Who doesn’t want to publish a memoir? Jerry Payne’s instructional book features excellent writing and great organization. He packs in valuable guidance, suggestions, and insight 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.”
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 –
The Author Violated my Trust in His Promise
The trust of this reader was violated on page 26 by Mr. Payne’s solitary example of brilliant dialogue. I’d already made a mental list of people with whom I’d share his little gem of a book. That plan was deep-sixed. 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 it and my friends don’t make a habit of it. The F-word is unremarkably benign in certain settings; “Writing Memoir” not falling into that category. Was its use essential to making the author’s point? Until page 26 his voice was that of a sensitive, intuitive, inviting, and cordial mentor.
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. I won’t be sharing this title with anyone personally but I did walk away with a few tips that may deepen the connection I make with my own readers.
Without page 26 this would have been a 5-star rave. I settled on 4-stars 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.
From author: Jerry Payne
“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!”) 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.”