As anyone who has written more than a dozen life stories or begun a memoir knows, some stories flow onto the page more smoothly and easily than others. What do you do when a story jams up? What do you do when you start writing and realize you aren’t going where you thought you wanted to go?
Let me use this blog post as an example: I originally intended to write it to highlight Andrea Hurst’s AUTHORNOMICS Interview Series, which features weekly interviews with literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know. I wanted to tell you how valuable it can be to learn from experts in other genres as well as your own, and I wanted to alert you that I’m featured in an interview this week.
But that’s not enough to fill an entire blog post, so I decided to add a few more resources, for example a link to Kathy Pooler’s blog, Memoir Writer’s Journey. Kathy is a walking Wikipedia for life writers, with more resource links per post than anyone I know.
Jerry Waxler’s blog, Memory Writer’s Network, is crammed with wisdom and writing lessons gleaned from his deep study of over a hundred memoirs. He includes dozens of author interviews.
I could fill many pages with links to rich blog sites like Shirley Showalter’s Discover the Power of Writing Your Story, or SuziCate’s Water Witch’s Daughter, one of the finest and most consistent examples of scintillating description I’ve found. Linda Joy Myers’ Memories and Memoirs is full of great tips, along with the Women’s Memoirs site.
I save one of the best for last: the National Association of Memoir Writers. I saved this one for last because I hope you’ll click over to learn more about the 3-week NAMW short course I’m offering, beginning next week: Soaring High and Digging Deep: Tools for Refining Your Memoir, which I mention in the AUTHORNOMICS Interview.
That last link brings me back around to my original intent of discussing what to do when your story doesn’t go where you intended: Let it take a detour. Write around the log jam – or through it. If you encounter a flock of sheep on a New Zealand road, unless you plan to sit there for an hour, you must keep moving, very slowly, until you work your way through. You might later edit out extraneous material after you write to the other side, or perhaps you’ll find it has value after all, and leave it in. Today I cut a lot, but left in links I have been meaning to feature, “when the time is right.”
A second alternative is to set aside your keyboard and linear writing in favor of more visual ways of exploring and organizing memories and meaning. I’ve written a number of posts on some of these tools in the past, but reading about them and using them are two different matters. In the Soaring High and Digging Deep class, you’ll have the opportunity to discover their power by using them yourself and share your experience with others to learn even more.
To find out more about the class and memories in general, join me on February 9 on the free NAMW February Roundtable: Memories are Made of This … or Are They? Click here to sign up.
Write Now: Pull out a story you’re jammed up on and write aroudn your logjam. Just freewrite about it and see where you go. Surprise yourself. You can throw it away later, or you may find a gem. Try a tool like inner dialogue, mind-mapping, or asking yourself questions. Sign up for the class and get help as you practice using new tools.
Photo credit: Susan Mack