I’m buckling down now that I have found all the information I wanted to boost me into actually sitting my ass down in the chair and outlining and piecing and writing the memoir bits that will, so help me God, come together someday. I spent the day researching basically, and then I got caught up in writing tips and advice and blunt honesty from author blogs, editor blogs and sites, writers, memoir writers, professors and teachers and other bloggers alike, and I, for now, have come up with a delightful collection I am going to print out and keep on my desk with me for motivation and, well, common sense. And this delightful collection I am sharing with you.
Ass. In. Chair. These words are coming from these people along with notes I took from writing podcasts, such as Debra Gwartney‘s podcast over at Tin House called “When the Action is Hot, Write Cool.” Here are just some of the things she said in my notes that hit home, that inspire me and turn me in the right direction. Writing a memoir is fucking overwhelming. There’s just so much.
So here’s some of Debra Gwartney’s words to inspire you right in the gut:
Pull them in don’t force them to see how bad the trauma was
No over emotion
Convey emotion w/ a matter of fact tone and highly controlled language
Let readers feel for themselves not be instructed by you
Can’t be just about what happened
You have to focus on recitation of events but use EVENT AS PRY BAR TO OPEN UP AND ILLUMINATE THE DYNAMIC–REWRITE IT THAT WAY, FIGURE IT OUT
How you engage the reader, not just what happened
Something else has to happen to resonate
Don’t shove trauma into readers face to say how bad it was
Don’t demand they recognize the horror
–admirable elemtent –matter of fact in worst part, take breath away images, perfect verbs, no excess; pacing slows down, open up w/ great precision and care, avoid chaos you were feeling I the moment, you want the control of the narrator; CURIOSITY NOT DEFENSIVENESS; not contrived but taut, stretched, few images, careful verbs/words (when action is hot write cool)
Trust language and images you pick, let readre feel for herself
FLATTEN IT OUT, IT’S NOT THIS OH MY GOD, IT’S MATTER OF FACT
-here it is, go, don’t embellish what day it is blah blah blah
Those images, very sparse
Don’t overload w/ images, be selective
SLOWER PACE, let them be in the moment
Avoid overwrought description–STAY OUT OF SENTIMENTALITY CAMP
POWER OF MOMENT COMES UP FROM UNDERNEATH SOMEWHERE
Indicate to reader –experience-not what the essay is about, essay is about …..
By writing this way, they know something even larger is happening–the point of the essay
“I FRANTICALLY did this….”
No bodily functions******
NO NO NO CRYING–everyone will assume, you don’t have to tell that
“YOU HAVE TO NORMALIZE THE INCREDIBLE”
Take the emotion out, don’t add to
in essays–could use second person to distance self
RECORD THE PANIC BUT DON’T ALLOW THE WRITING TO BECOME PANICKED
So that’s a bit on memoir/creative writing that I can’t stop listening to on podcast. It just says everything I need to hear because I’m so worried about my sentimentality in my writing. And the speed I used to write with in the painful parts. I have to slow down, and I really have been, because there is now a lot of distance between me and what happened. Another great podcast on that page is what I’m listening to again right now–“Building the Emotional Image” with Natalie Diaz. It’s fantastic. There’s also one about writing and suicide by Matthew Dickman that is beautiful (he’s in my top ten favorite poets of all time).
I came across this incredibly helpful instruction (I know, don’t be put off by that word, it helps when you start and are lost in a sea of vignettes and clips and snippets and ideas, all the words in your head) on starting your creative nonfiction. It’s from the Huffington Post–Writing a Memoir: Balancing Craft & Vulnerability on Your Journey to “The End” by Linda Joy Myers. Here is a few lines from her:
TIPS FOR BALANCING YOUR SKILLS:
1. sketch out the outline-this becomes a map for you to follow
2. decide what your themes are for your book—knowing your themes helps you to focus. A memoir is a piece of your life, NOT YOUR WHOLE LIFE
3. list the important scenes in your life, but preferably the important scenes that CONNECT with the themes in your book; this helps you to focus on starting to WEAVE your memoir
4. find out how to connect scenes w/ reflection; you weave narration and reflection with your scenes
5. learn what the narrator does to help keep your book flowing—your narrator guides the reader thru the book, through thoughts and reflections, and offers a message or takeaway for the reader.
