In Part One of this thread, I describe my beginning struggles in writing my memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce: A Transformative Journey out of Emotional and Spiritual Abuse. After a harsh and expensive critique, my work on it came to a standstill. Three years passed before I was able to tackle the memoir again. But I had been reading other memoirs. I began to understand that this genre is more like fiction, with characters and scenes, and is often arranged around themes rather than chronological events.
I needed a major rewrite.
I’d joined a memoir writing group on LinkedIn and remained friends with one of the members. I became one of his beta readers, that is, someone who reads the entire manuscript and gives one’s feedback. In turn, he became a mentor, assigning the following books to study: The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr, The Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson, The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler, Super Structure by James Scott Bell, Wired for Story by Lisa Cron, and The 90-Day Novel (I laughed at that title, as I imagined the kind of memoir I would have written in 90 days.), by Alan Watt. I studied them diligently, highlighting passages and tagging pages. I learned from Bell that I’m a panster — someone who writes as the words come, not knowing exactly where the story is heading or how it is ending — and I need to be more of a plotter.
Inspired by The Plot Whisperer, I created a timeline of sticky notes on the wall of my office and set about restructuring my story once again. I turned narrative into scenes using dialog and setting, and put a Care Package (my loyal dog who follows me about the house I’m reluctantly leaving) in the first page as Bell suggests.
Following that rewrite, I had the first twelve chapters critiqued by four beta readers. Three of them found my story well-written and gave a few minor suggestions, but my mentor didn’t like most of it. His words were tough and difficult to hear. I didn’t agree with his take on my structure, but I feared he might be right about one point: I wrote too much about bitterness and heartache, and didn’t include enough self-reflection. Ouch!
My mentor's words were tough and difficult to hear.
To be continued.
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