Telling Your Personal Story

Telling Your Personal StoryDear 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

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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 is… it causes otherwise totally rational people to begin chanting “You should write a book!”

Even though most people don’t know anything about publishing, it sure is flattering when they say, “You should write a book!” We tend to want to believe them. If we hear it often enough, we start to take it seriously.

The way I see it, the whole “you should write a book” thing makes about as much sense as watching your friend shoot hoops in the driveway, seeing them sink five in a row, and exclaiming, “You should play for the NBA!” In reality, you know nothing about what it takes to play in the NBA. And five baskets does not a Kobe Bryant make.

Since most people have no idea what they’re talking about when saying you should write a book, you’ve come to the right place for information. You asked me for help, so I’m going to tell you exactly what I think you should do. Forgive me if you’ve already taken any of these steps, but here is what I believe you should be doing:

1. Do not pursue publishing. Completely put the idea of “getting published” out of your mind. For now, that’s not your goal. Instead, your goal is to TELL YOUR STORY.

2. Seriously, don’t pursue publishing. This means that for the time being you shouldn’t read books, blogs or websites about getting published. You don’t need to contact industry professionals about getting published, because that’s not your goal — your goal is to tell your story.

3. Read my posts about writing memoir. Here they are: Posts about Memoir.

4. Begin immediately writing down your story. Don’t try to start at the beginning. Simply write down what comes to you, perhaps in “episodes” as you remember them. Try to write something every single day. Write down the stories from your life.

5. Meanwhile, create a reading plan for yourself. Set a goal for the next year or so of reading at least 20 good memoirs and 5 books about writing memoir. I have a blog post in which I said exactly that, and also gave plenty of recommendations for books to read. The post is a couple of years old, so you’ll be able to find many books that are more recent. But here’s the post: Resources for Writing Memoir.

6. Begin to craft your book. After you’ve spent months (or years) writing down the stories of your life and learning about the craft of memoir, you’ll be ready to start putting those stories together and creating a cohesive manuscript — your memoir. That may take many more months. You’ll want to get feedback on it from some readers, perhaps join a critique group, and do as many revisions as necessary to make your memoir shine.

7. NOW think about publishing! When you feel you have a complete and compelling memoir, then begin the process of pursuing publication, which you can learn about from hundreds of books and blogs. Here’s my post that gives a good overview: How to Get Published.

If this sounds like a lot of work and a lot of years — you’re right, it is. If that’s not what you had in mind, then just tell all those people who are saying you should write a book: “Thanks for the idea, but I’ve decided I’d rather keep LIVING my life rather than spending a bunch of time writing about it.”

Hope that helps!

All best,
Rachelle

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Have you ever wanted to write a memoir?

Are you a writer partly because others told you that you should be?

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  • Dean Miller

    But one time I made 93 out of 100…shouldn’t I be in the NBA now? Of course not, I’m busy trying to write everyday and find out if my story reads as well on paper as it does in my head.
    Also, I’m still exploring pushing/pausing through steps 4 and 5.
    Thanks for the “game plan” you’ve laid out. I promise not to think about publishing ever again….until tomorrow.

  • Jill

    In this case, I’m definitely a reader more than I am a writer. I don’t think I would write a memoir for publication, but it’s my favorite genre to read. So, please, hopefuls, write to feed my addiction. It’s weird how the most ordinary life can rise to the magic of philosophy if told in the right way.

    • Kristi Bothur

      Jill, your last sentence has “writer” all over it. Whether or not you ever write a memoir, I do hope you will write and share your words and thoughts with others.

      • Jill

        Well, I am a writer. I just don’t plan to write memoirs for professional publication (just for fun on my blog). :) Thanks.

        • JosephPote

          “Just for fun on my blog” is a LOT more fun and a LOT less frustrating!
          The quickest way to ruin a good hobby is to try to turn it into a business…

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristymbryan Kristy Weeks Bryan

    Insightful post. I haven’t considered writing a memoir (at least not to date), but it is helpful to learn the various processes recommended when considering writing a memoir versus writing fiction. Before I began learning the craft, I was unaware of the differences.

