Thursday, March 7, 2013

Be a Storyteller, a guest post by Wayne Groner

This week we welcome author, editor, and writing coach Wayne Groner.
If you’re struggling to write your memoir, or to complete it, 
Wayne has a solution for you.

Today I’m guest posting over at Wayne’s blog. 
Click on over to Your Memories, Your Book.

Be a Storyteller Not a Writer
guest post by Wayne E. Groner

The Bible is the storytelling masterpiece of the ages; humans trying to make sense of their relationships with God and each other. It’s not likely these storytellers considered themselves writers; they were more interested in the larger meanings of their experiences and how those meanings would affect their children and grandchildren.

Today, writers have created thousands of books, classes, workshops, conferences, websites, and email newsletters to help you write your story. In group settings you benefit from questions and experiences of others and take home lots of handouts; armed with these, your own notes, and dozens of writing exercises, you are pumped to get the job done. Nothing like it was available to Bible writers—they were on their own to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit.

Still, it can be daunting for you to look at a blank computer screen or blank sheet of paper and wonder how to begin. After all your exposure to the writing world you may be thinking, I’m not a writer.

Delete that thought. Nobody knows what a writer is, except that it is someone who writes. Stop thinking of what you are not and focus on what you are as far as your memoir is concerned: a storyteller. Forget about the blank computer screen or blank sheet of paper. Instead, buy a hand-held digital voice recorder. Tell your story to the recorder and then transcribe and polish your story at your convenience.

That’s how I helped Dorsey Levell write his book, Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance, a history of the Council of Churches of the Ozarks where he was founding executive director for thirty-one years. We scheduled a series of weekly face-to-face interviews which I recorded, transcribed, and polished into a narrative that became the book. Dorsey is a great story teller and readily admits he is not a writer. People who read his book and know Dorsey say it’s like sitting across from him over a cup of coffee and listening to him tell a story—precisely what we were after. You can do the same kind of thing in writing your memoir.

Digital voice recorders come in many models and range in price from thirty dollars to $600. I’ve had my thirty dollar model for five years and it meets my needs quite satisfactorily. It has four file folders and can record up to 148 hours per folder, more time that I will need. I use long-life lithium batteries and keep spares handy. 

Many of my interviews with clients are by telephone, so I bought a recorder with a cable to transfer recorded interviews to my computer; no additional software is needed. I create a computer folder in which to save the recordings and name the folder for the project, usually the name of the client. The recorder automatically assigns a number to each recording which I to a date with key words. I limit the length of each interview to one hour for ease of managing and to be sensitive to a client’s time and energy. 

Transcribing from a recording is a chore for me; I prefer to use a professional secretary. A secretary can do in an hour what takes me three hours, enabling me to concentrate on writing the narrative. I email computer-saved recordings to a secretary who emails to me Word documents from which I draft a client’s memoir. You may choose to do your own transcribing.

A digital voice recorder is an excellent tool to help you tell the stories of your memoir. Instead of focusing on being a writer you can focus on being a storyteller.

Author, editor, and writing coach Wayne E. Groner is the credited ghost writer of Dumb Luck or Divine Guidance. He teaches a monthly library class on writing memoirs, biography, and family history. He blogs at Your Memories, Your Book.


  1. Dear Wayne, Thanks for sharing your fresh, unique perspective on capturing our stories. It makes sense to have an alternative to the blank screen. I actually just purchased a digital recorder so I can record my thoughts and ideas, especially at times when writing may be difficult. I just need to learn how to use it. You've convinced me it has great potential!

    Thanks , dear Linda for featuring Wayne in this informative post.


  2. Glad to know, Kathy. Just another gadget that makes production easier for writers. Once you get the hang of it you'll love it.

  3. Hi, Kathy, I'm glad you've found a digital recorder helpful with your writing. I had not thought of it as a good way to save your stories if writing them might be too painful. Bless you as you continue with your memoir. Glad you enjoyed Wayne’s blog post,too.