Monday, December 14, 2009

What to do?

There are a lot of questions bubbling up and around this memoir project that I'm trying to sort out.  Frankly, I threw my arms up in the air and there they are, stuck, not knowing whether to gesticulate or shrug.  See, the last post gave me a different feeling about the whole thing.  The voice was that of a fictional character I used to write named Clyde.  She's sassy, non-articulate and fun.  When I write my family I can't really use that voice, I feel like I'm cheating, because I am, because the word "fun" isn't the word I'd use.

Writing the last post was freeing, whimsical and a little terrifying not because of anything it revealed, but because I could feel the edge of real tension eking in, the kind of tension I've been trying to uncover.  So now I feel like a real dim-wit.  I go from writing memoir (no, still not abandoning the project) to writing a Nano-no-show fantasy back to memoir into the adrenaline-filled caverns of fiction "loosly based on" reality.  Can I do that?

I think I need to read every craft book ever written to get a grip on what needs to be done.  And hey, there's plenty of time.  The other thing is that the memoir is really a different time period.  I'm feeling growing pains here.  I'm feeling a novel breaking through and the overall dynamic tension leads me right down the path to a girlish Stand by Me.

What say you?  What would you do?


  1. I think I'm in the earlier stages of what you're struggling with. Part of me wants to write my own Wonderland, to escape all this crap. Part of me knows if I wrote a memoir, there'd be so much anger in it, I'd have to write it under a pseudonym. Anger's been my driving emotion lately, and it freaks me right out.

  2. Seems perfectly normal to go from memoir to fantasy and back. Even in your fiction piece, it sounds like you're parsing out your voice: what it is or isn't.

    When I took my first writing class, I wrote mostly memoir, and they all came out very dark (nothing I could publish with good conscience). But, I learned a lot, let go of some old baggage, and have (in some ways) incorporated those stories elsewhere. Now, I think if I go back to those original stories, I could rewrite them with a focus more on the story and less on the characters.

    Hope that makes sense.

  3. Thank you both. Memoir is much more difficult to reconcile than I had thought. But on the other hand, it has opened so many other possibilities. The one thing I know I do not want is to come across as bitter and in stories like these bitterness can be all too easy to slip into.

  4. Memoir is such a distinct form. In the writers workshop I attend, we've heard memoirists say over and over that when you write a memoir, you must be able to answer the question "So what?" In other words, why should anyone else care about your memories? What have you gleaned or learned or not learned from the experience?

    Fiction, on the other hand, allows you to take your memories and the characters you meet in real life and breathe something new into them. All fiction is based, at least in part, on your life because it's what you know. A fictional character my have your Aunt Hattie's derriere and smile; your brother's cooking abilities and your first boss's temper, all thrown into the blender of your imagination to create someone new.

    Isn't writing a blast? I never work in just one genre at a time. I'm currently writing several picture books; editing my middle-grade novel; blogging in observational humor; ghost-wrote a non-fiction book that was published last year; and doing business writing for my clients. Oh, and I have an idea for a mystery series. I don't even read mysteries as a rule, but I have a killer idea (pardon the pun).

    Good luck. Keep writing. Don't worry so much.

    Susan @ 2KoP

  5. Thanks, Susan. That's why my husband is always telling me--don't worry so much. Still trying to reach out and be heard and it makes me forever nervous--those rejections and all :)