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.
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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.
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?