Step One in writing a memoir is to acknowledge that you have a lot of stuff; you’re not sure where it is or where it will go but you know you have it.
Step Two, start rounding up the stuff.
No — No — No.
That’s all wrong.
Before you start gathering all the stuff, write an outline … on paper … in pencil.
I recommend paper so you don’t wear out your backspace key. Or your printer’s ink cartridge.
The outline for this puppy is going to change a hundred times … the first day.
Okay, so BEFORE you outline, just jot down ideas … in no particular order. Stuff you want to remember. Incidents. People. Places. (This jotting down process can be lengthy, and I recommend using a steno pad or a three-ring note binder. The steno pad is easier to carry around.)
My first list went something like this: Memoir … for kids … Laos after expelled from Viet-Nam … draft status … mugged in Bangkok … Hotel Constellation … crotch rot / writing in underwear. WHERE ARE JOURNALS. START THERE.
And so on.
During my 1991 effort to organize things, I compiled my handwritten lists and typed them into a computer file named “Elements.” The header for the file read “EVERYTHING THAT COUILD POSSIBLY GO INTO THE BOOK.” That file was later subsumed into a file named “Plan,” and on it went.
I believe in wallowing. Just soaking up information and generating impressions. I keep doing it until I get bored. Then I stop and try to find something constructive to do. Or move on to another project.
So, Step No. 1 to writing a memoir is to wallow in information, impressions, and sensations. Also, alcohol.
(To be continued.)
David this is genius! Now that you’ve had an editor pick your blog, you have an audience. While you lead them through ‘how to’s’, they just might be interested in your notes on your book. So exciting, because I love your blogs and I have read the book. I found it fascinating and very readable. I’ve already joined your fan club. Love, Bev
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Too kind, Bev. You must be a relative.