  • http://www.kristibothur.weebly.com/ Kristi Bothur

    I’m not interested in writing a memoir, but I include my personal journey in the other writing that I do. And yes, I write more now than I used to because of the encouragement of friends and family.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I made my story into a fiction to protect the innocent. I was the child victim of a cult. I’m now a college communication teacher. A colleague and creative writing teacher suggested I self-publish as it could take years to find a traditional publisher. I did. I recently published my second book. I’m not a best seller, but I’m slowly building a platform and expanding my circle as I continue to hone my writing skills.

    • JosephPote

      I haven’t yet read your second book, Dan, but found your first book to be very insightful and well written. Thank for sharing your story!

      • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

        You’re welcome, Joe.

  • http://www.itwasoutoflove.com/home itwasoutoflove

    For me, writing a memoir was a very cathartic process and yes, it is all about telling a story. My story carries a timeless message that I continue to share one book, one person at a time. This should keep me busy for many years to come. I chose to self-publish my book to ensure I had a quality printed copy available to share–even though Kinkos would have been much cheaper! :) In addition to the companion e-book versions that came with that publishing process, I’ve now ventured out into an online readable format so I can more easily share the story with anyone browsing the web. Blessings to you Rachelle for your part in this journey. –Jim Marr

  • Lenore Buth

    I think your good advice applies to writers of all genres, Rachelle. Thanks.

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Sure, I’ve been told I should write a memoir. There’s absolutely no chance that I’ll do it. I lived through that stuff once, and nothing on earth or in heaven will make me relive it.

    “But you owe it to posterity, to tell your story!” Too bad. I’m welshing on that one. (Mind, most of what I read is memoir, so I’m claiming the right to inconsistency…for foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, eh?)

    I started writing books because of one very simple event, a very specific thing. I was taking an onramp onto I-25, and saw a roadside memorial cross.

    I thought, “Gee, I wonder what the story is behind that cross?”

    I was too lazy to look it up, so I made up my own tale, and found out that I enjoy telling stories.

    That’s why I write. If I had any other reason, I’d get my head examined.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com

  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    I’m waiting to write the memoir until I have some sort of other writing under my belt. I’ve gotten my story out there, but I don’t want the meat of it to fall flat. I want it to have it’s best chance possible, and for me that means waiting until I’ve built some sort of foundation.

    Thanks for this article by the way, I’ll be sharing!

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

  • LynnRodz

    I’ve been told over and over I should write my life story. I’ve traveled the world to over 60 countries, lived in 8 of those. I speak several languages, had more than several lovers from different countries and had a number of proposals (marriage and otherwise!). I put myself as a young woman traveling alone a lot of times in danger. What can I say? Youth is ignorance and ignorance is bliss! I at least had a lucky star that always kept me safe until I became wiser. I’ve crossed paths with a number of famous people…. I can go on and on, but it doesn’t mean that anyone besides my family and friends would be interested in reading about my life.

    I think because almost everyone knows how to write, people think they can write a book. How hard can that be, right?!! Not everyone knows how to play a musical instrument, or play it well, so you don’t have people telling a really good banjo player, “why don’t you become first chair in a symphony orchestra?” What? No banjos in a symphony orchestra??? Get outta’ here!!!

  • http://twitter.com/McKinneyPR Claire McKinney

    I love that you pointed out people should write to tell a story, not because people say you should write or for the end goal to be to make money. If you love writing, you should write, and if you have a story to tell, tell it! Don’t focus on if the end result is money, but focus instead on the idea that people will one day read your story.

  • Don Sansone

    Rachelle, you showed up in my email inbox at an opportune time. I’ve been collecting my “stories” in bits and pieces for several years now, mostly just to share them with my kids, but when I discovered how easy it is to self-publish these days, I thought I could even publish it for public consumption. But your advice hit the mark. I’m going to work on “telling my story” first since that’s what I set out to do originally…
    Following you on Twitter now, and looking forward to reading some of your other blog posts…

    Thanks for your openness to sharing your expertise…

  • http://www.servingjoyfully.com/ Crystal

    So true! Thanks for the insight, and I especially love the basketball reference. Non-writers don’t always understand what writing entails. For most of us it’s not as easy as it looks. Can’t wait till Thursday, even though I know my chances are very slim, it would be awesome to win the 30 minutes of personalized feedback from you!

  • Krista Phillips

    LOVE THIS!!!! I had a TON of people tell me that I should tell write my story about Annabelle… but 1.) It isn’t MY story… It’s Annabelle’s… and she might want to write her own someday! 2.) They always follow up with a “but you could make a ton of money!”… and since I am already engulfed in the publishing world and know the financial realities, I just laugh really hard at that point.

