Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summertime and the important stuff

Summertime. Family time. Important stuff. So...

So, I'm taking a brief break to hang out with the family. But first...

I want to inspire you with this post, Write the important stuff before it's too late, in which I ask:

What wisdom can you share with your kids,
grandkids, and great-grands
before you die?

What balance? What perspective?

What reassurance?

What can you demystify for them?

Include those accounts in your memoir.

Click here to read the rest of the post,

Don't miss it! You'll find inspiration!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Your words matter

"...the words you read go directly into the bloodstream
and go into it at full strength.
More than the painting you see or the music you hear,
the words you read become
in the very act of reading them
part of who you are....
If there is poison in the words, you are poisoned;
if there is nourishment, you are nourished;
if there is beauty, you are made a little more beautiful....
A word doesn't merely say something, it does something.
It brings something into being.
It makes something happen.
What do writers want their books to make happen?"

Frederick Buecher, A Clown in the Belfry; emphasis mine)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Especially for new memoirists: Determine your structure

If you recently started writing your memoir, or plan to begin soon, think about its structure—its framework, its organization.

Structure is important, especially if your memoir is a collection of stories along a specific theme. (Click here to review the definition of memoir. Briefly, it focuses on a segment of your life—a specific theme or time period.)

If you’ve based your memoir on a theme, you’ve probably made a list of stand-alone vignettes that pertain to your theme. You’ve written rough drafts of some of them, and others remain on your to-do list. At this point, you’re working with a collection of loosely related stories.

How will you organize those vignettes—those chapters, those stand-alone accounts—in the best order?

Always keep in mind this desired outcome: You want to hand your readers a coherent, organized, satisfying story.

But sometimes accomplishing that task is easier said than done.

“Most people embarking on writing a memoir are paralyzed by the size of the task,” writes William Zinsser. “What to put in? What to leave out? Where to start? Where to stop? How to shape the story? The past looms over them in a thousand fragments, defying them to impose on it some kind of order. Because of that anxiety, many memoirs linger for years half written, or never written at all.” (How To Write a Memoir; emphasis mine)

Don’t let that happen to you! Make a plan—come up with an arrangement for your stories. Determine the best sequence for them.

Here’s an idea: If you’re writing your memoir about family, group your vignettes according to these topics:
  • stories about your sister
  • stories about your grandfather
  • stories about your cousins
  • stories about your grandchildren, etc.

Deciding on your structure can be as easy as that.

Here’s another idea: Choose a poem as your theme and use it to establish your structure.

For example, look at this poem Kathy Pooler wrote. While you read it, take note: Each line could be the topic of a separate chapter.

After the dry cough that lingered,
After that December night of not being able to breathe,
After all those trips to the clinic for chemotherapy,
After the trips to Boston for a stem cell transplant,
After my bald head, covered in hats for each season,
After the nausea, retching and fatigue,
After all those sleepless nights of uncertainty,
After the scans, needle sticks and Neupogen shots…
You held me close and told me I was beautiful and never stopped believing I would recover.

A poem like Kathy’s could provide you with an effective framework (and result in a powerful story).

Here’s yet another idea: Choose a Bible passage as your theme and use its verses as your structure. For example, each of the Beatitudes could serve as the topic of one chapter:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3-10)

Use each Beatitude as a chapter and write stories that illustrate what it means and how to live it out in everyday life.

For example, for the first Beatitude, define “blessed.” Explain what Jesus meant by “poor in spirit.” Then write one or more accounts about your own experience of living a poor-in-spirit life—or about someone else who lived a poor-in-spirit life and served as a role model for you. Define what Jesus meant by “kingdom of heaven” and show what the kingdom of heaven looks like in the lives of those who are poor in spirit. And then, in good memoir form, conclude by explaining how living according to that verse shaped you into a different person.

And then write about the second Beatitude, and so on. If you continue writing, using the rest of those verses as chapter titles, you can write a whole memoir!

A good structure can be your friend, your helper.

“The structure is the framework you write into,
your security blanket,
your assurance that all your hard work
will result in a completed manuscript.
(Priscilla Long, The Writer’s Portable Mentor; emphasis mine)

And that’s what you want, right?

Dedicate time to coming up with a good structure.

You’ll be pleased with your finished memoir,
and your readers will thank you.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: For those who are discouraged, disenchanted, or derailed


Do those words describe where you find yourself on your writing journey?

If so, Mick Silva’s recent post is for you!

“…Trying to live as a WORD-saturated writer is hard,” he says. “Working to reclaim, recall, and re-establish truth, love, justice, and mercy is incredibly draining.”

And he cuts right to the chase: If we Christian writers want to complete and publish our books, we must overcome the lies we tell ourselves.

