Guest Bloggers

Belinda Pollard: Personal Stories Enhance Your Writing

Inspiration from Belinda Pollard on how to use memoir writing in any of your writing.

Excerpt from “Putting Your Self Into Your Writing, Exercise 1,” by Belinda:

Memoir is a popular genre these days, as people tell their personal stories and inspire others to overcome obstacles, cope with life, or laugh at someone’s funny antics.

But personal stories go much further than memoir. They are great additions to many types of non-fiction, especially self-help. They are wonderful in travel narratives. How-to can also become more engaging and effective if you tell about your own ups and downs as you learned a particular skill.

And your fiction writing can improve as you learn to tell your personal stories well.

I’ve edited biographies and memoirs, and other types of books that use personal story. One of the elements that work really well is when the author finds a way to give readers the gift of experiencing the events in a rich and personal way.

But how do they do this? And more importantly, how can YOU do it in your personal stories?

Exercise 1: Time Travel

This is one simple exercise to help you access the wonderful stories that live and breathe inside of you, and get them out of you and onto a page.

1. Set aside 15 minutes when you won’t be interrupted. Keep the expectations reasonable and you’re more likely to do it! Plus, it can sometimes be quite draining, so keeping it short is wise.

2. Settle in a safe and comfortable place, where you can be relaxed. It can be indoors or outdoors. You can be alone or there may be other people around, such as at a library, but it’s usually best if it’s quiet. Do whatever is comfortable and easy for you.

3. Choose one story you would like to tell.  It might be related to the book you’re writing, or it could be a story you have chosen for this exercise. It might be from many years ago, or yesterday. If you have trouble choosing, just begin the exercise and get started, and a story will probably come into your mind. (If it doesn’t, don’t stress. Just try again another day.)

4. For 5 minutes, close your eyes and imagine you are back in “that place” and “that time.”

Let the “movie” of that event play in your mind.

What happened? What can you see? Hear? Smell? Touch? Taste?

How do you feel? What are the reactions in your body that occur as you experience these different emotions?

How are other people interacting with you? Think about their voices and facial expressions, their dress and manner.

How are places or buildings or vehicles or animals or weather contributing to what’s happening?

5. Now, open your eyes and write for 10 minutes. Write fast. Don’t edit. Don’t question yourself.

Don’t try to be neat if you’re writing by hand, or accurate if you’re typing.

Ignore grammar, spelling and punctuation, just let the words flow!

Write only for 10 minutes. Keeping the time limited makes it more likely you’ll do this exercise again!

6. Later, take the piece you have written and examine it. The goal is to help you get in touch with the elements of writing that can help make a “scene” in your book come alive.

Don’t be critical of your writing! It’s your story. Be glad you have that story inside you.

Link to the entire article, “Putting your Self into your writing, Exercise 1,” by Belinda Pollard and her follow-up article, Exercise Two of Putting Your SELF into your writing.

About Belinda Pollard:

“I help people change the world, one word at a time.”

  • I’m a world traveller based in beautiful, sub-tropical Brisbane, Australia.
  • I began as a journalist, became a specialist book editor in the mid-90s, and a freelance publishing consultant in the early 2000s.
  • coach writers who are working out how to get their book together, and make it sing.
  • I’m also a speaker and love presenting practical workshops for writers, and inspirational speeches for readers.
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