Are you writing a memoir?
Last weekend I attended an event for writers at the “First Fridays” in Leesburg, VA, sponsored by the Bethesda Writer’s Center. The speaker was Hilary Black, who works for National Geographic. She talked about writing narrative nonfiction. Here are a few nuggets from that event, which I have rephrased a bit and applied specifically to memoir-writing:
1. Know why your subject matters to you:
If you want the topic to matter to others, you need to know exactly what about it matters to you. Is there a conflict or emotion you want to work out? Be as specific as possible. The story won’t be compelling to anyone else unless it’s compelling to you. It helps to write a thesis statement, just for yourself.
2. Be ready to “go there”:
Are you ready and willing to delve into the past experience that is the substance of the memoir? You cannot hint at what happened, or “write around it” which may be tempting if the experience was painful. Let’s face it: Writing a memoir about a painful topic is a painful process! If you want to do it, prepare yourself to plunge into this aspect.
3. Implement a 3-part structure:
1. Conflict 2. Work through conflict 3. New understanding of conflict
It seems obvious, but every work needs a beginning, middle and end. And the best lens for memoir writing is that universal lens — conflict — so use this to structure your work.
What about these rings true for you?