Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit—A learning opportunity: Read like a writer

Over at Writing Through Life, Amber Lea Starfire has introduced her new Reading for Writers series focused on memoir, beginning with Beryl Markham’s West with the Night.

Participants will analyze one book per quarter. Discussions will include impressions, tone, voice, pace, structure, the writer’s style, and word choices.

Amber’s goal is to help each of us read like a writer
in order to make us better writers,
and that’s what I want!

 I plan to participate.

How about you?

Click here to learn more about Amber’s Reading for Writers series.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Does your memoir capture God in your everydayness?

Jesus said, “Go tell your family everything God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). That’s what writing a memoir is about!

That doesn’t mean you have to write about only God. That doesn’t mean you must write His name on every page, or even in every chapter.

But your job as a memoirist is, first, to recognize and know that God was involved in all you experienced and, second, to  explain that to your readers, especially in the end, in your grand finale.

But, you might be saying, I’ve lived such a mundane life—just a normal, commonplace life. Nothing noteworthy has happened to me or my family.

If that’s the way you see your life, wait! Ponder Heschel’s words in I Asked For Wonder:

And isn’t Heschel correct? The Bible is full of stories
about God’s involvement in everyday trivialities.

And God has been involved in your ordinary, unremarkable days
Don’t doubt it!

Think about young David,
year after year herding his sheep,
living a quiet, apparently insignificant life.

Yet God joined with him there
and taught him
and prepared him for his future
and inspired him to write those precious Psalms.

(How much poorer our lives would be
without those shepherd-boy’s writings!)

Your job is to peel back layers and dig for those gems—God-things that were happening, which perhaps you didn’t recognize at the time—and when you discover them, you will be full of wonder!

So, write your stories. They are importantif they weren’t, we wouldn’t find instructions in both Old and New Testaments to tell our children and grandchildren what we’ve seen God do for us. Writing your memoir is not a hobbyit’s a ministry!

Keep plugging away. Eventually you’ll finish your collection of vignettes and you can publish your memoir. When you do, you’ll have done what Jesus said—you’ll have told your family what God has done for you and for them.

When you do that, be sure to let us know here at SM 101. 

(On Tuesday, Linda Moore Kurth left a comment 
on her almost-complete memoir. 
Congratulations, Linda! 

How about the rest of you? 
How much of your memoir have you finished? 
We'd love to hear from you!)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Start off 2017 with writing!

Have you started writing your memoir yet?
Or are you still procrastinating?

Or maybe you started writing your memoir
but got distracted. 

Perhaps, like me, you set aside your WIP
(work in progress)
over the holidays.

Whatever, it's time to write!

Check out Chloe Yelena Miller's 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tuesday Tidbit: Your memoir’s stories about Christmas

If your memoir includes stories about Christmas or events that happened in the winter, during December and January pay close attention to sensory details and plan to use them in your stories.

What sounds are typical of this season?

What flavors do you associate with this time of year?

What sights? Smells? Textures or temperatures (sense of touch)?

Jot them down for use later. After this busy holiday season, get out your rough drafts and insert those details—they’ll make your stories more vivid for readers.

Your goal is to invite readers into your story with you. Sensory details help them experience what you experienced.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The values of well-crafted dialogue in your memoir

Dialogue, written well, can accomplish your most important goals:

  • It can bring readers into your stories,
  • acquaint them with your memoir’s key characters,
  • ramp up readers’ emotions,
  • add pizzazz—or grief or terror,
  • keep up your story’s momentum,
  • share information readers need to know,
  • and entice them to keep reading.

Read more at SM 101’s blog post from 2014, Tips for using dialogue in your memoir. 

Dialogue can convey key characters’ emotions and distinct (perhaps conflicting) goals. It can reveal the dynamics between those in a discussion and convey what each values.

Add significant body language to dialogue and you will enhance your story’s message, bring main characters to life, and increase readers’ comprehension and enjoyment of your story.

Read more at SM 101’s post about dialogue from 2014don’t miss this good stuff!

Also review SM 101’s more recent posts on using dialogue because good dialogue is essential in your memoir:

After you've polished your dialogue, 
set it aside for a week or so. 
Then read it aloud
Does it sound natural? 
If not, continue polishing.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tuesday Tidbit: Create dialogue that sounds natural

Create dialogue that sounds like the person speaking:
Each person has his own unique speaking style,
so make an effort to capture the distinct speaking style
of your memoir's key characters.
Make it sound natural.

Study these many examples at

Thursday, December 8, 2016

More tips on using dialogue in your memoir

Today we’ll look at more tips for using dialogue in your memoir—because crafting it correctly is so important. (If you missed Thursday’s post, click on Are you using dialogue the right way in your memoir?

Place quotation marks around the words people speak. (Put your silent thoughts—inner dialogue—in italics, not quotation marks.)

Use simple dialogue tags (he said, she asked) rather than bigger words like he bellowed or she whined or he scolded or she demanded. Using fancy tags instead of simple ones will distract readers—they’ll draw attention to the tags rather than the spoken words. Keep the focus on dialogue rather than tags. (For more on this topic, including examples, read this fun post, A Critical DON’T for Writing Dialogue, by Joe Bunting.) 

Delete adverbs and adjectives with your dialogue tags, such as he said arrogantly or she said bitterly.

In general, if the dialogue is only one sentence long, place the tag at the end of it.

Victoria Costello offers this advice: “If you insert a tag between two or more sentences, the tag always goes after the first sentence” (The Idiot’s Guide to Writing a Memoir). For example, compare these two:

“There are many ways of breaking a heart. Stories were full of hearts broken by love,” said Pearl S. Buck, “but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream—whatever that dream might be.”

This is the better way: “There are many ways of breaking a heart,” said Pearl S. Buck. “Stories were full of hearts broken by love, but what really broke a heart was taking away its dream—whatever that dream might be.”

Each time a different person speaks, start a new paragraph.

If two people are in a long conversation, not every line of dialogue needs a tagas long as readers know which character is speaking. To help readers keep track, occasionally include the speaker’s action. For example, the following has no tag but the reader knows who spoke:

“I must go.” Anne stood, threw her scarf around her neck, and turned toward the door.

Here’s another look at crafting dialogue without a tag, based on an example from Joe Bunting’s post. He encourages writers to: “…show…emotion with an action. Like this: ‘I hate you,’ she exclaimed she said, hurling her French book at him. The corner struck him just under his eye. A bright red mark began to rise on his skin.”

Notice two things: (a) Joe changed “she exclaimed” to “she said,” which is good, but (b) Joe could have deleted “she said” altogether. Then the dialogue would look like this:

“‘I hate you.’ She hurled her French book at him….”

I like that better. Do you?

Look over your manuscripts, 
study the way you’ve crafted dialogue, 
and make revisions. 

Your readers will thank you.