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View Full Version : Narrative non-fiction: No man's land?



j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 03:25 AM
I have a completed manuscript that is a narrative non-fiction account of a year abroad (Think A Year in Provence meets Catcher in the Rye)

I'm following all the rules and guidelines for non-fiction because that's what it is, but frankly it feels (and reads) much more like a novel.

From what I've read non-fiction seems easier to get published, but then when I start getting asked questions about my platform and such I feel like I've gone down wrong track.

I don't even know if I should be posting questions in the fiction or non-fiction side of this site.

Anyone else face this dilemma or have any advice?

Thanks.

lkp
08-20-2007, 03:36 AM
Sounds like a memoir, for which one does follow the rules for fiction rather than non-fiction when it comes to querying agents. I think platform for memoir is nice but less important than having a really compelling and unusual story to tell. Also, one completes a memoir before querying.

Birol
08-20-2007, 03:37 AM
Would you say it qualifies as more of a memoir?

nancy sv
08-20-2007, 04:03 AM
Thanks for asking this question! I'm not there yet, but will be soon. I'll be having the exact same questions!

j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 04:39 AM
Thanks, that's helpful.

It's a first-person, journal style narrative. I guess it is a memoir.

Perhaps the term "memoir" is throwing me off. It sounds so presumptuous. When I hear memoir I think it must be about some retired general, president or rock star.

Susan B
08-20-2007, 04:45 AM
Welcome to no man's land!

It does sound like a memoir. Not as in "writing your memoirs"--but the story of a particular set of experiences you had, rooted in a particular time and place. Sounds like a great book!

Memoir is a funny hybrid, when it comes to querying and submitting. People seem to have varied experiences. (You might want to look at the Life Story forum, where a lot of this is discussed.)

For me, it seemed to be treated like nonfiction during the agent query stage (ie, proposal rather than partial requests, book not yet finished when I started querying.) But now, with my agent submitting to publishers, when it gets to the final stage they seem to want the full ms.

And yes--the platform thing is a big deal, unfortunately. Memoir is an uphill climb!
Susan

Susan B
08-20-2007, 04:56 AM
Thanks, that's helpful.

It's a first-person, journal style narrative. I guess it is a memoir.

Perhaps the term "memoir" is throwing me off. It sounds so presumptuous. When I hear memoir I think it must be about some retired general, president or rock star.

Yes, that's the unfortunate association with memoir. But (as I read somewhere) it's simply a personal account of something you experienced. Whether it's a year in France as an awkward adolescent male or a year working your way through Julia Child's cookbook. (A recent memoir that did well.) Or the midlife discovery of an oddball regional music (my memoir :-)

I loved your site BTW. Both my sons did the same thing, though for shorter stretches. And my book relates to a French-speaking US regional culture.

So drop by the Life Story forum...

Susan

j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 05:02 AM
... the story of a particular set of experiences you had, rooted in a particular time and place.

When you think about it that way the label memoir makes much more sense. I will check out that part of the forum. Thx

j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 05:05 AM
Thanks for asking this question! I'm not there yet, but will be soon. I'll be having the exact same questions!

That sounds like a neat adventure BTW.

I just met a guy and his wife last month who are walking across America with their mule. They walked through our town and caused quite a stir. I enjoyed talking to them.

johnrobison
08-20-2007, 05:29 AM
J S Cutler . . . how come your blog doesn't allow comments? If you're not going to encourage people to comment, you might as well write things on a regular website.

j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 05:41 AM
J S Cutler . . . how come your blog doesn't allow comments? If you're not going to encourage people to comment, you might as well write things on a regular website.

Oops, I thought I had. It's fixed now, thanks.

johnrobison
08-20-2007, 06:16 AM
That's better.

Twizzle
08-20-2007, 06:41 AM
isn't anyone from NH?! eesh. all these people from MA.

:)

you wrote your mss is complete--have you started to query yet?

j.s.cutler
08-20-2007, 06:48 AM
you wrote your mss is complete--have you started to query yet?

Yes, but now I wish I had waited. Thanks to a lot of the feedback I've gotten here, I feel I have a much better handle on things now than when I sent out my original query.

Chalk one up to uninformed exuberance

Fingers
08-21-2007, 07:28 AM
Just in case you didnt know, there is a forum here called Life Story Writing that would love to hear from you guys. They might even be able to help answer some of your questions. When I did write, I wrote peronal narratives or memoirs too. (I never know what to call it) but its been a long time since Ive written.

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=42



Yer pal Brian :Thumbs:

Birol
08-21-2007, 09:13 AM
I'm going to move this thread over to Life Story Writing.

Sakamonda
08-21-2007, 03:32 PM
Memoir/narrative nonfiction DOES require a strong marketing platform in order to sell. It also requires that you have told a compelling narrative in a compelling way using well-crafted prose, like quality fiction.

As far as querying agents (who will then query publishers) goes, you should have a book proposal and three sample chapters available to market your book. Most memoirists have their manuscripts completed and polished before querying agents/publishers, but it is possible to sell a memoir based on a proposal/sample chapters alone. (That's how my memoir sold.)

I suggest you spend some time researching/building your marketing platform and also polishing a solid book proposal. Good luck.