So I went on a trip to Poland to better understand my mother and her family. Outline the inciting incident and the ending incident. Often, writers have a difficult time to determining how to start a story. A memoir can be even more challenging as you might feel you have so many details and scenes you could start with or that feel important.
One way to start is to identify the inciting incident in your story and the ending incident. You will need to dramatize your inciting incident and your ending incident in your book. It could be a seemingly small moment, such as a brief fight with your mother, that becomes a major moment or inciting incident in your story.
For example, your brief fight with your mother could be the last time you speak to her before she passes away and leaves you letters about her life in Poland. Think of the ah ha moment in your story when you realized what you wanted in your life, or where you realized you were wrong about your assumptions about a specific moment or event. The ending incident is the moment when you achieve your desire line or want.
It will also help you develop an ending for your book. Create a plot outline. Though you are writing a memoir, following the principles of fiction, such as a plot outline, can help give your book form and shape.
It can also make it easier for you to organize your research materials in a way that is engaging and interesting for your reader. For there to be a story, something has to move or change. Something or someone goes from point A to point B due to a physical event, a decision, a change in a relationship, or a change in a character or person.
Your plot outline should include: The plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The story goal is what your narrator wants to achieve or the problem she wants to resolve, or her desire line.
Ask yourself, What disaster will happen if the goal is not achieved? The consequence is the negative situation or event that will result if the goal is not achieved. The combination of goal and consequence creates the main dramatic tension in your plot. These are what must be accomplished to achieve the goal. Think of it as a checklist of one or more events. As the requirements are met in the course of the novel, the reader will feel the narrator is getting closer to attaining the goal.
Depending on your story, you may feel you need to do in-depth research on a certain subject, like air force pilots in WWII or life in a refugee camp in Poland. However, resist doing too much research before you start your first draft. You may get overwhelmed by the amount of information you come across during your research and start to forget your personal take on the facts.
Remember that your memoir should focus on your memory of the event, rather than be purely factual or completely accurate. This means individuals who can share first person accounts of an event. You will then need to follow up on leads, interview people, transcribe interviews, and read a lot of material. Make a writing schedule. This will help you determine how long it is going to take you to write a draft of the book.
If you are working under a deadline, you may make your schedule more tight than if you have the luxury of more time to write. So, if you normally write about words an hour, factor this in on your schedule. Or if you feel you may actually write two pages an hour, use this as an estimate in your schedule. Determine how long it will take you on average to compose a set number of words, or number of pages, per a day. If you are working towards a final word count goal, like 50, words or pages, focus on how many hours per a week it will take you to reach this goal.
Write a rough first draft. You may feel pressure to write and rewrite every sentence you put down. But part of writing a memoir is writing an honest account of a pivotal event, in your own words and with your own style.
Include slang and any regional vernacular. Make your story sound like it is coming directly from you. But let yourself explore scenes in your rough draft.
Instead, use your memory to create moments that feel true to you. Avoid the passive voice. When you use the passive voice, your writing will end feeling long winded and dull. Use your grammar check or an app like Hemingway app  to count the number of passive sentences in your manuscript.
Focus on simple language, with one or two syllable words. The only time you should be using higher level language is if you are using scientific terms or describing a technical process. Even then, you should be writing for the average reader. It may help to identify the reading level of the ideal reader of your book.
You can determine the reading level based on the grade level of your ideal reader. If you account for ESL readers, you should aim for a grade 6 or 7 reading level. If you are writing for a higher education audience, you may write at a grade 8 or 9 level. You can use the Hemingway app to determine the reading level of your draft, or other online reading level tools. Engage your reader by showing them a specific process or scene, rather than narrate directly to them.
This will give the reader key information to help move the story forward, without telling them in a long, uneventful passage. Read the manuscript out loud. Find a few sympathetic ears friends, colleagues, a writing group and read sections of the manuscript out loud.
Good writing should engage readers as listeners, with details and description that create visceral images and a strong narrative. Just read a natural, slow way. Ask for a reaction from your listeners after you finish reading. Note if there were sections that felt confusing or unclear to your listeners. If you are planning to send out your memoir to publishers, you need to edit the manuscript.
You may want to hire a professional proof reader to give the book a good once over for common errors or mistakes. You can likely get rid of certain sections that go on for a bit too long and cause the reader to tune out. Don't be shy about cutting chapter sections or pages that may be deadweight. Note if each scene in your book uses the power of the senses. Are you engaging at least one of the reader's senses in each scene?
The power of enhancement through the senses taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing is a trick both nonfiction and fiction writers can use to keep the reader interested. Check the timeline of the book.
Did you follow your desire line all the way through to the end of your book? Does the ending of your book leave the reader with a sense of closure or achievement? I never used to like reading or writing but now I love it! There are also plenty of blank lines, just begging to be written on. Guidance on how to get started and help with all the things a budding writer needs to think about. By the end of the summer holidays you could have written the next Harry Potter!
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