip urban art gallery to snack and listen politely. Typically I’ll read four or five excerpts and then open it up for questions. I let the audience know that the life, the book, and the writing are all fair game. Inevitably, a tentative hand goes up. It might not be the first hand, but before the evening ends, the hand will rise. The mouth that goes with the hand will ask, “So…how’s your family doing with it?” The asker wants to know...
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Memoir Guidelines

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_5cLmD8GqnKY/SiRilWKOcfI/AAAAAAAAC-0/pQx66webq0o/s320/thinker+statue.jpg Alexis Grant asked: Would you consider a post on memoir guidelines, since memoir falls somewhere between fiction and nonfiction in many ways? For my travel memoir, should I query when I have a proposal and several sample chapters, like nonfiction, or wait until the manuscript is complete, like fiction? What’s the usual word-count window for memoir? Are there any other areas—aside from reading like a novel—where I should follow fiction guidelines instead of nonfiction? Great questions! I think memoir requires the most out of a writer, because it’s non-fiction, so platform matters. But it’s also story-driven and the writing is the most important aspect, so it requires the level of attention to the art and craft of writing that fiction does. I don’t think...
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