In The 6 Spiritual Lies Derailing Your Writing Process, Mick lists the lies we allow to hinder us:

  1. Who do you think you are?
  2. You can’t handle this/You’re not ready for this.
  3. You’re too _____ (Fill in the blank: uneducated…damaged…busy….)
  4. You’re wasting your time.
  5. You’re all alone.
  6. You have nothing…. [or] It’s been done before.

Stand up to those lies. Replace your discouragement with Mick’s encouragement: “…Writing is a holy, sacred ground. You’ve been called to help your brothers and sisters in the faith.” 


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.

Only in published form
can a book make a difference in eternity.”

quoted in Marlene Bagnull’s Write His Answer)

Don’t miss Mick’s post! He challenges us to face our fears, fight against the lies we tell ourselves, and trust God more.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Writing your memoir: Looking for God’s breadcrumb trail

You’ve experienced this: The unexpected happened, something negative or challenging or disappointing. Or maybe it was downright tragic—heartbreaking, life-changing.

One time—only one time, I’m sad to say—when something devastating happened, almost immediately Romans 8:28 came to mind: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans” (Living Bible).

I told myself that ultimately I’d recognize the good He’d bring from the tragedy. I told myself to watch God work. I couldn’t imagine what those blessings might be—those lessons, insights, and opportunities to mature, gain wisdom, and grow in faith—but  I waited and watched. And sure enough, He did bring beauty from ashes.

I wish that every time hardship blindsided me, I’d have watched for the goodness He worked, but I admit I rarely have.

Maybe you’ve had the same experience.

Not all is lost at such times, though, if we think back and search for those good things God brought. They’re just waiting for us to recognize them.

But too often I’ve forgotten to go back and look for the gems He unearthed from my dirt. I feel bad about that.

Mike Metzger’s quote has come to mind frequently in the years since I ran across it:

“Many churches have forgotten the premium
that the historic Judeo-Christian tradition placed on
remembrance…and recalling the right things.
The ‘great sin’ of the Old Testament was forgetfulness
(at least it is the most recurrent offense).
Remember’ is the most frequent command
in the Old Testament.” 
(Clapham Memo, January 19, 2007,
“Back and Forth,” by Mike Metzger; emphasis mine)

Because of Mike’s quote, in recent years I’ve made an effort to remember what God has done for me and my family. Doing so requires me to set aside time to search my memories.

By definition, writing a memoir requires us to go back, to uncover—to excavate, unearth, dig, till the soil and sift through it—looking for diamonds and emeralds.

In Psalm 86:17, David prays, “Give me a sign of your goodness.” That’s what we’re looking for: Signs of God’s goodness.

Tokens for good,” Amy Carmichael calls those signs, based on an old translation of the Bible. 

“Look out for them and you shall find them,” Amy continues. “Some will be little private tokens, something just between you and your Lord. Some will be things that you can share with others for their cheer. The great thing is not to miss them in the press of life, for often, very often, by these tokens for good our Lord helps us and comforts us.” (Edges of His Ways, July 12 selection)

So we memoirists find those treasures, those signs of goodness, and we piece them together, like stringing jewels to make a necklace. And while we do so, we examine them, we ponder and reflect on them.

In the process, we might need to stand to the side and take a different look: We need to do a “Doggie Head Tilt,” another Mike Metzger quote. He says, “If your head never tilts, your mind never changes.”

So, we tilt our heads and look at that difficulty from another angle. We rethink what happened, we reevaluate, and maybe arrive at a different conclusion than we had come to before.

We ask ourselves, What was God doing? What lessons was He teaching me? What new insights do I now have? How has my life changed as a result? What message did He give me to share with others?

Perhaps you’ve discovered this: When we start composing a memoir, we have no idea where our memories and ponderings and writings will take us

The process of writing opens our eyes and changes our hearts. It helps us discover a bigger, higher, deeper, broader story.

“The written word preserves
what otherwise might be lost
among the impressions that inundate our lives.
Thoughts, insights, and perceptions
constantly threaten to leave us
before we have the opportunity to grasp their meaning.

Writing can … give us something palpable upon which to reflect.
Reflection slows matters down.
It analyzes what was previously unexamined,
and opens doors to different interpretations
of what was there all along.
Writing, by encouraging reflection, intensifies life.”
(Editors Ben Jacobs and Helena Hjalmarsson, The Quotable Book Lover)

Our job as memoirists
is to set aside time, as long as it takes,
to follow the breadcrumb trail
God has left for us to help us find our way.

We pick up those “tokens of good”
and cherish them,
and then we do what Amy Carmichael said
in her old-fashioned way:
we “share them with others for their cheer.

In that way,
penning a memoir can be a sacred journey,
even an act of worship.

Discover the blessings God has handed you
in the midst of your hard times,
and then write your memoir,
knowing others need the “cheer” you have to offer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Are you writing a memoir? Have you published a memoir?

