Recommendation for a book on putting together a memoir?
March 1, 2009 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I need a recommendation for an instructional book on putting together a memoir. I already have a good portion of it written. The area I need help with is what to do with the various experiences that I've written about. Right now it's a bunch of stories with a central theme. I need to pull it together and make it a book in other words.
posted by adfeb to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like you're at a stage where you need other people to read it. I recommend hiring a freelance editor to give it a glance and make recommendations; you can find them pretty easily via craigslist or through University departments. Someone else will see things you don't can't see and be able to give you advice that you should consider, even if you don't end up taking it.
posted by hermitosis at 8:25 AM on March 2, 2009

Best answer: If I understand your post correctly, it sounds like you've got a lot of fragments and are looking for ways to tie those fragments together. What you probably need to think about is what the thru-line of your book is--or the spine, or the overarching theme, or whatever analogy you like. Think about what these piece have in common, or what they say about you. All books, even memoirs, have an organizing question that they're exploring, and this question should have a personal aspect AND a universal aspect: "How did I fall into this horrible pattern of drug use, and what does that tell us about addicts in general?" "How did my domineering mother affect the person I became, and how do we all cope with our mothers and their expectations of us?" "How did I survive the loss of my spouse at a young age, and what can this experience teach us about marriage/life/love?" Etc. In other words, of course you're writing about your experiences, but others will need to relate to those experiences.

Take a little time and look at what you've got so far, then ask yourself, what is this book About? Why would someone else want to read about these experiences? Then you'll have an idea of how to put those fragments together into a larger picture.

As for book recommendations, the only book on writing creative nonfiction that I've read myself is Writing True, by Sondra Perl. However, a quick Amazon search reveals many more. Which book will help is a pretty personal choice--visit your local bookstore or library and check out the writing section. I'm sure you'll find something that will help you.
posted by Ms. Informed at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

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