I'm looking for an exercise or a resource that will help a writer sift through a bunch of events and find the ones that make the physical, emotional and intentional arcs actually work. I've looked through the stickies and haven't found such an exercise, but if there is one I've missed, please feel free to point it out.

In my case I have two memoir manuscripts, and on each I have written several drafts. On each I have about 200,000 words I've written about all the stuff that happened and I've narrowed them down to 60,000 or so words that I think would make good reading. But as the years have gone on and the stories get rejected by agents or beta readers say "it was ok but not a real page-turner" I'm getting the impression I need tighter theme and plot. I am good at writing about individual experiences that happened and making them interesting and sometimes funny, but the whole "ok so why is this in the book" question, not so good. And, I feel like my manuscripts are getting stuck at No. 8 of the Slushkiller's list of reasons your book was rejected. "Itís nice that the author is working on his/her problems, but the process would be better served by seeing a shrink than by writing novels." (or in my case, memoirs)

I've pondered doing experimental things like turning my memoir into a bunch of short stories that barely relate (although that would be darned weird because I'm the narrator throughout all of them) or fictionalizing the whole story so that the tension could lead to the characters breaking up a smuggling ring or something similarly exciting (and unlikely). But I think these are just weird ideas one comes up with when stuck on the same project too long.

So, does anyone know of good thematic organization tips in non-fiction?