Structure: The Backbone of Your Memoir

Structure your memoir

Structure your memoirWe’re all fired up about STRUCTURE this month. Why? Because we see over and over again how important this key element is to actually executing a readable memoir. Plus, we know it’s a place where memoirists struggle, and there are some firm decisions you can make to ease your way into a structure that sings.

We invite you to take advantage of this information-packed hour: STRUCTURE: THE BACKBONE OF YOUR MEMOIR. It’s happening next Monday, November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT | 6pm CT | 7pm ET. We’re going deep here—covering:

  • What structure is, why it matters, and how you can think about structure without overwhelming yourself completely—especially if you’re in the middle of writing your memoir.
  • Tools that support structure—your table of contents, turning points, and scaffolding. These are simple ways to help focus the structure of your book, building on what you already have.
  • Traditional story arcs and how to fit your memoir into them. We will discuss how the energy of a memoir moves forward—problem/conflict/situation, which finally reaches a climax, followed by resolution—and how to track your own arc.
  • Types of structures: linear, braided, associative, framed, and circular. Complete with examples of each kind.

It’s Monday: November 14, at 4pm PT | 5pm MT| 6pm CT | 7pm ET
Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers
SIGN UP HERE. 

Don’t worry if the timing doesn’t work for you. We always record our webinars. As long as you’re signed up, you’ll get the link the next day.

We’ll see you Monday!

Linda Joy & Brooke

Storytelling in Memoir

Storytelling in Memoir

Storytelling in MemoirWe all have a story to tell, but ah–how to tell it, that’s what keeps us at our desk, scribbling in our notebooks, looking for the scenes and moments that we carry in our hearts. Our job as memoirists is to translate what we know and remember to the page, to put images and wispy memories into language and story. Memoirists sometimes feel they have a story that ought to be easy to tell. After all, we know what happened in our lives and why we want to write about it. But this is where memoir writers struggle. A well-written story is more than “what happened.” And a reader of memoir looks for much more than “what happened to you.” The reader wants to be transported into your world, and needs to see how your story helps them, or inspires them in some way. There needs to be a universal connection.

Elements of a Story

There is a plot in memoir—the “what happened when” part; there’s character development, which means understanding the arc of the ways that each major character—including yourself as a protagonist—changes and grows during the story. The craft of writing a story means stepping back from our subjective relationship with ourselves and our memories and offering images and feelings that bring the reader into the world we portray through story. To do this we need to write in scenes.

In a scene you have: action, characters, place, time, a significant moment, vivid descriptions and sensual details. These sensual details are the key to bringing your reader into your world. Taste, vivid colors and description, smell, sound—all these are specifics that tune the reader’s brain into your own brain’s wavelength and make it hard to stop reading. They fall into the world of the story—which is what you want. There are some very interesting studies that show how the brain of the reader merges with the story being told because of these sensual details.

The other thing important in your scene is that you, the protagonist, have a desire, a need, something that’s important to you that drives through the story. The reader identifies with you and your quest, your journey through the memoir and through your eyes, they learn something new. This is why we read—out of curiosity, out of the need to have a new experience and learn something about the world we didn’t know before. I think this is why memoir is so popular now—our need to connect with the experience and life wisdom of others. Our need to feel connected to a larger community.

This week at the NAMW Telesummit on November 11, we’re excited to have a session with our story guru, Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story and her new book Story Genius. Lisa makes learning story essentials so easy that we wonder why we haven’t been using these tools all along. She’s going to talk about story making in terms of the brain and how we process information. Understanding this will help make you a better writer, and give you new skills that can help your book to become a success. A good story is what agents and editors are looking for. I hope you join us for this informative and inspiring Telesummit. Read more about all the presenters here.

The Heart and Soul of Memoir Writing—Inspiration and Empowerment to Finish Your Book by Linda Joy Myers

The heart and soul of memoir writing

The heart and soul of memoir writingI just returned from a retreat sponsored by She Writes Press, an event offer by my publisher in gorgeous Boulders Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Brooke Warner, my co-teacher for the Write Your Memoir in Six Months course for the last five years, is also the publisher for SWP. The amazing stark landscape of Arizona with its cacti, road runners, and cottontail bunnies on the trails, nurtured us with its beauty as we worked on being authors, becoming authors. Trusting that we are good enough and powerful enough to be authors—sound familiar?

At the retreat, Brooke gave a workshop that challenged us about our relationship to empowerment and trust in ourselves, how we can believe in ourselves and connect with our own energy and power to be creators and artists. This is what we all have to do as we wrestle with the various elements of writing our books! We need to feel connected to the energy of creativity, and be able to draw from our passion and inspiration for a year or more as we write our books. Then we need to continue that process as we move into publishing and designing the look of our books. Being empowered and inspired is one topic at our Fall Telesummit November 11. The Heart and Soul of Memoir Writing.  

We need to connect to our power and belief and at the same time continue to educate ourselves about how to write a book—from idea and conception all the way to having a beautifully designed book in our hands! Even though I have published four books, I have to say that learned a ton about writing, designing, and publishing books during the weekend. Our philosophy here at NAMW is to continue to offer topics and opportunities to learn more about writing and creating a book that will be successful and that you’ll be proud of.

