Who doesn’t want to publish a memoir? Jerry Payne’s instructional book boasts excellent writing and great organization. He packs in valuable guidance, thoughtful suggestions, and creative insights for the aspiring writer of memoir, delivering precisely what he promises – save one glaring exception.
Good dialogue makes for good reading whether a work is fiction or non. Many novels are long on violence, sex, and coarse language. No harm, no foul, unless one opens an G-rated Agatha Christie mystery and encounters a scene more fitted to Fifty Shades of Gray.
Memoir Implies Promise to Readers
The author observes, “Whether you realize it or not, you have an agreement with the reader. An implied contract. If you breach that contract, if you violate the trust of your reader, why should he or she continue reading? How can you expect your reading audience to stick around?”
Yes! I completely agree. But –
Where the Author Blew It
My trust was violated on page 26 by Mr. Payne’s solitary example of brilliant dialogue. (He couldn’t come up with another?) I’d already made a mental list of people with whom I’d share his little gem of a book, but abandoned the plan. I didn’t expect a non-fiction book about writing memoir to slap me upside the head with the F-word quoted in the most distasteful way possible.
Mind you, I’ve heard the word many times. I’m as comfortable in corporate America as the back side of a racetrack. But I don’t use the word and my friends don’t make a habit of it.
Use Consistent Voice in Your Writing
The F-word is unremarkably benign in certain settings; Writing Memoir not so much. Was its use essential to making the author’s point? Until page 26, Payne’s voice was that of a sensitive, intuitive, inviting, and cordial mentor.
Writing is a one-sided conversation, being considerate of the one who doesn’t talk back. Use consistent voice. If you want to branch out and experiment with different author styles, consider using a pen name until you sort it out.
“Memoir” is Singular
A memoir is “a historical account or biography written from personal knowledge or special sources.” (Dictionary) It is one work. Memoirs (plural) suggest more than one memoir.
Most memoirs address an experience or period in the author’s life. Unlike biographies that span one’s lifetime from beginning to end. Memoir is more intimate and specific.
Super Resource for Writing Memoir
A week later I made it to page 27 and finished the book. Permit me this rhetorical question, “Are readers who don’t care about the F-word old enough to be thinking about writing memoir?”
The author offered me the opportunity to review his book. I’m selective because time is precious and I prefer writing rave reviews. Page 26 aside, I glean several tips to help me deepen the connection I make with my own readers. If this is a genre that interests you, consider reading the book.
Without page 26 this would have been a 5-star rave. I settled on 4-stars for my Amazon review because anything less would be gratuitously punitive. The first sentence in this review sums up the reasons for reading Writing Memoir. If the topic intrigues you – go for it. You’ve been warned about page 26.
Words From Author Jerry Payne
“In my career, I’ve written or edited various business how-to books, medical books, diet and nutrition books, geopolitical books, a gardening book, a book on sunken treasure, and a book on how to quit smoking. Mostly, however, I’ve written memoirs. I wrote one not long after I started my ghostwriting career and was so drawn to the experience, I soon found myself focusing on them.
A memoir is an exploration. And each memoir I’ve worked on has been illuminating in its own unique way. I suppose that’s not surprising; every memoir is unique because every life is unique. It’s the exploration that’s the key. In the book, I talk about the objectivity and self-awareness true exploration requires. Good memoirs help generate self-awareness, which, in turn, makes good memoirs.”
“I’m a ghostwriter. That means I write for other people. (Not everyone knows this. Once, a cab driver in Key West, hearing what I did for a living, excitedly told me that I’d come to the right place because “we’ve got lots of great ghost stories in this town!”)
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