Memoir Writing: No. 7 Shuffling Events

You’ve got your action outline, which grows every time you look at it.


It’s not time to start culling. (That will come, and you will be merciless, more or less, if you want to finish this thing.)


Before you start writing – and we are getting very close – you need to escape from the straightjacket of chronology.

Your chronology is your chronology. It can grow or shrink, but events always stay in strict chronological order.

The action outline is different. It’s the skeleton you will hang your story onto.


It will probably remain roughly chronological, but it doesn’t have to.

Action Outline #3 … It all got moved around.

For most of us, some periods of our lives are busier, and more significant, than others. These periods tend to be more memorable. Nobody wants to read about our routine … until something interrupts it and the extraordinary, or at least unusual, occurs.


For instance, my routine of teaching English, studying Lao and doing research in the government archives was interrupted by word that a coup might be taking place. Memorable.


I had not written much about the teaching, studying and research even though it occurred very close to the beginning of my chronology. So I moved the timing of some of the events that created the routine, or normalcy, and wrote about them in the coup chapter (which did not survive rewrites).


I think you get the point.


You can’t move the climax, but you can tinker around with events leading up to or contributing to it.


Figure out how long your chapters might be. How much can you cram into one? Then start shuffling events or incidents to plug holes, shorten a complex chapter or improve the flow of the narrative.


We are almost ready to start writing. First, we will do a title. But now is the time to rearrange that action outline.


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