The memoir genre is reportedly flooded these days and I've discovered several of its nuances by following and reading the works of Mary Karr, a contemporary master of memoir writing. In Stephen King's On Writing, he raves about Mary Karr and her obvious gift for being incapable of writing an uninteresting sentence. I couldn't agree more. As I'm reading through her latest release, The Art of Memoir, I'm recalling both the joys and the horrors of the process as I've finally linked with a literary agent and completed my upcoming memoir, The Desert Warrior.
While Karr's style is unique, and she capable of luring a reader in to a whirlwind of her life experiences. However, once I finished The Liar's Club, I even wondered how the hell anyone got me to read a book about an industrial East Texas town. If no one - especially if Stephen King kept quiet - told me that the book was excellent, I would never have bothered. There's nothing about rural, industrial, or even cosmopolitan parts of Texas that interest me whatsoever unless it's about brisket joints in Austin or Wendy Davis. Yeah, that's about it. But Mary Karr changed my mind through the act of sharing a specific period of her life.
While reading memoirs is a must if you're writing a memoir - and believe me, you will need to read exponentially more pages than you actually write - I would also like to save you time. Below, I've included steps and a few hyperlinked writing resources for you if you decide to write your memoir one day.
Things you should be able to accomplish, in order, for your memoir should be:
1. Write a good 15-20 pages of the book. Minimum. Don't worry about finishing the book right away. Here's some sage advice from William Zinsser, author of Inventing the Truth, On Writing Well, and other fantastic books that eloquently explain the genre.
2. Write a Book Proposal to clarify to agents and publishers why they should publish your book and why it will sell.
3. Write a Query Letter to acquire a literary agent. Some agents may request your first chapter or two, and some may ask for a Book Proposal - which often includes the first 1-2 chapters of your book. Don't send the queries just yet though! Writer's Digest has an excellent series called "Successful Queries" which features examples of query letters that actually worked in getting an agent.
4. Use a site like Query Tracker to keep track of who you query. You don't want to make the mistake of querying the same person twice, or querying someone who already said no.
5. Research which literary agents to query. Some agents only represent fiction, some only romance, and others nonfiction, or mystery. Query agents that represent the memoir genre if you're writing a memoir. Query only fiction with agents who represent your type of fiction, and so on.
6. For some extra advice on the memoir writing process, here's an extra post to help clarify what may feel like quite the lonely process.
So there's my two cents on shortcuts that will save you extra time an energy that could be used in actually writing your book. Don't wait for someone to tell you that you're a writer. Go out there are write, write, and write some more until you are able to purge every morsel of your core into a book you can appreciate and be proud of for years to come.
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