RIGHT NOW YOUR FACEBOOK STREAM is as full of mine with those “Which rock song/Harry Potter character/movie great are you?” quizzes. You do know that those are mere data-stealers, and that each time you fill one out the Internet gains another chunk of your precious info, right? No? Well now you do. So stop filling out those and get back to your real work. But keep this in mind: Those quizzes have the appeal they do because we love and respond to iconic identifiers. If you let them, they’ll guide you to write good characterization in memoir. [Read more…]
WRITING ABOUT THE TOUGHEST stuff of life will include the kind of struggle you need to prepare for. Simple as that. You will change your mind, your methods, your voice, your approach, perhaps your reporting mode, and probably most of the piece several times. You might doubt your sanity, the reliability of your family, and even the idea that there is any truth lurking out there for you to capture on the page. My advice to those who are doing this is to get every bit of help available. Figuring out how to write the truth about tough times should not be done on one’s own. No one should try this alone. Donna Miller’s new book is written from the toughest place on earth, and she is here to share with you how she got from there to here. [Read more…]
ARE THERE SOME PHRASES that should never appear in print? Maybe, maybe not. After all, I’m all for place savers — cliches, song lyrics, bumper sticker phrases — in that infamous vomit draft I write about so often. But in the later and final drafts, I’d say there are exceptions. And of those, perhaps there are two words no memoir writer should ever use. This idea came to me after a online conversation with the writer Brock Heasley, after he suggested that he knew exactly which two words should be banned for life from our work. See if you agree. [Read more…]
“IT’S FUNNY.” What would happen if we eliminated that phrase from our language – our dialogue, our thinking and, most important of all, our writing? It’s too easy to say that much as “like” and “you know,” which serve no earthly purpose in human understanding, the ubiquitous “it’s funny,” is also fairly harmless. Annoying as they are, those other pesky blots on our language are mere filler. But “it’s funny,” is the top phrase writers should never use. It’s dangerous – treacherous, even – and I say the hell with it. [Read more…]
WRITING MEMOIR IN PRESENT TENSE suits grief in ways that the past tense simply cannot provide. Think about it for a moment and you may agree. Or better yet, read Amy Biancolli on writing her new book, Figuring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide and Survival, and see if the case she makes for the immediacy of the tense does not change how you feel on this. It did for me.
I’VE TRIED MEDITATION, dosing myself with the prescription to apply it at the same time each day. And when I do, the silent, tunneling lack of thought sculpts my sharp edge into something I can use in the world, rather than something I merely use against myself. Exercise, too, razors off some degree of my resistance. But neither one has done enough recently to let me write something I want to write, and the longing for words soon became a search for a new kind of support. What to do? [Read more…]