Saturday, October 29, 2011

Polishing your memoir for publication

Wednesday I encouraged you to discern whether you’re in the Tweaking is Torture camp or the Polishing is Pure Pleasure camp. (See Two types of memoir writers: Which are you?*)

If you’re aiming for a professional, published memoir with book-signings and speaking engagements and press releases and royalty checks, you need to be in the Polishing is Pure Pleasure camp—or if “pure pleasure” is too fanatical, join the Polishing is a Priority pack.

Even the most talented writers belong to the Polishing is a Priority pack.

Whether you choose the traditional publishing route with an agent and publisher, or the increasingly attractive self-publishing route, you must concern yourself with the art and craft of writing: grammar, punctuation, diction, style, editing, rewriting, polishing, and so much morenot with your first draft, or even your fifth, but before your final draft.

Roseanne Rini has this advice for writers: "In my experience, writers tend to stop themselves by being overly concerned about mistakes or what their reader might think about what they're saying. I always tell people to set those concerns aside and just write what comes to them in the moment. The important thing is to get their thoughts down on paper or on the screen. Then they can go back and cut out what doesn't belong, correct errors, re-organize, etc. But with the first draft one should allow oneself total freedom." (emphasis mine; from

If you belong to the Polishing is a Priority pack, invest in a few excellent how-to books. My shelves house a number of well-worn volumes:

On Writing Well, by William Zinsser,

The Craft of Writing, by Donald M. Murray,

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White,

The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life, by Priscilla Long,

Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English and Plain English, by Patricia T. O’Conner,

Keys for Writers: A Brief Handbook, by Ann Raimes,

Proofreading Plain and Simple, by Debra Hart May,

1,818 Ways to Write Better and Get Published, by Scott Edelstein,

The Little Handbook of Perfecting the Art of Christian Writing, by Leonard Goss and Don Aycock,

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss,

An Introduction to Christian Writing, by Ethel Herr.

Yesterday I ordered a new book to add to my collection: The Plot Whisperer, by Martha Alderson, published only a few days ago. It looks like a valuable, inspirational resource for memoir writers.

WOW! Women On Writing is offering an online class, (an e-course), The Unwilling Grammarian, by Karlyn Thayer. It starts November 30, 2011, and lasts four weeks. Here’s an excerpt from the course description:

“Do you hate grammar like you hate snakes? This class, The Unwilling Grammarian, takes an easy and fun approach to grammar.… Students will look at grammar with a new perspective—not as a necessary evil, but as a study that's understandable and satisfying.”

Whether you plan to make a few photocopies of your memoir, for friends and family, or hope to publish a book you’ll find on bookstore shelves across the nation, your stories are important.*

“… Anytime someone grows and changes over time
on a deep and meaningful level
from the challenges they confront
and then shares that experience [with] others,
the memoirist empowers others to believe
that such a transformation is available to them, as well.”
Martha Alderson, author, The Plot Whisperer

What writing books and resources can you recommend? Do you know of any good writers’ conferences? Please leave a comment below.

*Related links:
Two types of memoir writers: Which are you?

Your stories are important,

Jeff Goins’ quote, 


  1. Great blog post! I appreciate all the information and enjoy your humor.

  2. Hi, Sue, and thanks for stopping by. Happy writing!


  3. Dear Linda,
    All these links are wonderful! I am especially intrigued by The Plot Whisperer and the idea that there is a tangible way to structure our lives into a compelling story- definitely on my list now. Thank you again for all these "pearls"!

  4. Indeed a great post. But please, please -- no photocopied volumes! It's not that much more work to upload to Lulu or CreateSpace and for virtually the same price as photocopies, get a professionally bound volume.

  5. Thanks, Sharon and Kathy, for stopping by. The blogs that you two write are treasures, for sure!

    Sharon--funny thing about my mention of making a few photocopies: I thought I had changed that to "copies" instead of "photocopies." I wonder if I dreamed that I changed it? Ah, old age is so wacky!

    I did make color photocopies, however, of pages of photos (laid out in scrapbook form / mixed media art form) to include in 3-ring binders with miscellaneous stories for family members.

    One day soon I need to blog about publishing options like Lulu or CreateSpace. Maybe you can help me with that...?