View Full Version : Does anyone else have this problem?

01-27-2009, 09:44 AM
I have spent the last 2 months writing a personal essay/memoir-thingy (actually I have spent the last 15 years writing it if you count the very first draft back when it actually happened).

I didn't know it was a personal essay at first. So I re-wrote it and crafted it into what I thought would be a great short story--but ended up bludgeoning it. And stripping it of all truth and emotion.

So--I re-wrote it back into an essay--after reading countless books and articles about how to "write tight". Weeding out all my adverbs, gerunds and the like.

Then I read something about the perils of writing "too tight". And I realized that that is what I had done.

My personal essay was now way to much "tell" and not enough "show" and I had stripped out voice and stylistic elements that I think are what made it good to begin with (though who am I kidding--I don't know if it's "good").

So--back to the drawing board--to "loosen" my writing, adding voice back in, injecting some stylistic elements like repetition for effect.

It feels a bit like I made a cake--then decided to make the diabetic version of that cake--then decided it tasted gross and went back to add the sugar back in.

01-27-2009, 11:18 AM
I wrote my memoir as if I was sitting with a group of people telling them about it over a bottle of wine. I only wrote it because so many people I sat talking to over a bottle of wine said: You should write a book.

01-27-2009, 11:43 AM
I personally enjoy that "sitting around talking" tone, a.k.a. a conversational tone. A good example was a short memoir by Jack Klugman a few years back -- I could hear his voice telling it. On the flipside are tons of memoirs and biographies (even "A Beautiful Mind") where the writing was unbelievably dense and dull. But in the end you have to figure out your own voice, whatever combination works for you.

Write the story first and worry about rules later. It sounds like you're trying to follow some random guidelines first and thinking that just filling in blanks will work. Your cake take was spot on.

01-27-2009, 09:55 PM
I finally just finished (after dozens and dozens of revisions) my memoir about my childhood from birth to 18 yrs old. I did the same exact thing...I wrote exactly as if I was telling the story to friends...with ridiculous expressions and slang as I would in a humorous conversation. My book "White Coffin, Pink Roses" is being published by Polygon Publishing..a very small publisher. It should be released in few weeks. That just starts a whole new list of challenges! Just write first, organize second and clean-up later. It took me seven years.

01-29-2009, 01:22 AM
as if I was sitting with a group of people telling them about it over a bottle of wine

I REALLY like this image. I think I might have to try "writing" it over a bottle of wine--this might help loosen me up a bit.

I don't tend to have ridiculous expressions and slang, but more partial phrases. I also tend to break sentences up into lots of short ones. And begin sentences with "and" and "but"...a lot.

This is how I speak out loud and I am having a difficult time structuring it on paper so it reads like I would speak it.

Then, because it is about an experience that happened to me in my teen years, I do a lot of "I remember", "I guess", "I think"--which I was worried was kind of unnecessary and could be taken out. But now I am thinking maybe it is good for effect.

The main character (me) is a teenager at the time, an age when insecurity runs high, and is fumbling around trying to figure out what is going on through the whole piece.

So the language has a lot of "supposed", "apparently" "really", "actually" because she is trying to make sense of things all throughout.

I may get the courage up to post something on the Share Your Work board eventually.

Congratulations Sherry8661! I would love to check out your memoir for an example of your style.

01-30-2009, 09:19 AM
I know one writer who calls herself on Skype, tells the story and sends it off to a VA to transcribe. That's where her conversational voice comes from. I think it is an interesting tactic and it certainly does get the ball rolling.

02-01-2009, 04:34 AM
Could there be such a place? In my mind I wish that there was a publishing co, that would just allow me to tell my life story to them, and they do all the writing, lol. But I am realy serious! I know I have so much to say that not 1 or 2 or maybe even 3 books could describe what my family and I have gone through. As I am writing this I have tears, just feeling bad about some things but realy loving God & Jesus enough to know that we are not alone, no matter what race or color we are. Now also the question would be to publish and yet have the security for privacy, you know a fictional name, for certain reasons, again lol. Well I hope I have not bored you and if you do know this little miracle you could please e-mail me on here, and if not no worries. I hope this was the right place to post, I saw the bio - section and thought, what the, ok bye..

02-01-2009, 08:30 PM
OK, I finally placed something over on the SYW "personal story memoirs and life stories" thread. It is the re-loosened version in more of a conversational tone. --or at least that what was what I going for...
And I got a crit. Yay! But they tightened it similarly to how I had tightened it before--which only puts me back to where I was before--tightened to the point of potentially losing voice and effect.

When I read my "loose" version out loud I kind of like the sound of it. And though the "tight" version is nice and crisp…I don't like the sound of it out loud nearly as much.

This is shameless plea, by the way, for someone else to read my piece ; ) The personal story thread doesn't seem to get as much attention as the other threads I think...

02-02-2009, 06:26 PM
Soapdish, send it along. I'll read nearly anything! Though I don't promise to finish if it's over 3000 words. My e-mail address is on the profile of my blog (http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com).