    That’s not to say I won’t ever try to write about our journey. And I DO tell sweet Annabelle’s story in lots of different forms, just not book form.

    Anyway, LOVE all these tips! I’ve had lots of people ask me how they could tell THEIR stories too, so I will absolutely point them to this post!

  • Ugochi

    I get that too from people. However I’ve had absolutely zero interest…lol. Will that change in the future? Only God knows. I guess they say it mainly because of where the Lord has taken me from and how I eventually came to know Him. He’s allowed me to use my experience to help others via my psychotherapy practice so I’m grateful that I can still encourage others somehow. Rachelle, I can’t stress enough that if not for God’s will, I will be a one hit wonder author; and happily so.

  • Celia Jolley

    A good practice would be to blog, introducing your life story piece by piece, bit by bit relating it to life experiences. You can keep it for your family by Blog2U publishing your blog. Since I write my blog every day, I publish a copy for myself every month. I did successfully publish with a small publisher a biography of my grandmother’s early life for a small audience of family and those interested in her story. However, I don’t plan to write my story: I’ll leave that to my grandchildren.

  • Roxanne Sherwood Gray

    Rachelle, I really appreciate this advice about memoirs.

    Yes, people constantly tell me to write a book about my life–but they’re not people in publishing.

    At a writing conference, an author was praying with me before I had an appointment with an agent about memoirs. The author said that during the prayer God revealed that I was supposed to be writing my story–and because she had a relationship with that agent–to tell him what she said.

    “Oh, come on. I can’t say that!” (Unpubbed authors are always warned not to say any phrase that begins with “God said … “) I never used that phrase, and the agent and I had a really great conversation.

    God didn’t say I was going to publish my story any time soon, just that I was supposed to write it. In His timing, He’ll use my story however He wants–as He’s already doing.

    I struggle with the idea of blogging my story in bits and pieces. I already do that a little. But, if I concentrated on telling more, does that make it impossible to publish a memoir later if it’s already plastered all over the internet?

  • http://profiles.google.com/jfarrar57 Julie Farrar

    I’ve been in writing classes with people who had fascinating lives and who overcame tremendous struggles that would make fascinating memoirs. However, what was clear about them is that they wanted to be published, but they didn’t want to do the hard work of writing well. And, second, they had never read a single memoir in their lives. I think the first thing to do when you decide that your story needs to get down on paper is to pick up an armful of memoirs of all different styles and READ.

    • Neil Larkins

      A similar thing happened to me after a fellow I met found out I had published an e-book. He had an interesting life, a handicapped person who had overcome many adversities. He’d been told by several people that he should “write a book,” but wanted someone else to do it for him. “I’m just not a writer,” he claimed. I said I’d give it a shot, but when he didn’t show up for the first session of taping, didn’t even call, I could see that he wasn’t what he had seemed to be at all. i met others he knew who verified that so I dropped the project. Glad I did.

  • Natalie

    As a freelance editor who just tried to turn a pig’s ear into a silk purse; I totally agree with you, Rachelle! Having had an interesting life does NOT make you a good writer. I was given an undigested lump of memories and told that she wanted to pass the finished product to a vanity publisher in about six weeks. And she hopes to make a lot of money somehow.
    Work on your craft. Learn to spell and use punctuation and create a story arc with peaks and troughs. Give yourself time to write and rewrite and polish. Get some beta readers or a professional editor or both, then revise again. Then, maybe, think about publishing.

  • Robin Pletcher

    Those people who say you should write a book are the same people who give those discouraging looks when you don’t have that book published the moment you write the words ‘the end’. Writing a sellable book isn’t easy, and patience is a must! I don’t think I’ll write a memoir, but this was a fantastic article, which I think can be applied to any type of book writing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amyepatton Amy E Patton

    Thank you so much for this post as well as the links to your previous posts. I am writing, writing, writing. It is hard work. I have a writing plan, goals, and personal deadlines. I have officially missed my first major deadline- finish my first draft. Things are taking longer than expected to end up on paper. Not because I am not writing, but because I am learning so much. You have unwittingly given me permission to adjust my personal deadlines because it takes time to produce something truly well crafted and worth the readers time. I have read several of your recommended books. I look forward to diving into more of them. Fortunately, I am flying to Bangkok in 2 weeks. That means I have 22 hours each way to dig in and learn and refine my craft. Amy

