Monthly Archives: May 2016

5 tips for writing a memoir …

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… And how I scored

The other day someone asked me if I had any tips for writing a biography or a memoir. That was a tall order. I must confess I am working on one but can no way see myself as any kind of an expert on the subject. My method, quite honestly was to plunge on. Get the story down and then work it into a somewhat linear narrative thereafter.

Why didn’t I do what I usually do, Google it? The main reason was because I didn’t want to be bogged down by external strictures, by what a regular biography should look like. I wanted the person’s own story and own voice to come through.

The memoir I am working on is almost done. But, after the question was posed I decided to see whether my method was nuts, or did it work?

I came upon an old article from AuthorHouse that suggests the following tips:

Tip #1

Have a deep interest in your subject. Don’t pick a biography subject just because you think there’s a market for that book, or because that person is currently in the spotlight. Pick someone you’re dying to know more about.

In other words, ask yourself, “If no one but me ever reads this book (or if, for whatever reason, the book is never completed), would the research itself be its own reward?”

I for one am glad to say an unequivocal YES! I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know my subject. We’ve had many laughs, tears, frustrations. But, overall it has been an amazing experience for me.

Tip#2

Be organized. If you’re a thorough researcher, you might interview hundreds of people and review thousands of documents. Simply dumping all those records, transcripts, photographs and notes into a folder with your subject’s name is NOT the way to go. Use a system that works for you.

Oh dear! Nope. I wasn’t that organised, but I wasn’t a total wreck either. I did/ do have separate folders. Fortunately, since we decided to keep it as a memoir, I didn’t need to interview a whole host of people so I didn’t have to check and counter-check with others who would, perhaps have given different versions of the same account, a la Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

Tip#3

You don’t necessarily need a new subject—just a new angle. Just because your person of interest has already been written about before (perhaps many times), it doesn’t mean there’s no place for your biography.

This didn’t apply to me or the subject, because the story is unique and there aren’t that many accounts of the person’s life for us to worry about. Besides, it is very much an authorised memoir.

Tip #4

Don’t delay, especially with interviews! Once you’ve decided that you want to write about a particular person, get started as soon as possible. Why? Because interview subjects will, unfortunately, pass away eventually. Waiting a year, a month, or even a week could result in the loss of an eyewitness or a close friend of your subject.

Again, this didn’t apply… thank God! But we had got the bulk of the story down fairly quickly. In spite of a hectic schedule, we met twice a week. My subject is a very focused individual and after a few preliminaries, we wasted no time. I am very impressed by his prodigious memory and tremendous sense of story-telling. I felt I was there, witnessing each event he talked about. That’s why sometimes we’d both end up laughing or emotionally drained.

Tip #5

Be thorough. Because, after everything you also have to write the book!  Follow leads, pursue hunches, and research your subject exhaustively—but don’t forget to write the book! At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to stop digging and start typing.

As you do your research, you might be able to fine-tune the scope of your project, which will narrow the parameters of your research.

My method was to write along. As soon as I had finished the interview sessions I would transcribe the session and keep that in a separate folder. The next day, or sometimes, that very night, I’d get into trying to “write the story” as a story.

This worked to some extent, because, after a very thorough (and I may add: sharp) review by the editor, major chunks of the book had to be moved around and rewritten. Some parts had been repeated and some were inconsistent.

To the above AuthorHouse tips, I’d add a sixth…

PLUS ONE!

Get a good editor. Preferably someone who is not associated or emotionally connected with your subject.

This was a great help for me. Because, although on reading my editor’s comments I was initially devastated, when I returned to fixing the manuscript, I found that perhaps the emotional distance had helped to bring clarity. We are always far too close to our own work – especially long pieces – to see the errors.

And that’s about the size of it. I’m sure there are many other resources for writing a biography or memoir, but if this helps even one fellow writer, I feel I will have done something today.

Do you believe in ghosts? She asked…

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Yes, was my unabashed reply. I won’t go into the details of personal experiences, strange happenings and other worldly feelings that I have had over the years, but in the end, yes. I believe that there are spirits of people who have ‘gone on’ that seem to reach out and connect to those on this side of death.

The spirit doesn’t have to be a loved one. Sometimes it is, quite literally, a lost soul still searching for someone to leave a message, to make a connection, who knows. Are the spirits malevolent? In my experience, no; but, there are times when these visitations seem to carry a forewarning to those amongst us who are alive.

Opinions on the subject vary, sometimes there’s a ‘logical’ or psychological explanation for what various folk have experienced. But, there are times when neither logic, nor science, nor ‘ghost-busting’can penetrate that veil.

As that famous line from Hamlet goes:

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy…

In the spirit of that, and with no pun intended, today I was mesmerised by these tales, purported to be true:

49 Real Nurses Share The Terrifying Hospital Ghost Stories That Scared Them To Death

…a piece to give yeez pause to think from my friend, Authoress Dori Ann Dupre…

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As I said the other day, our magnanimous Scot, Mr. Gallacher has featured Dori on his blog today! I don’t know about her book, Scout’s Honour, but this is a remarkable piece and reminder to us all about how life can change on a dime.

Seumas Gallacher

…I’m happy today to give my Blog over to the wonderful Authoress, Dori Ann Dupre, with a powerful message, which is relevant not only to her family and mine, but to those of many thousands of we Lads and Lassies of Blog Land:

dori

APR 15th 2016

Scout’s Honor Launch– Yes, it actually happened.

This blog post on Finding Dori was written on April 15th, 2016.

Yesterday was my first book’s launch day. I only get one of those. Kind of like a first Steelers game at Heinz Field. I only get one of those. So if the memory isn’t a good one – or one you’d prefer to forget -then you’re kind of screwed.

Back in June 2015, when I signed with Pen Name Publishing, the date of April 14th, 2016 seemed so far out there. And then slowly, week by week, edit by edit, building block by block, this…

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…an excellent purveyor of the written word in poetry and in prose… Rohini Sunderam…

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Thank you to Seumaas Gallacher, that generous helper of writers everywhere. He has prompted me to test drive an excerpt from a story that’s in the pipeline with my publisher. I’d love to know what readers think of this piece.

Seumas Gallacher

Rohini

…I wanna introduce yeez to a dear friend, Rohini Sunderam, one of the mainsprings of the Bahrain Writers Circle… diminutive in physical presence, p’raps, but a titan-ess in every other respect… her poetry, her prose, and her indefatigable ‘can do’ spirit in all things pertaining to this island’s scribblers’ group… m’Lady Rohini administrates not only the prose group, but also the Poetry Circle, and is a keystone in its annual Colours of Life Poetry Festival… her pawky, tongue-in-cheek anthology, CORPOETRY is a clever collection of gentle jibes at office life, politics, humour, conspiracies… go treat yerselves and grab a copy:

corpoetry

…not content with tripping out rhyming gems, the lure of prose is not far behind… Rohini offered me a piece of her writing, with the throwaway line, ‘p’raps yer Blog followers might like a wee shuftie at that’… or a more Anglicised version of that sentence……

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