Making sense of it all

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

ExiledStar

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This for me is the hardest part of writing a memoir. I've heard agents say that the biggest problem they see with memoirs is a lack of coherence and a lack of a good theme. As I put together my memoir from my diary entries, I am having problems making sense of it all, too. I feel like I'm supposed to have brilliant insights about the human condition or something, and my mind draws nothing but blanks.

I have a basic plot, but a lot of other stuff happens and I don't know what to include and what to leave out. It all seems equal in importance to me.

I don't want to write just for myself, I want to make a book out of it that other people enjoy reading.

I'm reading other memoirs and trying to analyze how each one does it. I am hampered by not having an inspirational story of rising above challenges. I have plenty of challenges, but I ultimately lose in the end. I'm trying to figure out how I can write a book like that and still have people want to read it.

Anybody else struggling with a memoir? Please say yes!
 

gettingby

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I think it could help you to think about the story you are trying to tell. Your diary entries may help trigger memories, but you should really only include things that contribute to the story you have set out to write. A memoir is not your whole life story.Your diary entries are probably more like notes, but chances are a lot of them are not going to contain info that is going to work for this story. Don't try or feel like you have to include everything you have. Maybe if you think of them that way, it will help you weed through want is and isn't useful. It seems like you already have an idea of what your story is, which is great. Just try to stay focused on that.

I'm a little confused by what you said about the kind of memoir you are trying to write. If you want to say a little more about it, that might help.
 

ExiledStar

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The kind of memoir I am trying to write is about the six years I spent in Slovenia. The main plot consists of my struggles against the Slovenian government, who ultimately kicks me out. Other themes that crop up are mental illness (both in myself and my friends), my struggles as an artist, and my attempts as a strongly introverted person to connect with other people.

It's not really a tale of "rising above" or success, because I don't manage to achieve my goal in the end. The government wins and I get kicked out.
 

Emily Winslow

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Perhaps exploring the reasons you wanted to move to Slovenia can clarify a throughline for you. You didn't achieve the goal of making it a permanent move, but maybe you achieved other aspects of the goal: remaking yourself, challenging yourself, escaping something from your past, whatever is true. And did you come back to a different life in your home country, or did everything bounce back to being as it was before you left? Even if the circumstances are similar, I assume that you'd changed in some way. Maybe answering those questions will reveal the arc of your story.
 

Fruitbat

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@Exiled Star, I haven't read all of your blog posts but some of them and I think your memoir will be interesting. I'm not sure about Six Years in Slovenia as a title, though. It does not give any clue of the main topics of the memoir other than the setting. A more unusual, even kind of crazy title would be much more attention-grabbing, I think. A (adjective) (noun) in Slovenia, or something like that, with the adjective/noun adding description and maybe humor. I'm not very knowledgeable about memoirs, so just a reader's thoughts there fwiw.
 
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