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Traveler321

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Registered: 10/01/16
Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 30, 2017 10:04 PM
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I'm half way into the rough draft on my latest book, a memoir, and see an article that says it's the hardest book to write. Is this true?
John

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Registered: 11/24/17
Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 30, 2017 10:29 PM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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I wrote a fictional biography, have to say it was the easiest thing for me to write because the facts (names, dated, locales) were already there, I had no use of weaving a tale as in fiction. As long as the blueprint is there and the memoir is not tied up in a multitude of voices it can go as smoothly or as bad as what you have to work with.
C. Gold

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 30, 2017 10:43 PM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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I would think it's fairly easy since you already know the content since you lived it. Trying to come up with what some stone created room looks like in a fantasy world that has nothing to do with Earth culture takes some thought because I never saw it as a whole. Or coming up with tree like creatures because those don't really exist except in my head. Then ensuring continuity, culture, voice, personality... all made up vs writing what you experienced and maybe don't remember accurately, but well enough to plop on a page.

However, I think writing anything to completion can be hard and requires enough focus to get through to the end.
Notjohn

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 2:33 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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It's probably the hardest thing to do well, because we are all liars, and we reinvent our past as we go along.

Then too, it's young people whose lives are most interesting, but young people don't have the smarts to separate themselves from their lives. Robert Graves wrote (published) Goodbye to All That when he was 34, but he was the huge exception. For one thing, he'd lived through the First World War, so he saw the world change as it had never done before, or since.

For a variety of reasons, I have read hundreds of Vietnam War memoirs. Very, very few of them are memorable. In fact, I would recommend only two: War Story, by Jim Morris; and When Thunder Rolled, by Ed Rasimus. Oh, and a third, not by a military man: The Fall of Saigon, by David Butler.

(Don't trust KDP to publish a print edition. Don't trust CreateSpace to publish an ebook. Each does one thing well and the other thing poorly.)

Good luck! -- NJ

Notjohn's Guide to E-Book & Print Formatting (2018 edition)

The blog: https://notjohnkdp.blogspot.com
Duane Dingle

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 4:31 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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I wrote only one for my eyes only. It was about a two week stint that included a ten day stay at a hospital. It was so bizarre that I had to put it in writing. It was about 40K words, in first person, my own speaking style and was the easiest thing to write, only taking two weeks. Of course I had notes written during the period and I lived it so the story was already there, finished and waiting to be written. My novels are all in third person and take me almost a year to write, but that's all from my imagination and involves constantly adding things in and taking things out. The hardest thing about the memoir over my works of fiction is putting it out there for all to read, so I didn't.
Wilai Lattimore

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 4:49 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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Do we all agree with NJ that we're all liars and reinvent our past as we go along? I don't.
Joseph M Erhardt

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 4:54 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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Memoirs seem to be the most emotionally difficult pieces to write.

Also, if your memoir includes people who have done you wrong and those people are identifiable and still alive, then you have liability issues come into play.
Duane Dingle

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 6:39 AM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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Wilai Lattimore wrote:
Do we all agree with NJ that we're all liars and reinvent our past as we go along? I don't.
I don't, and I was a Billionaire secret agent who worked part time as a priest and an astronaut, but not at the same time as that would just be silly.

But there were some memoirs that were proven later to be outright lies or at least blatant exaggerations. Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) wrote the Seven Pillars of Wisdom and it was found to be too inconsistent to be 100% factual, especially with something to do with the timelines he provides in the story. But he did lose the manuscript and ended up rewriting it so that could be one excuse.

Then there was that game show producer whose name escapes me and who wrote about his double life as a "secret agent" while doing his TV show thing. But I think he was just nuts.

And that's just two that I know of, but in general I like to think people have more integrity than that, even when writing for a profit.
beachgardener

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 7:14 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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Traveler321 wrote:
I'm half way into the rough draft on my latest book, a memoir, and see an article that says it's the hardest book to write. Is this true?