  • Claire Scobie

    Hi Rachelle
    Great post. As a writer and a writing tutor, I hear this one a lot, especially in my travel memoir workshops. It’s the fine line between not crushing a person’s dreams on the tough reality of actually writing a book, and being realistic on what it actually entails!
    Claire Scobie.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Colleen-Kelly-Mellor/1084842885 Colleen Kelly Mellor

    Yes, Rachelle…I did almost to the letter what you suggest. But I began honing my craft with a blog which helped me write more clearly and succinctly (necessary today in a web-based world.) Now, I compile the book which had as its catalyst, my husband’s horrific accident, 3 years ago, on a mountain road, in NC. But this book is my medical journey and interaction with hospitals/doctors/health care providers over my lifetime. My writing’s been a Process…and I believe that’s your point…never just a “I think I’ll write a book” campaign.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Heather-Kopp/1191344953 Heather Kopp

    This is such a great post, Rachelle. Truly. In recovery I meet so many people who have amazing stories–dramatic, traumatic events and huge miracles. My own story pales in comparison when it comes to significant, I-can’t-believe-that-happened events. I encourage people to write their stories and share them–but I’m super cautious about urging people to try to publish. The main reason for this is that I’m convinced that what makes a great memoir isn’t the actual shock or drama appeal of what happened, it’s writing in such a way that you make the reader care, create tension, and keep them turning pages. Some of the best memoirs aren’t about huge crisis or shocking events, they’re about a writer who knows how to invite your into their world and make your care about the littlest things that happen to them. Yes, big news-worthy and headlining-grabbing stories make great memoirs too and are easier to sell. But most people’s stories don’t fall into that category no matter how dramatic or amazing their experience. All this to say that I SO appreciate that you give this advice to people. Our stories have huge value whether or not we publish them. All if this is NOT to discourage your average person from telling their story. But if you’re not already a writer serious about craft, think twice. Or hire a great writer. Thanks so much for writing this, Rachelle! I love knowing that when I send wanna-be memoirists to your site (which I do often), they’ll stumble on this piece.

  • JosephPote

    This post made me laugh, Rachelle!
    Nothing like a little straightforward, honest advice…very refreshing…like being awakened by a bucket of ice water…
    For those of us without tons of extra time, or lofty goals of making a living as a professional writer, blogging or self-pub’ing may make a lot more sense as a way of telling our story, rather than traditional pub’ing.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.majorinthegraceofgod.blogspot.com/ dale carroll-coleman

    Thank you,thank you, thank you….. Did I say thank you? Sorry. Your point is well taken. The goal can’t be, to get published. We immediately lose the point of our writing. We write because we have to. Simple. If the stars line up and we end up published one day, yippee… But it cannot be the goal, at least for this gal.
    I love this post and the insights you share. I am saving this post and will be reading up. For the first time, this gives me a clear and manageable way to begin a project I have been in fear of. Fear…. That needs to be kicked to the curb for good.
    Thank you Rachel for sharing your wisdom.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.h.king Stephen King

    You know, Rachelle, for years people have been telling me I should write a book…. :-) I finally did, of course, and so far I’ve self-published five works of mythic fantasy, and I am loving the writing/publishing gig.

    That said, I really have gotten requests to consider working my blogs about my Alaska Highway driving experiences into a book, and your suggestions are definitely spot on for me. I also appreciate your linking your previous blog posts about the art of the memoir.

    Once I get it worked up, I’ll probably use the information from other recent posts of yours on being a hybrid trad/self pubbed author, and seek publication through an established company, maybe even one of the Big 6–er, 5–er, whatever.

    – TOSK

  • Susan Cottrell

    LOVED your advice. The best part about focusing on telling her story first is that then she’s told her story. She then has it available for posterity that would be most interested in reading it. Of course writers groan because writing for her family is less romantic than writing for a book deal, and it won’t make any money. But it tells the stories that “are not only inspirational, they will make people laugh, make them cry, and entertain them” and if that’s the reason for writing, it accomplishes that goal.

