Just Write

Write Memoir in Voice of Narrator

Whether you tell your story chronologically, or with flashbacks, or with intercutting, it’s important to write your memoir in the voice of the narrator. Examples of these different ways of telling a story are used in The Write Spot Anthology: Discoveries. “Maintaining a solid narrative structure is critical to ensure readers move in step with the sequence of life events. . . When they [readers] can follow your progression as a character, they can also fully enter your story.” —Dorit Sasson, “Refresher Course,” The Writer, February 2016 Note from Marlene: When writing about something that happened in childhood, use appropriate age-based language. Show character growth by using adult language when writing about the character as an adult. Examples of narrative structure, character growth and details on how to use intercutting in your writing can be found in The Write Spot Anthology: Discoveries.

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Personal Essay As Therapy

“One reason we choose to write essays instead of another kind of nonfiction piece is because we can use the personal essay as a kind of therapy. Sometimes the act of writing gives us the opportunity to work through the conflict and come up with another way of looking at the situation. As the writer explores her problem, owns it, and then comes up with a resolution that will change how she relates to her problem in the future, the reader will be looking at her own life and doing the same thing. That’s why the essayist must be committed to the process of discovery and must be as honest as she possibly can be about what she uncovers. More than any other piece of nonfiction, the personal essay has to be written and rewritten and rewritten, often many times, to get to the heart of what it is we…

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Thumbnail sketches

Figure drawing classes often start with timed gesture drawings of initial poses lasting as short as five seconds before the model moves. Gradually the time increases to 10, 15 and 30 seconds. By the time you get to a minute, it feels as if you have all day to capture the pose on your sketch pad. The idea is to keep you free, dexterous and more focused on process than product. Such short bursts also keep you from taking yourself too seriously—otherwise, you’d quickly become frustrated. —“Train Your Eye for Better Writing,” by Tess Callahan, Writer’s Digest September 2017 Tess suggests you can do the same with writing. “At odd moments throughout the day, in a diner or in transit, jot down gestures, expressions or snatches of overheard dialogue. . . . Whether or not these little moments make it into whatever story you are writing, they will deepen your…

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I don’t know what I’m doing . . .

“Eventually, I stop looking back and being prissy about the beginning, but I’m pretty prissy about it for a long while. At a certain point, I only go forward. I allow myself to write a chunk where I can say, ‘You know, I don’t know what I’m really doing here. It’s a bit messy.’ I cut myself some slack. I can also write with blind spots where I say, ‘I know I’m going to have to figure this out later I don’t know what the answer is right now but that’s OK,’ and I can keep writing.” —Julianna Baggott Excerpt from “Pure Writer,” by Elfrieda Abbe, The Writer Magazine, January 2016 Note from Marlene: When you get to a “stuck” place in your writing, type ‘xyz” or “something here” in red at your sticky spot.You can come back to that unsettled place later and fix it.  Take a break. Get…

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Emulate Writers to Improve Your Writing

The following is an excerpt from “Train Your Eye for Better Writing,” by Tess Callahan, September 2017, Writer’s Digest: “I encourage my students to read deeply a broad range of writers, and after each one, try writing a few sentences in that wordsmith’s style. For example, take a signature line from William Faulkner. . . and, while keeping the sentence structure intact, pluck out all of the nouns and verbs and replace them with your own. Don’t place these emulated lines directly into your own writing. . . Instead, the idea is to practice emulating lines so that the many different styles can work their way into your brain, spin around in the blender of your subconscious, and serve to inform your own unique voice. No art form exists in a vacuum. The impressionists were friends and rivals who hung around in the same cafes, shared, traded and borrowed, and…

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 Nervous about sharing your writing?

“Do you ever feel nervous about sharing so much in print?” Roxane Gay answers, “Absolutely. The only way I really have the courage or stupidity to share my writing is by believing that no one is going to read it. I have to tell myself that because I‘m actually very shy and private in real life. It’ hard to share such personal stories. But here I am! It’s difficult at this point to maintain the delusion. It was much easier when I was publishing in small literary magazines and nobody knew who I was.” Roxane Gay, September 2017 Writer’s Digest Note from Marlene:  So, even prolific writers are nervous about their work being made public.  Here’s a thought:  Don’t worry. Just write! Roxane Gay’s writing appears in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short…

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Fire Up The Reader’s Brain 

“Once you are clear about how to choose your scenes, develop them to create ‘the dream’ of your memoir. The term ‘fictional dream’ comes from John Garner’s The Art of Fiction in which he writes that we weave a world for our readers with every detail we include —every scene, description, character and piece of dialogue. When we fail to offer continuous cues to scenes in that world, the reader falls out of the dream. The best way to create this dream is to write vivid scenes that stimulate the brain to see, feel and taste that world. Research in the neuroscience of writing demonstrates that when we read a story with sensual details, our brain fires up in the areas of visualization, taste and sound.” Excerpted from “You Must Remember This” by Linda Joy Myers, The Writer February 2016 Posts about using sensory detail in writing: Use Sensory Detail…

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Does your memoir have a theme?

Should your memoir have a theme? Yes, according to Brooke Warner. “Your memoir has an atmosphere, the air a reader breathes, and it’s called theme. Its presence is felt in every scene, whether or not it’s explicitly named by the author.” —Brooke Warner, “Back to Port,” The Writers, February 2016 “If your theme is vague, such as transformation, try to articulate what initiated your transformation.”  Warner gives the example of Wild  by Cheryl Strayed and H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, both about transformation while working through grief. Find your theme and tell your story. Read Brooke’s guest blog post, here on The Write Spot Blog: Why Keep Writing When No One Is Listening. Just Write!

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Is Flash Fiction right for you?

  Want to learn more about Flash Fiction? If you live in the SF Bay Area, you are invited to attend the August 17, 2017 Writers Forum when presenter, Peg Alford Pursell, will talk about Flash Fiction: The Power of Writing Short. “Flash fiction isn’t simply fast fiction. It’s storytelling writ big—by writing short. Miniatures hold so much power that authors have turned to them to write highly successful novels and memoirs. Learn more about the short short and explore its potential to enliven and deepen your writing.”  — Peg Alford Pursell 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm Copperfield’s Books, 140 Kentucky St, Petaluma Free Read about Flash Fiction— What it is and what it is not Places to submit Flash Fiction Smokelong Flash Fiction Online Pulp Literature Fireside Fiction Note from Marlene: Whether your write short, long, fast, or slow. . . Just Write!  

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Back in the swing of things

Hi, It’s been a while since I have posted because there have been lots of Happening Things going on here at my sunny place in Northern California. We began renovating our yard in October in preparation for our youngest son’s wedding in June. Eight and a half months of hauling, digging, pulling, moving, planting, paving . . . and our yard is beautiful and hopefully will be easier to maintain in our later years. The wedding was awesome, amazing, and inspiring. Just as I returned the last wedding item, my 85-year-old mother passed away. I’m at peace with that and happy she is no longer in pain. In anticipation of possible after-wedding let-down, I planned a huge project, which I am in the middle of. More will be revealed in the autumn. So, even though I haven’t been able to post here, I haven’t been idle. I’m going to get…