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Writing Memoir: The Practical Guide to Writing and Publishing the Story of Your Life Paperback – September 6, 2016
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"A pleasure to read, 'Writing Memoir' is an awesome resource for writers that should be part of any writer's library!" - Reader Views
"Five stars! A delight to read, extremely informative. Writers, experienced and new, should find something helpful in this book" - Reader's Favorite
Award-winning finalist, 2016 Best Book Awards (Writing and Publishing)
From the Author
I'm a ghostwriter. That means I write for other people. (Not everyone knows this. Once, a cab driver in Key West, hearing what I did for a living, excitedly told me that I'd come to the right place because "we've got lots of great ghost stories in this town!") In my career, I've written or edited various business how-to books, medical books, diet and nutrition books, geopolitical books, a gardening book, a book on sunken treasure, and a book on how to quit smoking. Mostly, however, I've written memoirs. I wrote one not long after I started my ghostwriting career and was so drawn to the experience, I soon found myself focusing on them.
Memoirs are special. As I discuss in my book, and as you may discover in the process of writing your memoir, there is something profoundly revelatory in exploring a life to the depth that's required to write about it. I make a case in the very first chapter that any honest memoir does just this. A memoir is an exploration. And each memoir I've worked on has been illuminating in its own unique way. I suppose that's not surprising; every memoir is unique because every life is unique.
It's the exploration that's the key. In the book, I talk about the objectivity and self-awareness true exploration requires. Good memoirs help generate self-awareness,which, in turn, makes good memoirs. Poor memoirs lack this quality. Poor memoirs are often superficial and self-absorbed and egotistical. Unfortunately,there are too many of this kind of memoir. "Here, let me tell you how interesting I am." No, thanks. If that's your idea of a memoir, you're probably not going to get much out of my book. A good memoir won't be about you. It'll be about your reader. That's what exploration does. It uncovers that which links us to the human condition. This book is about that link and, therefore, about your connection to the reader.
Top customer reviews
The author does a good job of "keeping it real." Many people are writing memoirs these days. The tone of the book is always, "You can do this, but don't kid yourself." If you're not in this for personal enlightenment, you're probably wasting your time. But if that's what you care about, go for it (and again, you can do it!)
This book is enough to be the only one you read.
Payne further explains that a memoir is an exploration of your ‘self,’ and good memoirs generate self-awareness. One must be honest with self, and the reader. If not, the memoirist will be discovered as a fraud resulting in loss of the reader. Ernest Hemingway says, “A writer’s job is to tell the truth.” And Payne stresses telling truth. He says, “If you write honestly, if you seek to tell the account of your life, or some part of it, to the best of your recollection and as objectively as you can, you’re going to learn something about yourself in the process.”
But, what if the truth would violate someone’s privacy or defamation of character occurs, or you end up slandering a person, you could be sued for libel. Payne gives great advice on how to deal with that and avoid any unpleasant ramifications and still write the truth. What would be your motivation to include a particular person in your memoir? What is the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of your story?
Just naming facts (the what and the when and the who) of your memoir, when listed in chronological order, is boring. It’s the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ that makes the story. Payne covers a story’s dramatic structure to give it life and feelings and connection. What effect did it have on you as the writer? How did you feel? How did it change you? “Drama is built. Action rises and falls,” Payne says.
So where do you begin? Payne advises starting your memoir with the turning point – a life-altering moment you experienced. What was your recovery like? A main thread must stitch a series of stories together which becomes the theme. And that is what links your story to the reader. It’s what connects. Payne explains, in easy-to-understand terms, the two big conceptual elements of your memoirs as theme and narrative arc.
Jerry Payne gives several checkpoints along the way such as: Is my story true to its theme? Are important characters fully fleshed out? Are pivotal moments described in detail? Is there enough dialogue? Does the writing sound like me?
When you have written your memoir, edited it, polished it, and are ready to publish it, Payne walks you through the various publishing options and the steps needed to pursue the option which appeals the most to you.
I give Writing Memoir a 5-star rating. I would definitely recommend it if you have even the remotest idea of writing your memoir – even if it’s for your eyes only.
While reading this book in order to write a review, I followed Jerry Payne’s very helpful guidelines chapter by chapter and put into practice what he taught. And, I wrote my memoir and the outline for another one!
Review by: Rita Kroon, author of her memoir "Cancer, A Journey through the Valley"
The book is brief enough so that readers can read the contents more than once in order to internalize the teachings. Jerry teaches things like writing the story of my life. This is a subject with lots of twists and turns. "I Remember Mama" comes to mind. This play by John Van Druten was based on Kathryn Forbes' novel "Mama's Bank Account".
The story is about the family life of a Norwegian immigrant in San Francisco early in the previous century. At one point, Marta asks a famous author to read some of her daughter's writing. The author reads some material and makes an assessment. The assessment is that the writing is not good; however, her daughter has a real gift to pursue.
The author goes on to explain that the daughter should write about familiar topics rather than abstractions not within her domain of experience. In exchange for the assessment, Marta reviews some of her best recipes with the author. The story has many redeeming qualities like the value of hard work, the importance of family, the need to consult with experts and much more.
Overall, "Writing Memoir" by Jerry Payne is a valuable resource which instructs prospective writers on the mechanics of writing a successful book. A corollary is that your writing must appeal to readers so that the contents of the book are read and appreciated. Jerry's book will be helpful for belles lettres works, as well as more technical writing.
As the title suggests - this is a practical guide.
Payne suggests some things that make memoirs poor - eg - self aggrandizement.
I liked some of the quotes used throughout:
We do not write to be understood but in order to understand. Cecil Day-Lewis
Each time a person dies, a library burns - Jandy Nelson
A writers job is to tell the truth. Ernest Hemmingway.
The only reason I marked it 4 instead of 5 stars is the first chapter seems a bit much like a plug for ghost writers which Payne is.
It is a good, practical book and as you would expect - well written which to me includes being interesting, If you are considering writing a memoir - get this book. It is that simple.
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He feels, and rightly so "there is something profoundly revelatory in exploring...Read more