A memoir comes off so often as being me telling my side of the story, a defense, politicians write a lot of those. If you are being honest it can be a painful self examination. even then I am not sure one can be honest examining self through eyes standing too close to really see the whole picture. Think that is why so many people fall out with their biographer. I will admit memoirs and/or autobiographies are books I avoid but I know people who read nothing else, they seem to prefer celebrities. In addition to being hard to write memoirs may also be hard to sell. B
Joseph M Erhardt

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 8:49 AM   in response to: beachgardener in response to: beachgardener
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beachgardener wrote:
Traveler321 wrote:
I'm half way into the rough draft on my latest book, a memoir, and see an article that says it's the hardest book to write. Is this true?

A memoir comes off so often as being me telling my side of the story, a defense, politicians write a lot of those. If you are being honest it can be a painful self examination. even then I am not sure one can be honest examining self through eyes standing too close to really see the whole picture. Think that is why so many people fall out with their biographer. I will admit memoirs and/or autobiographies are books I avoid but I know people who read nothing else, they seem to prefer celebrities. In addition to being hard to write memoirs may also be hard to sell. B


A lady in my writer's group has written a memoir, but she has sharp senses of humor and perspective that really come through. I've suggested she market it as a cultural piece rather than a memoir. (It is a travel story, too, so that may help.)
B.L. Alley

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Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 8:54 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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Who is it about?
Brad the wronger

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Registered: 07/13/17
Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 9:16 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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It seems to me a memoir would be a lot like having a vanity plate on your car. It would have to be about yourself, but others could relate to it. The big decision would be what to omit. Most of all, it would have to be interesting and memorable.
Salamander Mall...

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Registered: 10/16/17
Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 9:53 AM   in response to: Traveler321 in response to: Traveler321
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They need not be gut-wrenching or traumatic. Many successful memoirs are humorous. Examples are Pawprints in Oman, Motoring with Mohammed, A Fez of the Heart, Video Night in Kathmandu, and the Seriously, Mum... and Two Old Fools... series. The basic mistakes I see in memoirs, which also undercuts the ability to market them, are assuming that people care about or understand their problems, that their experiences are intrinsically interesting, and that writing a memoir somehow frees them from using good writing skills -- you still have to have a well-paced plot, good charac*terization, and crisp dialogue and narrative.
Traveler321

Posts: 225
Registered: 10/01/16
Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 11:08 AM   in response to: B.L. Alley in response to: B.L. Alley
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The memoir is about 7 years of my life and some of the people I worked with many years ago who aren't named, enough time has passed that I can publish it. It's going to be a niche memoir in an industry where there are only two other memoirs comparable, and both have sold very well. Of coarse that doesn't guarantee anything, but it's hard enough to write well that I feel like I'm on Mt. Everest right now and trying to see the peak.

The format and chapters are all laid out, 38k in so far of hopefully 65k to 70k, I put the best story as the first chapter to sell it. The book cover will take over 50 hours, I've already wasted about ten hours or more on it. I'm thinking 4 months more to get the book all finished, if I'm lucky.

Only one family members knows I'm writing this, and I've told them that some people will hate me for this book, they said to go ahead and do it. In the book I have some of the stupid things I did, other things I have had to leave out for legal reasons. There is very little dialog, it is coming out more as narration. I tried to think if I could do more dialog, but things move too fast to get to know anyone other than my persona. I have hit roadblocks and just went around them to leave that for later. I did that with the first book and fixed it all before publishing.
Melia Kelley

Posts: 12
Registered: 10/06/17
Re: Is a memoir the hardest book to write?
Posted: Dec 31, 2017 1:16 PM   in response to: Wilai Lattimore in response to: Wilai Lattimore
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I have a memoir out, so my perception may be biased. I view memoirs as different from biographies, in that they aren't trying to capture the entire life and experiences of a person. Rather, a memoir tells one specific story in someone's life. I freely admit that there are some aspects of the time I cover in my memoir that I chose not to include when writing it down, but this was intentional. Those aspects simply did not benefit the story. I also freely admit that I wasn't out to do an expose or grief ridden story, and intentionally chose to focus on the positive. My hope is that I managed to still tell the truth while doing that. A memoir is a very personal thing. Depending on your motivations for writing (is profit primary focus or nice bonus?) my recommendation is to stay true to your vision, but research memoir approaches to help with direction. Good luck!
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