Last week, several of us discussed the memoir and how to approach writing about family and others close to you. This morning I listened to an enlightening blog radio show over at SHE WRITES on this topic: How Do We Write About Our Families
This was by far the best way for me to start my writing week. One woman called in and described how the publication of her memoir caused her to never publish again; but another found that the release of her family’s story opened up lines of communication that had been forever closed and made for a closer-knit, more open family. Here are a few of the notes I took, though I suggest clicking on the link and listening. I promise it will be well worth your time.
When writing the book, especially early drafts, you can’t censor yourself. Chronic censoring keeps you from walking all the way up to the edge of the cliff and the reader can tell when you’re holding back. So put it all out there. It’s just a draft, right? Give yourself that freedom. You can always take things out later.
The reason we write — fiction or nonfiction — is to express the truth. Or rather, our personal truth. Someone might read your story and disagree. And guess what? They’re entitled to disagree! This disagreement doesn’t make your truth, or theirs, any less valid. You are each entitled to your version. You need to be able to stand in your own truth, and let them stand in theirs.
What is the story and why am I so compelled to tell it?
There’s a tendency in memoir to assess blame and to focus on people other than yourself. This is one of the genre’s biggest flaws. Are you writing your book to be punitive or to discover something you need to discover?
Is the spotlight turned as much on your motivations as on everyone else’s?
Are you afraid someone will be hurt by your book? If so, why? Will they be hurt because you’ve published it, or because it happened?
Before your book is published, clear the path. Let people who are in your book read the galleys. Doing this pre-publication lets you be present in the moment and enjoy, after all of your hard work, the release of your book.