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The naked truth: how to write a memoir

theguardian.com – Saturday December 14, 2019

Some memoirists send drafts of their work to loved ones, or even not-so-loved ones, and where there’s a response alter their writing as a result. Others see no need for consultation. Either way, when writing about your own life, it’s important to get the monkeys off your shoulder – to be uninhibited by the possible fallout of your words. You can worry about other people later, when you’re editing. In mid-flow, you need the illusion of privacy, not to be anticipating people’s reactions (which are in any case unpredictable). Most self-censorship is cowardly. In Elizabeth’s Strout’s My Name Is Lucy Barton, the writing tutor Sarah says: “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write … remember this: you’re not doing it right.”

Everyone has a book in them, it’s said, but as Martin Amis noted in his memoir Experience (2000), what everyone seems to have in them “is not a novel but a memoir … We are all writing it or at any rate talking it: the memoir, the apologia, the CV, the cri de coeur.” Democracy itself may be under threat but the democratisation of the memoir keeps advancing. What was once a geriatric, self-satisfied genre – politicians, generals and film stars looking back fondly on long careers – is now open to anyone with a story to tell. And the genre has reinvented itself to take diverse forms: lyric essay, creative non-fiction, confessional prose-poem and so on. You don’t have to be famous to write a memoir. And it doesn’t have to be cradle-to-grave: a slice of life, or collage of fragments, can be enough.

To read the full article on theguardian.com, click here

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