Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours

If you’ve ever considered writing your memoir, you’ve likely felt apprehensive and doubtful. But the truth is, everyone has a story. You just have to learn how to tell it. Fast Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours is the tool you need. 

Fast Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron. Tell Your Life Story in 45 Hours. It's a great book for all nonfiction writers.

Fast Draft Your Memoir is written by Rachael Herron and is based on the memoir-writing class she teaches at Stanford.

One of the first objections Rachael gets to memoir writing is how to write about the other people in your story without hurting their feelings. There’s a whole chapter on how to deal with this. Spoiler: There is no magic answer and only you can make the decisions. 

The second most frequent objection/fear in writing your memoir has to do with memory. You may worry that your memory is not good enough for storytelling. The good news is that you’re not alone. Everyone’s memory is fallible. So what do you do? You follow 2 simple rules: room tone and the 80% rule.

Room tone has to do with the mood of the room where your memory is occurring. Were you celebrating? Mourning? Thoughtful? Pessimistic? Angry? The tone of the room will dictate the “dialogue and action” you write in the scene.

The 80% rule is making sure you are at least 80% certain the person whose dialogue you are writing, would say or did say the things you write.

You’ll also learn how to plan, outline, and structure your memoir so it reads like a story that will satisfy your readers. 

Three Reasons To Read This Book Even If You Don’t Write Memoir

While this book is about memoir, I highly encourage you to read it even if memoir isn’t your thing. Why? First of all, it’s entertaining. Rachael writes humor so well and that’s difficult to do. She could write about cleaning toilets and create a story that you’d enjoy. 

Secondly, the tips and exercises translate well to any narrative nonfiction writing. So I guarantee you’ll learn something that will be useful. I have had so much fun with the 6-Word Memoir exercise.

Third, when I picked up the book, I promise you, I was thinking, “Well, I’ll never write a memoir but I really enjoy Rachael’s podcasts and newsletter, so I’m sure I’ll really like this book.” Then I started reading Fast Draft Your Memoir and realized that there are experiences that only I can tell. Maybe I do have a memoir in me. If I have one, you have one. You just have to uncover it, and you’ll learn how in this book.

Practical Application

My biggest takeaway from the book was learning how to judge accuracy. This is something I’ve often wondered about. How do writers write dialogue when they can’t remember word-for-word what was said? The way you do it, is to ask yourself: “Am I making this up with the intention to deceive my reader about anything at all? Or am I showing details that I’m more than 80% sure happened? Am I preserving the room tone of this memory?” 

I also really enjoyed the 6 Word Memoir exercise. I thought it would be hard because Rachael specifically says, “…try to be alone in at least one of your six-word memoirs. If every single six-word memoir you’ve come up with so far shows you as a mother of two small children or a wife or an employee, write another one in which you’re featured alone, the only actor in this tiny play of your life.” Well, like a lot of women, I have trouble identifying myself outside of my roles as wife and mother. But I managed to do it and it was easier than I thought.  

I also loved the chapter on publishing. I listen to a lot of writing and publishing podcasts and still learned new things about the publishing industry. 

Most helpful though for me, was the following section. Sometimes you just need a kick in the pants to do the hard work. Rachael says about the fear of not finishing the memoir:
    “The only thing that will help is for you to do the work. 
    The only way to get the work done is to keep showing up and putting terrible words on the pages that you’ll fix later.
    The only way to keep showing up is to put a daily or weekly word count or page goal on your calendar and then do the work. It’s hard. It doesn’t feel good.”

Writing is hard. But the only way you’ll get it done is to do it. And finishing feels so good.

Go get your copy of Fast Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story In 45 Hours and then come back and tell me about your story. What part of your life do you want to write about? What story will you tell?

Book Review-Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content

By Ann Handley

From the inside flap

"If you have a web site, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.

Yeah, but who cares about writing anymore? In a time-challenged world dominated by short and snappy, by click-bait headlines and Twitter streams and Instagram feeds and gifs and video and Snapchat and YOLO and LOL and #tbt. . . does the idea of focusing on writing seem pedantic and ordinary?

Actually, writing matters more now, not less. Our online words are our currency; they tell our customers who we are.

Our writing can make us look smart or it can make us look stupid. It can make us seem fun, or warm, or competent, or trustworthy. But it can also make us seem humdrum or discombobulated or flat-out boring.

That means you've got to choose words well, and write with economy and the style and honest empathy for your customers. And it means you put a new value on an often-overlooked skill in content marketing: How to write, and how to tell a true story really, really well. That's true whether you're writing a listicle or the words on a Slideshare deck or the words you're reading right here, right now...

And so being able to communicate well in writing isn't just nice; it's necessity. And it's also the oft-overlooked cornerstone of nearly all our content marketing."

My take

I don't know about you but I hate writing. At least that first draft. It sucks. Rewriting? Editing? That's fun. But the first draft? Like Hemingway said, bleeding. 

The point is, I need the reminder that first drafts are difficult and they usually aren't any good. Everybody Writes is a book that reminds us that yes, the first draft will suck, but you can fix it on the rewrite. 

In addition to reassuring writers that it's ok for us to write an awful first draft, Handley covers other topics related to writing.

There are six parts to the book. Part I is Writing Rules: How to Write Better (And How to Hate Writing Less). Part II is Writing Rules: Grammar and Usage. Part III is Story Rules. Part IV is Publishing Rules. Part V is 13 Things Marketers Write. And Part VI is Content Tools. 

All these topics combined make for a good reference-type book. I didn't really learn anything new, but it did remind me of things that are always good to hear, such as first drafts suck. It would also be a great book for someone who doesn't have a lot of experience with writing. Say a small business owner who wants to create a blog to generate interest in their products.

My advice would be to read it through—it's a quick, easy read, with small sections that lend themselves to reading bits and pieces as you're waiting in line, waiting on your kids, etc. Then set the book aside for times you want to reference it. Writing the About page for your blog? Check out page 244 in Everybody Writes for tips. Want to make use of Twitter but not sure how? Page 188. Responding to potential customers via email? Page 219.

Have you read Everybody Writes? Did you find it useful? I'd like to know what you think. Let me know in the comments.