  • http://twitter.com/MichaelBrown76 Mike Brown

    Thanks for the great information. No one told me to write a book, I just have a bunch of ideas that have culminated in two manuscripts. Reminds me of “Finding Forrester” when Sean Connery says, “You write the first draft with your heart… (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=juko0sAndsA).” Sound like “tell your story.”
    Mike

  • http://www.facebook.com/earthbridge Steve Cavin

    Rachelle,

    Last year I self-published (Amazon CreateSpaces) my memoir “To Find Out”, a true story of the the four years I spent hitchhiking around the world in the late 70s. It is a full-length novel (64,000 words). Each chapter was carefully field tested by reading in front of a live audience at the local openmic. I’d rework the chapter until at least one person came up after I’d performed and asked to buy a copy of the book!

    It has received some excellent reviews, and I’ve sold over 100 copies, mostly at local reading events and some online.

    How should I go about obtaining wider publication?

    Thanks,

    Steve Cavin

  • Neil Larkins

    Answer to both questions: Yes and oh my gosh Yes! I’ve tried to do that since 1997. Like so many others I knew I had a unique, funny, and often amazing story to tell, especially beginning from the time I met my first wife, God rest her sainted soul. I finished a manuscript in a year and naively submitted a query to a dozen agents only to be told by several of the ones that bothered to reply that no publishers were accepting memoirs from unknowns. I continued to believe this to be the case until about six years ago. Since then I’ve made at least a dozen revisions to that first effort or new starts from many different angles. But I always gave up after a few days or weeks. Now thanks to you, Rachelle, and many of your people here, I have a renewed fervor and will, with God’s grace and help, finally complete what I started those years ago.

  • http://profiles.google.com/melindatoad Melinda Todd

    Great advice! If they want to write w/o publishing the book, they should write it for their own family history. I wish so much that I had journals or written stories from my great grandparents. The best we could do was record my great grandpa as he shared some of his stories.

  • http://www.beginnerbeans.com/ Trina Cress

    Wow, great timing. I’ve had an idea for a nonfiction book that I’ve been waiting to pursue until I have more time and energy to put into all the proposal-writing/inquiring that would require. (Of course, writing in the meantime.) As I’ve worked on the writing, I’ve recently decided it’d probably work better as a memoir. Happy to have your resources for that.

    But, overall, just love these steps and this straightforward response. I’ve heard people use the “you should write a book” or even “I should write a book” without really having any idea what that means or the work that would entail. Of course, I don’t yet either. But I’ve seen enough glimpses to be scared into reality. It’s a truth that should be spread around for writers and non-writers alike :)

  • Veronica Bullard

    So I have a similar story but it is not exactly the same. About three years ago the idea came to me to begin writing a book about my life and my experiences because I see a lot of damaging behaviors in America that I have lived through and I know what these behaviors lead to so I thought that by telling my story I would be able to help a lot of people. Long story short I stopped writing my story regularly and began working in-depth on my business plan for a different project.

    After I wrote the first draft of my business plan I turned it into the business coach with whom I work and we had a meeting. At the meeting she told me the strengths and weaknesses of my business plan. She gave me detailed advice on what to add, revise or abandon. After she picked my business plan apart she said: “By the way, as I was reading your business plan I thought to myself ‘she should be a writer’ so I am telling you now that you are a really good writer and you should consider writing”. Those may not be her exact words but very close. That was about two years ago.

    Last summer I was at the salon and there was a woman there whom I had never met. She was reading a pocket Bible and she was praying, out loud. It was a little strange but I’m a believer too so I wasn’t offended or anything. As I was sitting in my stylist’s chair, this woman looks directly at me and says “the Lord said that you NEED to write your book. It will be done by the end of the year”. I was like, WHAT? Me? How did she know I was writing a book? How did she know I was planning to participate in NaNoWriMo to finish my book? How did she know that my grandmother is a huge influence in my life and part of the book? I have never seen this woman in my entire life. She gave me her card and the card says that she is a prophet who intercedes for people. Strange right?

    No one else has told me to write my book. None of my family members have encouraged me to write a book and when I talk about it they almost seem to dismiss me and the entire experience like it’s unrealistic. I totally understand. I don’t know why the Lord said I should write my book. I don’t like feeling so confused and unprepared. Even though I finished the first part of the series I fear that it is still unfinished; so, like many writers I am trying figure out when to stop adding and taking away.

    For me, writing this first book has been more like an addiction. I don’t know when to stop. I don’t know if I can stop. I think it might be damaging to my life but I really don’t know. I just wish I could get some help and some answers without spending a wad of cash that could be used to fuel something that will get me out of my current situation.

