Hi there. Trish Wilkinson here, novelist, writing coach, freelance editor, and member of Page a Day Writers. Recently, I decided to post writing tools on my Write to Win! website using materials I present at workshops. I thought Page-a-Day readers might appreciate them as well. Below is the beginning of the outline author Howard Shulman and I used to teach workshops in February on writing memoir for San Diego Writers’ Ink and the Southern California Writers’ Conference. If you have questions or would like further assistance, send an email to Trish@write-to-win.com, and I’ll be happy to help.
The three things that will make your memoir successful:
- Write your story as the illustration of a universal theme
(what Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-standardized Text for Writing and Life(TMP), calls “The algorithm”, p.23)
Exercise 1: Write your own statement that describes your memoir below.
“This is a story about ____________________________ and the illustration is
Examples: – This is a story about the struggle for love and acceptance, and the illustration is Howard Shulman’s disfigurement as an infant and subsequent abandonment by his birth parents. Running from the Mirror
– This is a story about self-discovery, and the illustration is Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey choosing places to explore pleasure, spirituality and love. Eat, Pray, Love
– This is a story about emotional survival, and the illustration is Augusten Burroughs’s childhood, coping with his mother’s mental illness. Running with Scissors
– This is a story about love and loss, and the illustration is Nicholas Sparks’s relationships with his family members.Three Weeks with My Brother
Ask yourself: Who are you in your memoir? What is your position as the expert who has experienced your theme? What is your purpose; that is, what’s in it for the reader?
- Tell the truth (be real, for better or worse, because that’s what gives you credibility).
- In the revision phase, make every word/page drive your story forward in a context the reader can relate to (see hand out for the “how to” on “showing” vesrsu”telling”). If a sentence or scene doesn’t relate to your theme, leave it out.
“…when you have a flash of understanding on one topic, you can write an essay. Write an essay and you tackle a scene. Master the scene, and you can write seventy-five of them and have yourself a book. And here’s an unexpected dividend: Write a book about an aspect of your life, and you might gain perspective since … success in writing is all about which details you choose to emphasize.” (TMP, p. 34)
Click here for two more exercises, specific steps for revision once you’ve written your first draft, and concrete publishing options.
Do you wonder about the meaning or inspiration behind people’s tattoos? Mine are very significant to me, not to mention that I find them all very beautiful (and love the queries/compliments/comments that my anatomic human heart generates). Tattoos Day is celebrating poets and their ink via the Tattooed Poets Project.
Check it out here to read my poem “process aestivation.” You’ll find many other amazing poetic works and images featured on the site, too, so be sure to explore.
Thanks to Bill Cohen for featuring me and my work on the blog!
Creative folks know well that feeling of relieved disorientation that follows the conclusion of a project. For me, finishing a novel brings with it a period of rest and recuperation. The storm abates. We can rest in the lull before new waves build and crest to send us on another journey.
Right now, I’m in the lull. Recently, I finished the Gothic novel (The Book of Blood Magic) I’d been working on for the past three and a half years, packaged it up beautifully, and had it “blessed” by my energetically magical friend before sending it to my agent. It’s been close to three weeks since it left my hands, and I’m still kind of stumbling around, blinking in the sunlight as if I’d just left a movie theater in the middle of the day after completely losing myself in Story.
I have to stay busy, in the meantime. The waiting is the worst part. Is it readable? Saleable? Marketable? Who will buy?
The lull is admin time. I catch up on short story revisions, embark on a mad submission spree, researching lit magazines and sending in new work while it’s still fairly fresh and exciting to me. Fool around with my poetry. Touch up my website and CV. Stave off the looming finance/career paranoia and anxiety that dogs me, always. (I fear what I’ve termed Melville Syndrome*–experiencing a spate of successes but dying misunderstood, unread and labeled a literary crackpot, only to have my work become a classroom staple that inspires movies, an opera** and seeps into popular speech a century after my demise.) But mostly, I use the time to think. Which dormant project speaks to me with the loudest voice? Which seed will I water and nurture to fruition?
