Thursday, October 17, 2013

The clock is ticking. How is your memoir coming along?

“An unfinished manuscript cannot change lives.”

Lee Roddy wrote those words.  He continues:

“Even a finished one cannot minister in a drawer or filing cabinet.
Only in published form
can a book go where you and I will never go,
to people we will never meet.”
(Lee Roddy in the Foreword, Write His Answer, by Marlene Bagnull.)

For over a decade Lee’s words have run through my mind on a regular basis.

Recently they were so noisy and persistent that I got out—not just one but two—unfinished manuscripts. I’d stuck both of them in the drawer—on disks and flash drives. I’ve been working on them the past week and it feels good. It feels like the right thing to do. The task is daunting, but I’m persevering.

So the big question is: How are you doing on writing your memoir?

Do you have a manuscript or two in some drawer or filing cabinet?—maybe on an old floppy disk, an old CD or DVD, an old hard drive, a flash drive?

If so, congratulate yourself on what you have already done.

But don’t be content with that because if you leave your stories hidden and dust-covered, they will do no one any good.

Give yourself permission to start with easy topics.

I’ve seen too many people tackle a traumatic story, only to have their still-raw emotions sidetrack them. Inevitably, discouragement leads them to abandon that story and give up on writing their other stories too.

Don’t let that happen to you! Instead, start with accounts of joyful events, delightful people, and the beauty of God’s creation. Include humorous stories.

Gradually move into stories about your harder experiences—how God helped you find a job, for example, or helped you make an important decision. For now, avoid traumatic stories because they tend to slow down your onward momentum.

Give yourself permission to start small.

The thought of writing an entire book can easily overwhelm. Instead, focus on writing short stories— vignettes—aiming at two to five pages each.

Get started on more than one vignette, and tell yourself they’re rough drafts. Knowing they are rough drafts—merely works in progress, for your eyes only—frees you from thinking you have to write perfect, publishable stuff the first time.

As you receive inspiration, over time, you can revise, edit, and polish. If you keep at it, step by step, before you know it you’ll have written a number of stories and you can compile them into chapters or sections—into some logical arrangement.

Lee says, “Only in published form” can your stories have impact, but don’t let that word “published” intimidate you. “Published” can take many forms, and nowadays publishing is easier than ever before.

Start small: Here’s what I recommend (I’ve done this several times): Create your first edition of your memoir by snapping a collection of vignettes into a three-ring binder or scrapbook.

Make your stories the very best you can through good writing and editing (preferably with help from other writers).

Hand your book to someone to read.

When you do that, you will have succeeded in “publishing” your stories. (You can always publish big-time later if there’s a market for your memoir.)

At that point, paraphrasing Lee: your memoir can change lives.

Your stories can go where you will never go, to people you will never meet.

So here’s the deal: You and I must want to write our stories. We must want to invest in our kids and grandkids.

We must see writing our stories is a ministry, not a hobby!

In most cases, if you and I don’t write our stories, no one will. They will go to the grave with us because, after all,

Remember … your children were not the ones
who saw and experienced … the Lord,
… his majesty, his mighty hand.…
It was not your children
who saw what he did for you
in the desert until you arrived at this place.…
Deuteronomy 11:2-7 (NIV)

The clock is ticking. We must be intentional about finishing our memoirs.








  1. Hi Linda!
    Guess what? I met and spoke with Lee Roddy in the early 1980s. He reviewed a short story I had written. Though nothing came of that story, I have great news: a couple of weeks ago I finished my first draft of the memoir I've been writing. Would love to share it with you. Hope you are well. Blessings~

  2. Oooooh, Jess, congratulations on finishing your memoir's first draft!! What a thrill! Yes, I'd love to get a peek at it. How can I access it? CONGRATULATIONS on this accomplishment!

    Smiles, BIG smiles,

  3. Linda, this is a powerful reminder of the importance of our stories. Thanks for the gentle nudge to keep writing!

    Blessings and hugs,

  4. Hi, Sherrey, I think I needed to write this blog post for myself. I really needed to get back to working on my collection of stories and half written stories. I also need to figure out a format, a structure, what to leave in and what to take out.... Sigh. Are you in that phase, too?

    Thanks for stopping by, Sherrey. :)