Are you writing a memoir? Have you published a memoir?

If so, let us know: Leave a comment below or on SM 101’s Facebook Page, or send a private message on Facebook.

Stories are important. They shape readers’ lives. Your memoir can be:

“… a mirror
in which the reader can also see
his or her experience reflected
in a new and potentially transforming way.”
(Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember)

Your stories can help readers make good choices.

Your memoir can prevent problems, and help readers solve problems, and even save readers’ lives.

“I write books for teenagers because I vividly remember what it felt like to be a teen facing everyday and epic dangers,” writes Sherman Alexie. “…. I write to give them weapons—in the form of words and ideas—that will help them fight their monsters. I write in blood because I remember what it felt like to bleed.”

Your children, grandchildren, and great-grands
need to know your stories.
Write them!

If you’re writing a memoir
or have published one,
let us know.

Writing a memoir
and publishing it
and marketing it
can be a daunting task, and
we want to cheer you on.

Leave a comment below
or send a private message on Facebook.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Do you have an author platform?

If you plan to publish only a few copies of your memoir for family and friends, you probably don’t need a platform.

But if you hope to (1) self-publish your memoir, or (2) find an agent, or (3) find a publisher, (4) and sell your memoir, you need an author platform.

“You can’t assume that the act of printing a book equates to developing a sizable readership,” says Dan Blank.  “[T]oo many writers cannot see beyond the publication of their book.” That means you need a platform.

A platform helps you connect with people, to establish relationships with them.

A platform gives you visibility, an audience. It helps people find you
  • people who will be interested in your story,
  • people who will buy your memoir,
  • people who will tell others about it.

Dan Balow, blogging at the Steve Laube Agency, says that a "message platform” is “the first step for developing the author platform….” A message platform, he says, “must be in place before you get a website, Facebook page or start a social media effort.”

“Unless an author has a clear message platform,” he says, “they will be frustrated and discouraged when trying to assemble a large number of devoted social media followers.” 

Dan explains that a message platform differs from an author platform in this way:

Message Platform + media = Author Platform.

So, with that in mind, we must first build a message platform, which we accomplish, Dan says, with “a consistent message, delivered creatively, one that attracts readers and followers and meets the expectations they have for you.”  

Dan also points out that “Most authors have no idea what their message platform is until someone else tells them. If you try to figure it out yourself, you are engaging in a form of self-deception. We never see ourselves as others see us. Ask someone who will be honest. Don’t ask close friends or family. They will be nice and usually agree with whatever you say.”

If you want to develop a message platform, study Dan Balow’s three blog posts:

Sarah Bolme offers detailed advice for developing your author platform, which she defines this way: “Having a platform simply means that you have an audience—a group of people—who listen to what you have to say.... because you are saying something different from everyone else, something that resonates with them. As a result, these people trust you and share your message with others. When this happens, you develop influence with this group of people.”

“To be effective at building a platform,” Sarah continues, “you must first identify who your target audience is and what your unique spin on your topic is.”

You’ll want to read Sarah’s post, Do You Have a Platform? and get to work answering questions in the following categories: 
  • WHO is your target audience?
  • WHAT is your unique message?
  • WHERE will you hold your audience?
  • HOW will you build your platform?

Sarah gives this final advice: “Don’t rush out to start building a platform (developing an audience) until you have identified who your target audience is and what makes your message different from all the others out there on the topic. You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you want to go.” 

Dan Blank offers additional help in his post, The First Steps to Building an Author Platform

He covers detailed information about the following first steps in developing your author platform:

  • Understanding Your Goals
  • Identifying Your Brand (including how you represent your authentic self, how your personality makes you unique, and how your brand can be visual)
  • Understanding Who Your Audience Is and What Motivates Them

Don’t miss Dan’s post! It’s packed with valuable, insightful info for you. Click on The First Steps to Building an Author Platform.

Brace yourself—
building a platform is a lot of work!

But you can also think of it as
the expansion of your passion for telling your story,

I like that!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Tuesday Tidbit: Don’t overlook this resource!

You’re in for a treat today! Kate Krake offers you a wealth of resources in her post, The 100 Best Writing Advice Articles: The UltimateWriting Resource.

Her info is generally aimed at fiction writers but she points out that nonfiction writers will find top-notch advice, too, and I agree.

Kate has divided her post into topics, each of them important:

Creativity and Ideas
The Writing Process
Structure and Style
Character Development
Writing Dialogue
Writing Setting
Writing Tools and Rules
The Writer’s Life
The Writing Business

Set aside plenty of time
because they’ll make you a better writer
they’ll help you give your “readers true things
and give them weapons and give them armor
and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned
from our short stay on this green world…."
(Neil Gaiman)

Click here to read Neil Gaiman on How Stories Last.