I’m finally ready to begin (again) writing the feminist Utopian novel that’s been simmering away on the back burner of my creative brain for many years, but it’s a complex project requiring much research. However, now is probably the perfect time to go back to the Ice Song series and resume work on the third and final installment now that I’ve settled on a title (Tattercoats). Hopefully, it’ll be quick and relatively fun, and I’ll likely self-publish this one (as I learned that most traditional publishers don’t want to pick up a single book from a series). It’ll be a loving labor, a tying of the bow.
Learning to navigate the lulls in our writing careers means being willing to be nonproductive, to honor the process of gestation as much as the conception and birth of our works. To endure the uncertainty of waiting, to appreciate the lessons learned and the risks taken in our latest project. It is a time of restoration and preparation; we strengthen ourselves for the work ahead. In the lull, we can anticipate the next phase of adventure, the certain successes and disappointments, secure in knowing that the quiet room in our heads, so recently vacated by our characters, will again entertain a party of strange and charming guests.
*Or worse, EA Poe. Dying penniless and ill in a gutter, only to have my work spawn an entire literary industry of hipsterish t-shirts, lunchboxes, household decor, ladies aprons, wall plaques, pillows, films, scads of reprints and spawn new fiction genres. Sure, it’s kind of awesome, but if it happens to me, I’d like to be around to enjoy it.
**I was terribly excited about attending a performance but drank too much wine beforehand and subsequently slept through most of the second half.
Our very own Page a Day Writer, Sharon Cooper, recently received two more awards for her excellent romance novels. Go Sharon!
I spentthispastweekend in Dallas, TX celebratingthe 20th Anniversary of Romance Slam Jam (RSJ). Forthose of youwho are not familiar with RSJ it’s an organization that brings African-American authorsandreaderstogether. RSJ has created an opportunityforreaders to meetandget to knowsome of their favoriteauthors.
It was super exciting to meet readers who have sent me wonderful emails and who I communicate with on social media platforms. I’m telling you, some of these readers know my characters better than I do! I really enjoyed discussing the stories with them!
Though I attended as an author, I have to admit I didhave my fangirl momentswhen I sawsome of my favoriteauthors (Beverly Jenkins, Farrah Rochon, Sienna Mynx, Zuri Day, and the list goes on). Andwhat TOTALLY blew me away
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Sharon won’t brag on our writers’ blog, but I’m happy to let you know about her extreme awesomeness! Already a successful self-published author, Kimani Romance, a subsidiary of Harlequin, asked Sharon to write a few books for them. I believe this one is her second traditionally published novel, and she is still self-publishing other titles. Hybrid authors are becoming more common. Check out Sharon’s website https://sharoncooper.wordpress.com to see all the titles she has published in the last few years. This girl is cookin’.
Woo hoo! Look what’s available in paperback – SIN CITY TEMPTATION!
Former police officer Trinity Layton will do anything to keep her personal security business afloat—even babysit professional poker player Gunner Brooks. Bizarre incidents have been plaguing the poker tour, and Trinity has been hired to keep Gunner safe. But when the gorgeous playboy convinces her to pose as his girlfriend, she might be the one who needs protecting, as their passionate charade quickly becomes all too real.
A gambler in the game of life, Gunner has made his fortune playing for the greatest prizes. The last thing he needs during this tournament is a bodyguard hanging around, especially one as alluring as Trinity. And being together 24/7 just tripled their odds of falling for one another. Now, as Gunner prepares for the championship of his career, he’s playing for the highest stakes of…
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Three Tricks For Showing Rather Than Telling
by Trish Wilkinson
For readers to become invested in a story, they need to “see” characters’ movement and action within a setting. Writers often hear, “Show don’t tell,” and sometimes we think, “But I did show – didn’t I? How do I fix this?”
Here are a few quick tips for showing rather than telling:
- Use ACTIVE VERBS rather than passive ones wherever possible.
Keep this list of passive verbs near your computer until you get in the habit of using them sparingly. (I tell my students: “If you must use passive verbs, limit them to no more than one or two on a page.”)
- Forms of be to AVOID: is, are, was, were, be, being, and been
- Auxiliary verbs: am, did, do, does, can, may, might, will, would, shall, should, must, has, have, had, could
- Adjectives (describing words)
- Adverbs (words used to…
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