    Thanks for the advice Rachelle and thanks to everyone for reading about my dilemma.

    • Veronica Bullard

      Just wanted to add that what I decided to write about my life is not a memoir per-se. It is a fictional memoir that is based on a true story because I don’t want anyone to be “offended” or “angry” with me for writing down my feelings about the way they treated me or my perception of what was going on at the time. I also don’t want anyone to feel exploited or whatever other emotions they decide to fabricate in order to make me feel guilty for telling the truth. I just want to avoid the messy garbage that comes with writing about other people’s lives because that is inevitable when you write a memoir.

  • Bill Fernandez

    When I tell people to write “their story”, I tell them how important it is to record events because everything is history. Here on Kaua’i where many people are from plantation labor families of different ethnic/racial groups, where America was bombed, where the Japanese American citizens were threatened with racist internment, all stories are important. When researching for my husband’s memoirs, I was thankful that people took the time to write in diaries, letters to the editor, journals, etc. So yes, “tell your story”. But it is a long, hard slog to get it in print. I have done two and am now starting a third part. Kaua’i Kids in Peace and War and the family memoir, Rainbows Over Kapa’a bring a lot of adventure and people into our lives – another reason to write “your story”.

  • Nick Kording

    Thank you Rachelle for the savvy advice. As someone who has studied and taught writing and works as a writer and editor, I often feel like writing has become a devalued profession… everyone and anyone thinks they can write a book just because they have a story to tell. While I believe education isn’t the line in the sand determining who should and who should not write, I do believe we need to know the craft of writing before we go out there and seek representation or self-publish. This was a good one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/connie.grudzinski Connie Grudzinski

    WHAT??? You’re telling me that writing a memoir is different from writing a kid’s novel? What in the world am I going to do? Oh, wait, It takes a life time to live a life, why would I think I could write it in a day? I love reading your posts and I am gobbling up these resources you offered.
    P.S. I’ve been scratching out ‘Lessons Learned from the Chickens’ for about 20 years now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.k.kuhn.5 Kelly Kilen Kuhn

    I love this post! Thanks so much for writing it. It’s amusing and informational, and, best of all, those are the steps I’ve taken!

    It wasn’t good planning, I just didn’t believe I would actually write a full-length book, but my friends and intuition said, “Writing now is the next right step, and we’ll see where it goes.” Well, the manuscript was completed in a year (January 2013), and then I started building a platform. It’s slow-going, but I couldn’t have started working on blogging and using social media at the same time I was writing the memoir (even though a lot of people say you should).

    Thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/RobynRoste Robyn Roste

    Great advice Rachelle, it’s so easy to get the order of publishing backwards!

  • Barb

    Miracles sometimes happen when we write our personal stories. My husband and I survived, flourished even, when our daughter fell into meth addiction. While the most I had ever written was an effective consumer complaint letter, I often heard the proverbial, “you need to write a book” from friends and family. Then, after an unmistakable nudge from God to “write a book about the gifts I was given,” I finally jumped into the pool. With only two chapters written, I took a course at our community college on How To Get Published…so one of the first things written was my query letter! After six months of writing, mostly between 10 pm and 3 am (not to interfere with my day job or family time), I reached out to a professional editor in my town. He offered feedback, guidance, and oodles of encouragement. Jim edited my weak first draft, provided some limited editing on a better second draft, and he gave me templates for writing a proposal. All and all, it was a two year process. When it came time for submittals, I had a wonderful agent within one week of my very first query, and two publishing offers a month after that. It does happen!

  • http://tracystella.com/ Tracy Stella

    Thank you for the practical advice.

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  • KathyPooler

    Rachelle, I appreciate your honest and accurate advice about writing a memoir. It certainly mirrors what my experience has been over the past 3-plus years since I decided to get serious about writing my memoir. There is a huge chasm between feeling like you “have a book inside you” and writing and publishing a saleable book. I love your points: start out by telling stories, commit to learning your craft, be clear on your intention for writing–for family or mainstream publication– and the take time you need to find the heart of your story, one that will appeal to others through a dramatic structure and a take-away message. I have found memoir writing to be an arduous process and a journey that requires courage and perseverance. Thanks for these spot-on memoir writing tips.

  • Angle

    I haven’t wrote one yet but i will soon. I hope I can find a publisher!!

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