The Telesummit this week is set up so you can have that experience—to gather knowledge and inspiration as you connect with each presenter. We offer this Telesummit at a super low rate so you can benefit, less than $10 per session. You can keep the audio recording as your resource in ongoing education. I know that many people are now using podcasts and audios as part of their learning regimen, putting it on their iPod and talking a walk. May listen to the event after the Telesummit is over so they can focus on certain parts they need the most. We love giving the audience the opportunity to learn in so many ways!

During the last session of the Telesummit, Brooke and I will be talking about inspiration and empowerment. We’re proud of our new anthology Magic of Memoir—Inspiration for the Writing Journey to be released next week. It’s made up of stories from writers like you about how memoir is magic for them, and several NAMW members are featured. The writers talk about how they find their way to the page, how they sustain their writing and believe in their book. What inspires them and what gets in the way—and how they keep on no matter what.

I think you’ll be inspired to rush to your computer as you read their stories! We’re jazzed that the book also features interviews by well-known memoirists like Dani Shapiro, Sue William Silverman and Mark Matousek, our frequent guests here at NAMW; Mary Karr tells us what make memoir magic for her, as does Azar Nafisi, Hope Edelman, and Jessica Valenti. You will see how these writers struggle with what you struggle with day to day. We hope you come away with fire in your heart for your writing project as you join us for all the sessions and ask your own questions of the presenters.

When you sign up you receive the call-in phone number, but you do not have to be present to join us, though we would love to hear from you in person during the question and answer period. You will receive the audio for your own use to drawn from for years to come.

I love Robin Brooks’ designs and her artistry as she works with authors, and how Lisa Cron always nails it in both her books Wired for Story and Story Genius about the engines that drive a great story. And I know you all need to hear from Helen Sedwick as she reveals the mysteries of the Legal and Ethical questions that all memoir writers struggle with.

Legal and Ethical Questions in Your Memoir

40656979 - statue of justice

At most of our memoir events, whether it’s group coaching or our teleseminars, we get questions about legal and ethical concerns. When we’re writing “the truth” it’s our truth and our point of view, but as you know, there may be a chorus of other people who don’t agree with our version of what happened. They may even feel insulted or threatened by our story. For people who have been abused or were in situations of domestic violence, this can be particularly scary. Sometimes these questions make writers stop writing and get caught up in the “what if” questions, which can make the inner critic shout too loudly!

Here at NAMW we want to help you KEEP writing by presenting encouragement to keep writing that first draft no matter what. And we also strive to give you useful information that can help you keep the energy of your story up so you can finish your book.

Some of the questions we get are about whether to use real names vs. pseudonyms, writing about illegal behavior in the memoir, exposing and naming abusers. Each us has to decide how much of our history and situations in the past to expose to the public eye, but I always tell people that in your first draft, no one else is reading (unless you choose to show your work.) You are free to write what needs to come out.

Here are some of the questions we’ve received around writing a memoir and telling the truth:

  1. I want to get my book published by a mainstream publisher. Can I write the truth about the abuse and domestic violence using real names? Can I be sued by someone who is simply angry that I wrote the truth? Is truth my defense if others don’t agree?
  2. What do I need to know about self-publishing regarding legal issues?
  3. Can we be sued if someone feels our story is upsetting or that it might create a problem with their friends?

These and other important questions about writing a memoir will be addressed by our presenter at the NAMW Fall Telesummit The Heart and Soul of Memoir Writing. Helen Sedwick is our Session 2 presenter about the legal and ethical questions that plague most memoir writers. Please join us for our Telesummit, and join us live for How to Tell the Truth Without Ending Up in Court.

 

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Session 2—Legal and Ethical Issues in Memoir

November 11, 2016

11-12 am PST | 12-1 pm MST | 1-2  pm CST | 2-3 pm EST

How to Tell the Truth Without Ending up in Court

helen-sedwickHelen Sedwick

Memoirists are the bravest of writers. In exploring the journeys of their lives, they inevitably delve into the private (and imperfect) lives of others. Not only do they worry about awkward family gatherings, they also risk claims of defamation and invasion of privacy.

Can a memoirist write about surviving abuse without getting sued by her abuser? Can a soldier write about PTSD without revealing the incompetence of commanders and therapists? Yes, but common sense and a cool head are key. Considering the tens of thousands of memoirs published each year, there are relatively few lawsuits. Claims are difficult and expensive to prove. Most targets don’t want to call attention to a matter best forgotten.

However, it’s important for memoir writers to be smart about the legal risks. They need to learn how to distinguish between the ones that are important to the narrative arc and the ones that are not.

In our session, we will cover

  • The components of a defamation or privacy claim
  • Some real life (and often colorful) examples
  • Useful guidelines for avoiding problems

Helen Sedwick is an author and California attorney with thirty years of experience representing businesses and entrepreneurs. Publisher’s Weekly lists her Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook as one of the top five resource books for independent authors. Her blog coaches writers on everything from saving on taxes to avoiding scams. For more information about Helen, check out her website at http://helensedwick.com.

Testimonials

Myers makes a compelling case for the power of words as a form of healing and growth.

professor of psychology, The University of Texas at Austin and author, Opening Up and Writing To Heal

...the NAMW memoir classes with Linda Joy Myers are wonderful