Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Your story is important, but will anyone read it?

Welcome to new followers on the blog and Facebook:
Betty, Judi, Baboo, and Amanda.

You know your stories are important. (If you’re not convinced, look at that Bible verse way up at the top, and go back and read Are your stories important? at

You have God-and-you stories that only you can tell, and your children and grandchildren need to hear them.

Yes, it’s true: Your stories are important. But will anyone read them?

Nowadays potential readers have many distractions: texting, Facebook, smartphones, movies, sports, TV, magazines, iPods, Blackberries, MP3 players, the Internet, hobbies, and thousands of books besides yours.

All these, and more, compete against your memoir.

Two decades ago, Peter Jacobi wrote one brief sentence I’ve always remembered:

“No story has a divine right to be read.”

As important as your stories are, you cannot force anyone to read them.

Jacobi wrote:

“Unfortunately, as a writer … I cannot try what author Anthony Burgess did when he was ‘teaching Shakespeare at City College … at 8:00 a.m.’ He explains, ‘I decided to teach them something about how Shakespeare was educated. I began to write three lines of Seneca in Latin on the blackboard to show where Shakespeare learned about rhythm, and they started to walk out. Well, I wasn’t going to let them get away. I rushed to the door and locked it, saying, “You’re going to learn these … lines of Latin whether you like it or not.” ’”

You can’t lock your “audience” in and force them to read your stories.

Because people are busy, they’ll spend time on only what promises to be worth their invested effort.

That means your stories must be more intriguing than all those distractions and choices before them.

How many times have you sat down with a book or magazine or newspaper, anticipating—maybe even craving—a good read, only to be disappointed with boring or confusing content? That happens too often, so your memoir must draw readers in and keep them turning pages.

“Some writers assume
readers are eager to grasp every word they write.
The opposite is true.…
Because we find it interesting,
or we think our life is newsworthy,
it's easy to assume everyone cares.
It's better to assume no one cares
about what we write.…”
Cec Murphey

So what’s a memoir writer to do? Answer: Write stories worth reading.

Earn the right to be read: Memoir writers must capture the reader’s interest so he’ll keep reading all the way to the end.

How do you write stories worth reading? You can find answers to that question in a bazillion books and articles and blog posts and writers’ conferences.

And from week to week I’ll post the best of those tips here on Spiritual Memoirs 101. Let’s get started.

Getting started: Details, blessed details

Stories worth reading include details that will make readers feel they’re experiencing the story with you. We’ll cover that often here in this blog.

If you’ve been following along with us each week, you’ve already started including details in your rough drafts: Think back to our last two Saturday Snippets:

Invite readers into your story:

Endless ideas:

You’ll remember from those two posts that your readers can enter into your story—can live it with you—when you re-create scenes through the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.

This week’s assignment: Work on your rough drafts, concentrating on sights. Describe your vignette’s setting—the surrounding scenery. Does your story occur in an old farmhouse? On a trail high in the Rockies? In a hospital room? Revise your drafts so readers can see the place as if they’re standing right beside you.

Resources :
1. a thesaurus
2. a dictionary
3. do a Google search
4. read good literature to study how pros develop a story’s sights and scenery

Related posts:

What is a memoir:

Invite readers into your story:

Endless ideas:


  1. This is a great reminder, Linda. Thank you for this reminder to work for quality in our stories.

  2. Thanks for your comment, OliveTree. Nice to hear from you.

    One day soon, I'm going to blog about the important balance between getting stories written and into the hands of others, versus the rewriting and polishing (the craft and art of writing). I hope the revising and editing part of writing will not hinder those who are not "into" writing. It's much more important to get stories into their loved ones' hands and hearts, even if the stories not polished in a literary way.

    I hope you're having a good day, OliveTree!


  3. Linda, this is EXACTLY THE KIND OF STUFF I'M WANTING TO FIND AND DO. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today - that stop led me to this site and next to your other one. We lived in Africa for 2 years as newlyweds, had our first child there. LOVELY to meet you.

  4. Lovely to meet you, too, Diana! I just knew when I read about you on your blog that you and I have lots in common! I'm looking forward to getting better acquainted with you, Diana.

    I'm happy to help you with your memoir. Get acquainted here with the blog, and be sure to let me know how I can be of more help. I've designed the pace of this blog with very busy people in mind, so we're doing this in tiny chunks.

    So glad to have met you through Ann Kroker's blog!