Memoirs are not just the story of your life but an artwork carefully crafted to serve an audience, to resonate with them, and to create a collective narrative of shared experiences. Inspired by Exisle Academy's Memoir Writing seminar with CEO Gareth St John Thomas, a publisher who has helped bring hundreds of successful memoirs into the world, let's look at how you can write, edit, and publish your memoir. Let's start with the most important yet overlooked element of your creation: Your audience
Identifying Your Audience
Identifying and understanding your audience is the cornerstone of writing a memoir that resonates. Although the journey of memoir writing seems deeply personal, it's essentially about being of service to your audience, providing them with insights, emotions, and reflections they can relate to.
Thomas's Rule of Memoir:
"Except with celebrity memoirs, the further your audience is away from your known intimate circle the less interested they are in you the more interested they are in what you can teach share, and reveal about the world they care about. A memoir is normally about the writer being of service to an audience." — Gareth St John Thomas
Founder & CEO of Exisle Publishing, author of Finding True Connections
- Writing for Yourself:
When you write for yourself, it’s not just about self-discovery but also about self-service. This process can be therapeutic, clarifying your life chronology and helping you acknowledge the richness of your life journey. Crafting your memoir can offer solace, self-support, and affirmation, especially when contemplating life’s ephemeral nature.
- Engaging Your Immediate Circle:
Addressing your family, friends, colleagues, and people with experiences akin to yours is about creating a legacy and sharing mutual experiences. It’s about leaving a lasting imprint of your journey and insights on those you've interacted with.
- Reaching Out to Special Interest Groups:
Connecting with fellow hobbyists, enthusiasts, professionals, and individuals traversing similar life paths allows you to share your unique insights and experiences in a way that’s relevant and compelling to them.
- Relating to Various Circumstances:
Your memoir should be a beacon for those affected by the circumstances, events, and experiences you share, providing understanding and resonance.
- Establishing Authority:
If you are recognized as an expert or celebrity in a certain field, your memoir should serve those who perceive you as an authority, offering them knowledge and insights.
- Engaging the Unacquainted:
Captivating those who are unfamiliar with you but find your story compelling is also crucial. It’s about extending your narrative to those who might find solace, understanding, or resonance in it.
Mastering Form and Style
Knowing your audience will guide you in tailoring your writing to what they desire. Remember, it's about them; it’s about servicing their needs, curiosity, and interests. If your audience enjoys a friendly and conversational tone, shun overly formal or technical language, and modify the complexity and vocabulary to align with their education and familiarity with the subject. It’s beneficial to pen a sample chapter and procure feedback from your target audience, ensuring alignment. Utilize examples and analogies that are relatable and familiar, drawing on popular culture, current events, or common experiences pertinent to them. Keep the content intriguing and informative, addressing the readers' curiosities and providing the insights they yearn for. Regular interactions with your audience on various platforms can help in fine-tuning the content to their interests.
Be mindful of the pacing and structure, keeping the sentences and paragraphs succinct for a younger, dynamic audience and opting for more complex and detailed structures for a mature or academic readership. Examine the structure and pacing of popular works in your genre and integrate similar elements to maintain interest and coherence in your memoir.
Crafting Your Narrative:
- Keep your timeline straight and chronological.
- Limit the use of the word ‘I’ to avoid monotony.
- Engage your reader; let them escape their world and live in yours.
- Vary your pacing; concise sentences are your friend.
- Avoid footnotes and parentheses; place them in a back appendix if needed.
- Every word must justify its place; be rigorous in your editing.
- Consider the format: print, e-book, audio book.
- The package, pictorial content, and retail price need to align with your audience's expectations and preferences.
Understanding the intricacies of character development and the potential repercussions of your portrayals is crucial. Exercise caution when describing living individuals and be aware of differing perceptions, egos, and potential conflicts. It's not your job to please everyone; it’s about being truthful to your experience and your audience.
Staying Creative and Sane
Effective time management is crucial. Allocate your time wisely across research, writing, editing, proofreading, and marketing. Having a structured approach will aid in maintaining sanity and creativity throughout your writing journey.
Research, Write, Edit, Repeat
Outline your chapters and know where each piece of research fits into your story. Aim to write a minimum of 500 words per day and after completing your manuscript, leave it for at least two weeks before revisiting for edits. Secure professional opinions after the first draft and listen to the feedback provided.
Decide whether you’ll opt for traditional, hybrid, self, or vanity publishing. Each has its timeframe and implications. Traditional publishers will have their opinions, while self-publishing gives you more control. Start seeking publishers early in your process, be prepared for rejections, and persevere.
Whatever route you choose, be prepared to invest time and effort in selling and marketing. Understand your audience, be relatable and offer something extraordinary, exceptional, and inspiring. Always remember, knowing your audience is pivotal as it not only adds value to a traditional publisher but also makes the process of reaching your audience more streamlined.