Memoirs: No One Wants to Read Your Diary

We all have a story to tell. Our lives are our stories. That's why the memoir category exists--because we love to read biographies and memoirs of those names we know and the people we want to learn more about.
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We all have a story to tell. Our lives are our stories. That's why the memoir category exists--because we love to read biographies and memoirs of those names we know and the people we want to learn more about.

When it is your story, and the memoir is your own, sometimes getting the story straight and developing the character can be a bit more challenging.

While your personal life story may be an unbelievable one, how you craft it, how you tell it, and how you share the development of the main character--meaning you--is of utmost importance.

The reason why many memoirs don't get picked up by major publishers is because they fall short of this important distinction: no one wants to read your diary; they want to read your story.

Crafting the story about your life must focus on a particular incident and journey, not where you were born, where you went to kindergarten or when you graduated from high school or got married. That's not interesting to anyone but you and maybe your family.

Crafting a memoir begins by identifying why you are writing the book in the first place and what your intentions are for sharing your story. Just because you have a good story and someone told you you should write a book about it, that's not enough. You may think you have the next bestseller or the next blockbuster film or tv show, but there is more to it than just having a good story to tell.

Writing a book means you have to commit your time, energy and effort, which means you will be working on your book instead of doing other things. Writing a memoir means that you are going to open up your world and your life to others--to strangers--and let them into your private space, thoughts, and experiences. Some people are eager to do this; others are not and don't find out they are uncomfortable doing this until they are in the midst of writing their books.

To get more clarity about your memoir, first understand this: you are the main character and the protagonist of the story. Like fiction, things are going to happen in your story that affect you and pivot the "plot" of your story. You will need to share what you are thinking and feeling in addition to what is happening to you and what you are doing in response.

For many would-be memoir writers, this exposure of their stories is too much to handle emotionally. Make sure before you commit to writing your story that you have given this sufficient reflection so you understand going in what you have gotten yourself into. Too many projects get started, only to end up on the shelf--forever.

Another consideration about your memoir to consider is what is the actual part of your story that encapsulates what you want to share with the world. Is it an incident about your family's craziness like in The Glass Castle or Running With Scissors? Does something about your memoir serve your business--like in the story of Chris Gardner's year of homelessness before entering the wild world of Wall Street and creating his own stock brokerage firm in The Pursuit of Happyness? Is it a book about your travels and/or romance like in Eat Pray Love?

What is the backbone incident of your "story"?

How do the events of the story shape your "character"?

Before sitting down to write your memoir, consider this: in addition to writing a great book, you are going to need to determine your platform. If you want to speak about your story to others, you will need to identify what your message and platform is that comes through your story.

All of us have a story. To use your book as your hook in a memoir, you will need to consider much more that just a great adventure you had, a monumental romance you lost, or the craziness of your family you survived. You will need to determine what that narrow hook is, what your message is, and, most of all, what your intentions are for sharing your story.

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