I pulled this list from The Guardian’s “Ten rules for writing fiction,” described as “Inspired by Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing” Because I’m deep in editing a memoir draft, I dropped the fiction reference. Winterson’s rules fit any type of writing, which is appropriate given her just-published memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.
Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.
Love what you do.
Be honest with yourself. If you are no good, accept it. If the work you are doing is no good, accept it.
Don’t hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.
Take no notice of anyone you don’t respect.
Take no notice of anyone with a gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.
When I moved from Seattle to Denver, the first thing I noticed was how much more energy I had. The source: SUN. I had no idea what a huge difference it made. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for thirteen years, so I had adapted to the gloomy winters. But there is one thing I miss: spring fever. Even with feet of snow, we’ll have bright blue skies in Denver. In Seattle, when we woke to that first sunny day sometime in March or April, there was an electric surge about the city, a giddiness in every person you encountered. See it in all its glory on PFM Reports.
You don’t get that in Colorado, where we take our vitamin D for granted. (Okay, but we also get our Rocky Mountain High).
It’s rare to hear the word “memoir” mentioned without “voice” following a few words behind. Author Mary Karr (The Liars’ Club, Cherry, and Lit) has said in interviews "In memoir, the only through-line is the character represented by voice. So you better make the reader damn curious about who’s talking."
So how do you create that voice? Vivian Gornick offers strong insight on this in The Situation and The Story: The Art of Personal Narrative. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.
However, if you’re looking for great advice right now, check out Alan Rinzler’s post on creating a compelling narrative voice. Rinzler is a consulting editor who spent decades as an publisher and acquiring editor. He distills several key pieces from Gornick’s book and offers his own suggestions based on memoirs he’s edited.
What’s your favorite resource for writing a memoir and/or developing a strong voice?
Whether or not you’re interested in the content of TOMBOY STYLE by Lizzie Garret Mettler, this book trailer is a great example of what can be done for authors. This trailer is personable, simple and interesting.
If you’re not reading literary agent Betsy Lerner’s blog, you’re missing out on a great daily read. She’ll tell you just like it is. I love her top 10 reasons to live with a writer, though I have to confess I’ve never played Bananograms. #writers