Those of you who follow my blog will have noticed that I have written about a brand new memoir, published today, in fact, called Big in China and written by expat partner Alan Paul. Some of you may think that I must be on his payroll! After all, I have written about his new book three times and this will make a fourth. No, I write about Alan’s book because it is a simply a good example of how to write a memoir.
Every week someone sends me a draft of their memoir. Either they want me to consider publishing it through my imprint, Summertime Publishing, or they want me to mentor them through the writing process. Either way it pains me to share with you that 90 per cent of those memoirs are simply not good enough. If they followed certain rules they would save themselves time, the heartache of rejection and have a much better chance of success.
So, what are the rules of a good memoir? Let me explain:
Five Rules for a Fabulous Memoir
Alan’s memoir is a great example of an expat memoir and it covers the four years he lived with his family in Beijing. Other memoirs cover longer periods of time. It is written chronologically. Its theme was discussed earlier in this column. Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues, and Becoming a Star in Beijing
Niamh Ni Bhroin’s The Singing Warrior covers all 53 years of her life and while it starts at a crisis point when she was 50, it then whizzes back to her childhood and goes on to tell the stories in her life, chronologically, until she reaches the present day, happy and healed. Her theme is surviving childhood abuse. The Singing Warrior – Finding Happiness After a Life Filled with Pain and Abuse.
Carolyn Vines’ Black and (A)broad begins ten years ago when, in the US, her Dutch boyfriend asks her to join him in Holland and she turns him down. The book progresses, telling the story of the following decade and her decision to go to Europe. She uses the flashback technique to tell of the stories that led up to that fateful day. Her theme is the pursuit of identity. Black and Abroad: Traveling Beyond the Limitations of Identity
If you are serious about writing your memoir, then please ensure your first step is to print and cut out this article and paste it on the wall above your desk.
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