1. Find your important moments of meaning—your TRUE NORTH of your memoir—by listing turning points or moments that are important to you. Make a list, keep it up for a while, and then you’ll HAVE THE SPINE OF YOUR MEMOIR. Choose to write your scene from this list, and you can write in any order. Making an outline is helpful too though, because at some pint you’ll want to put those scenes in some kind of order
Isn’t that great?
Paulo Coelho on Writing over at Medium brings up good points about trusting your reader, to not try to describe but only hint, let them figure things out (your reader)–that was interesting.
Thanks to writer, editor, professor Lisa Romeo’s awesome blog, I was directed to (along with given many, many writing/literary links) another writing/editor’s blog–Colette Sartor. Sartor has a TON of resources and she workshops/edits for a fee. I’d love to work with her. And Lisa Romeo, too. These resources led me on a strange search on the internet today and I came across the funniest blog I have ever read, and it’s about writing–it’s called Terrible Minds by Chuck Wendig. This particular post (he’s an author as well) was about motivating yourself to write. And he’s fucking honest, and sickly hilarious. I saved one of his sentences to share with you, hoping you’ll go over there and enjoy it as much as I do. He says:
At Terrible Minds: “It’s completely self-reflective and self-driven. Wanna know what it feels like? It feels like this:
You write a paragraph on little slip of paper, then whisper to yourself: “Is it any good?” Then you respond, also in a whisper: “I have no fucking idea.” “Oh, okay. Should I keep writing it?” “I really don’t know, please stop talking to me.” “Okay.” “Okay.” Then you use your manuscript to soak up the tears, and discover it’s not even good at doing that.”
and that’s the gentle part. I was giggling my ass off, go check it out.
I think another one that really stood out to me was Evan Porter’s blog. He posted on “Writing Tips from Famous Writers” and he applies the actual value of these tips, and there are many. Here’s a quote from his post:
Here’s “Show, Don’t Tell” again. Only this time we’re talking about theme.
Theme is quite a beast. Use too heavy of a hand and you’ll make people vomit. Too light, and they’ll miss it completely.
Where theme really shines is in specific imagery, actions, and moments in your writing. It’s not so much about breathless pontification so much as exploring many different angles of your theme through powerful details.
Do you have spots in your writing where you openly spell out the theme, moral, or lesson? Think about showing us, instead.
Faulkner’s Kill all your darlings:
How to Use It: This has to be one of the most brutal truths about writing that there is. What Faulkner’s talking about here is the unavoidable moment in which you have to cut your favorite line, or joke, or description, or plot point from whatever you’re writing.
It’s bound to happen. Because, ultimately, writing isn’t there to look pretty and appease your ego. Every word you write has to serve the goals of the larger piece. If it doesn’t, you have to let it go.
Hard as it may be.
He strikes me as quite brilliant and he knows what the hell he’s talking about–no slacking, get to it, but encourage yourself, you know. Yeah.
I read other sites and articles and blogs but these were my favorites. For a list of my old time favorite advice, quotes, and tips, here’s my post/page from last year on writing: Memoir Tips, Quotes, Books, and Advice.
One more thing–Charles D’Ambrosio over at Tin House blog:
I’ve known Charlie for nearly a decade: he has been a teacher, a mentor, and a friend. I’m grateful for what he’s shown me about how writing can make a mess—and how this mess can move us deeper into the quivering nerve endings of a subject. In workshop, he was hard on our stories because he believed in what they could be. In these essays he is hard on easy answers and false resolution because he believes in what lies beyond them. With this book, I felt like shaking strangers in the street and saying, Read these essays; they will move you.
–from the Tin House blog: “Instead of Sobbing, You Write Sentences” -an interview with Charles D’Ambrosio
If you know of good sites and articles and blogs please share!
Have a good one.