Bags of material, no idea where to start.

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kellula

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Hello

I have been recording anecdotes for the past ten years of my life. Sincerely, I have a lot of really funny and interesting material.

I have been waiting for a "moment" or an event to provide me with a solid point-of-view, as in, "this is where I am now and here are some things that have happened in the run-up to now". But the event never happens. So it feels like my 'story' has no end and no solid point-of-view. All I have is a collection of literally hundreds of anecdotes.

How can I make a start at pulling this all together? Any useful writing exercises to kick-start this process?

Thank you!

Kellula
 
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Siri Kirpal

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I can think of two ways to go about this.

First, and maybe the easiest, pick the year or two or whatever with the material you like the best. Bill it as something like: one year (or however many) in my life.

Second: go through the material again and look for commonalities (family? travel? work? hobbies? etc) Pick the batch that resonates most and put 'em together with a bit of narrative additions.

A good book for dealing with memoir structure is Tristine Rainer's Your Life as Story.

Hope that helps.

Oh, one thing. Find the pivotal moment in the material, but don't expect it to be an outward event.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Maryn

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This may be more illustrative of the kind of person I am than anything else, but if I had a collection of hundreds of anecdotes, I'd be adding them to a spreadsheet using keywords, dates, subject, and every other categorization I could think of which might aid in sorting--say, off-color or G-rated.

Once entered, I could sort them in dozens of ways, seeking a commonality which works.

Maryn, not sure if this is helpful for how you work
 

kellula

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Thank you both for your advice. Without even approaching a database (though I love the idea, thank you) I can see there are common themes. I suppose I have been stuck on it also making chronological sense. Does it matter if it's not in chronological order?
 

cornflake

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What is the point to the whole thing?
 

T Robinson

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Purpose?

Seconding Cornflake, what is your purpose in doing this? If you are just compiling material for your grandchildren, it doesn't matter that much.

If you expect to make money.........probably not going to happen unless you are famous in the real world.

You're brand new here. Give us an idea of your purpose, as in your intended readership and we can give better advice.
 

kellula

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The purpose is ultimately to publish it. It is a memoir of our family's move to a tiny village in Spain, ten years ago, through the eyes of my young daughter.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Then there's your topic. And your arc. Pick the best bits and arrange in a way that tells a story. You will probably need to add connective tissue. And possibly an ending.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

kellula

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Thank you so much, Siri.

It's helpful to think about it in that way…"arrange it so it tells a story". That also gives me the freedom to dispense with chronology a little.

It's a story about acceptance, integration, adventure-seeking and compromise. Lots of compromise…what all good dreams are made of!

Kellula
 

khobar

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Did you wake up one day and spin a globe and decide to move where your finger stopped it? Could be, I suppose - there have been memoirs along those lines in the past. Why this particular tiny village? Did you move from a different part of Spain, or did you move from somewhere a bit different? Lots of questions come to mind (and that's good).

From another thread you say, "It is a memoir of our family's move to a tiny village in Spain, ten years ago, through the eyes of my young daughter." But you also say, "It's 'ghost' written but the idea is that it is openly ghostwritten so that the vocabulary is not limited to that of a seven-year old." That suggests you moved to Spain three years before your daughter was born. If so, then it begs the question of whose "acceptance, integration, adventure-seeking and compromise" you are really talking about, no?

Unless I'm misinterpreting what you said, it sounds like there's more to this than merely a story told through your daughter's eyes.
 

Director C

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Do you have any background in fiction? What you most likely need to do is find a good story out of the material you have. You know? Put all the tidbits together in a way that has some tension, conflict (or at least intrigue) and growth. We all do that when we try to make sense of where we are in our lives, anyway. You just need to find something that will resonate with an audience. Should be fun!
 

hearosvoice

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I can relate to the OP.

I started working on a memoir years ago and I did actually make databases of all my thoughts, ideas, vignettes, tidbits, etc.

It's extremely hard fleshing those out into an actual story rather than just a bunch of information. The poster above me is right. I have tried to learn more about fiction and all the elements of a storytelling like conflict, tension, climax, falling action, rising action, etc. and all the other conventions that supposedly make reading a story satisfying.

It's tough. I'm in your boat. I have a bevy of facts, great lines, punch lines, quirky anecdotes, etc. I think I have a decent ability in turning a clever phrase, but creating a larger body of work, a narrative arc, is something that I'm still learning. I'm so early in the learning process in fact that I'm still skeptical as to why it's important, other than because everyone says so.

If you can figure out a way to arrange your memoir material into a traditional fiction novel format, you are very very lucky.

I think a lot of us memoirists come to writing from a very different angle. We're not novelists, yet we're not journalists. We're part of this ill-defined "memoir" cohort. It's really tough but if you're like me, you're fiercely determine for some inexplicable reason to get your voice our there and your stories hear. All the people who immediately say "no one cares, you're not famous" are irrelevant. Those who say "what's the point of your story?" are rude, but at least they raise an important question.

I'm still really stuck with my project. I'm trying to conform to a conventional novel style. But part of me feels like I'm hammering a square peg into a circular hole. And that I need to just envision an alternative way for my stories to unfold that have structure and purpose.

I find myself writing a lot of exposition. I could describe this or that for days. But I struggle with structuring things according to conflict, climax, falling action, and resolution. Perhaps because we're writing about real life, and real life doesn't always conform to that.

Another trap I fall into is that I feel like my writing is merely a list of anecdotes. This happens, then this happens, and this happens, and one time this happened, and I remember this time that…blah blah blah. I think what I need to develop here is a better sense for cause and effect in relating and transitioning my anecdotes and connecting them from one to another to created a coherent and deliberate story arc.

Memoir is tough! Good luck.
 

Siri Kirpal

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Sat Nam! (Literally "Truth Name"--a Sikh greeting)

When people say, "What's the point of your story?" they're actually saying what is its purpose, where is it taking us?

So, an abuse story could be a misery memoir "Look at all the bad stuff that happened to me," or it could be a redemptive memoir "Despite all the bad stuff that happened to me, I turned out okay and here's why." The second makes a better story, because it gives the reader a place to go.

Hope that made sense.

Blessings,

Siri Kirpal
 

Bufty

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I may be the odd one out, but if the anecdotes are amusing in themselves I don't see why any story element is needed at all. Why do the anecdotes have to be joined up in book fashion. Plenty of comedians/entertainers use anecdotes and simply need a means of nipping from one to the other.

Have you ever considered selling them individually - to magazines and so forth and forgetting about a book.

On the other hand if it's purely for family/friends it doesn't matter how they're recorded.

I'm still not clear who your intended audience is.
 

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