Posts Tagged 'Memoir'

A Primer on Types of Books

As I was clearing out my personal library, the variety of books I owned became abundantly clear. I thought about how many people are writing books, maybe even publishing their books by themselves or using a service, and decided to give you a primer so you can make good decisions along the way when you work with your book professionals.

  • Fiction books are easiest to design because they are straight text.
  • Non-fiction books include any of these elements:  different levels of headers, charts, references, photos, illustrations, and quotes. The designer has more work, as does the editor and proofreader, than with fiction.
  • Memoir books typically use shorter chapters, lots of photos, and perhaps copies of materials such as letters or clippings. Again, these are more work for your designer than fiction. Your editor may challenge the clarity of the writing, too, since you know the subject matter so well.
  • Children’s books involve getting appropriate illustrations, placing the text strategically in relation to the illustrations, and using lots of color. Of course, children’s books are also age sensitive.
  • Gift books range from basic to ornate, from inexpensive to expensive, and often use special treatments in publishing that your designer needs to consider when doing the design.
  • Art books can be color intensive or black and white, depending on the art. The paper used in printing art books is also critical to creating a beautiful art book.
  • Educational books use various types of text, sidebars, exercises, application suggestions, and graphic elements such as tables, figures, etc. Sometimes photos are used to underscore a learning point.
  • Scholarly works require several levels of headers, citations within the text, and footnotes or endnotes.

Use this short primer to help you find the right designer for your book if you self-publish. If you work with a publisher, you’ll be better equipped to work with the publisher’s designer. But, beware templates and make sure you’re getting the right design for your book.

Happy writing!



Memoirs Are Hot Again

After the fiasco of A Million Little Pieces, memoir writing lost popularity. But all that’s changed and memoirs are hot again.

Last month I did a class on writing memoir at a local college and student ages ranged from the thirties to the seventies.  I even had a married couple attend.

It’s clear that people want to write their memoirs, but the reasons for writing them are varied. Some want to leave a legacy for their families, some want to share their story so others can learn from it, and some want to help others write. All are good reasons for writing memoir.

Here are some tips to use when writing about your life.

  • When you tell your story, make you the main character–not your dominating parent or your doting grandparent or your evil relative.
  • Be sure to put some feeling in your memoir. You’re not writing a diary that chronciles facts. You’re writing about your life and you have feelings (good and not so good) that make you real to your reader.
  • Avoid squandering your authorship. By that, I mean give yourself permission as the author to write your experiences with as much importance as you give other people’s experiences/accomplishments.
  • Remember to include the commonalities in life you share with your reader. That could be a holiday ritual, a fear you overcame, a joy you felt, etc.
  • Create contrast in your story. When you take the ordinary and discover the extraordinary about it, you’ve got a winner. One doesn’t have to look any further than the Susan Boyle video to see that.
  • Have a reason for everything you include in your memoir. No one wants to read your entire life story–if you start with your birth and move to the current time, you’re writing your biography, not your memoir.
  • Include little things that impacted you. For example, if your father answered the phone every time you called home and rather than talk with you, he turned the phone over to your mother, that could have an impact on you, even if it seems like a little thing.

Only you can write your memoir. Now you have some tips to help you, so get going because there’s no time like now–tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Happy writing!

Memoir Writing: Everyday Drama

After James Frey‘s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, received some negative PR on Oprah and other places, memoirs fell from favor.

Guess what? Memoir writing is becoming popular again. In fact, one of our local colleges asked me to teach a class on it this fall because they’ve had so much interest in the topic.

While we all have stories to tell, what makes anyone think his or her life is so exciting people will want to read about it?

Perhaps it’s how everyday drama gets played out in our lives and in our observations.  Some of us see the incidents that comprise life as just moments. Others see those incidents as more and are able to create interesting stories based on life’s incidents.

When writing memoir, you need to see yourself as the protagonist rather than in a supporting role. After all, it’s your life and you should be the star.

Too often we’re reluctant to write about life from our perspective in case a loved one wouldn’t approve. For example, my mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 42. My father was 15 years older (57 at the time) than her and never expected to lose his young wife (they were married 22 years).

He couldn’t abide being alone, so at age 58, he began courting younger women and even got into a Harley Davidson motorcycle club to enhance his image with women in their thirties and early forties.

He saw that life as his new normal and no one in the family said anything to him about his new lifestyle. When he passed at age 91, the stories started coming out about him and his women and his visits to his relatives over the years.

Why didn’t these stories come out when he was still with us so he could share his side of them and make them even more interesting? Everyone had thought the family wouldn’t approve so no one said anything.

In fact, just the opposite happened. Over the past five years we’ve had several family gatherings and enjoyed talking about Dad and his women and how he never found anyone like Mom, but that didn’t stop him from looking.

He was a common man living a common life, yet his everyday drama made  for good storytelling.

How about you? What incidents create your life? Is it time you captured them by writing your memoir instead of fearing someone in the family won’t approve? It could be.

Happy writing!