Turning Your Life Into a Piece of Art: Tips for Writing a Memoir
by Marla Martenson, Hearts on the Line
My journey to writing memoirs began in 2009 when my second dating advice book, Good Date, Bad Date, was released. I loved writing books, but did not think I had a third relationship book in me. I am a bookworm and have always enjoyed the “chick lit,” “women’s fiction” genre. One author in particular had my attention: Jen Lancaster. I had read her debut memoir, Bitter Is The New Black, and just loved it. I continued on and gobbled up Bright Lights, Big Ass, and then, Such A Pretty Fat. My editor Julie had also read Jen’s books, and one day over margarita’s said, “Marla, you should write a memoir, your life is as interesting as Jen Lancaster’s. Your memoir would be hilarious. After all, the things you deal with in the matchmaking world, you couldn’t make up!”
That was all I needed, the seed was planted, the spark was ignited, and off I went! The next day, I opened up my MacBook Air and started on my first memoir, Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker. It was published in 2010. As soon as Diary hit the stores, I started writing the sequel Hearts On The Line. If you have a burning desire to tell your story, get your butt in the seat and start typing. There is always room for another great book.
– Before you get started, make notes. I like to make notes on the theme and stories that I want to tell in the book. Figure out what stories are compelling now and what back-stories in your life support the story.
– Take it one page at a time. Don’t stress yourself. Thinking about the fact that you have 80,000 words ahead of you can be daunting and scare you into not writing at all. If you write just one page a day, in a year you will have more than enough material for a book.
– Everything doesn’t need to be perfect or written in stone in the first draft. You can change things later. Don’t worry about names, descriptions, offending someone, or getting sued. Just get the story down and then you can decide what stays and what goes.
– Hold onto your dream. When you feel stuck or have “writers block,” remember why you are doing this. Think about how accomplished you will feel when you are done, as well as all of the people you will touch and entertain with your story.
– Keep in mind that a memoir, although a true story, should read more like fiction than non-fiction. Make use of fiction techniques that elicit an emotional response in the reader and makes them want to keep turning the pages. I write in real time, with a bit of background woven throughout the book. Because I am writing a series based on my everyday life, I will often go on an adventure or do something interesting just for the sake of writing about it in my book. The last thing that people want to read about is the mundane. Think about what is different in your story than the other hundreds of books on your topic.
– Keep a notebook in every room, even in your purse or car. An idea or memory can strike at any moment. Believe me, if you don’t write it down, you won’t remember it later.
– Don’t think about being published while writing, unless you are an established professional writer. Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight, had never considered being a writer before she wrote her first book. The story came to her in a dream. It was a story that she just had to get on the page. She enjoyed the process. The end result was spectacular.
– Treat your writing time like it’s sacred. Find a special, inspiring place to write regularly. I write in my home office at my beautiful antique desk with a candle burning and the glow of a small tiffany lamp beside me. It makes me feel like a “real” writer.
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Marla Martenson is a professional Beverly Hills matchmaker and the author of two dating advice books, two memoirs, and is also a contributing author in the best selling Adventures In Manifesting series. She has appeared countless radio and TV shows including the Today Show, WGN Chicago Morning News, San Diego Living, Urban Rush, and Better TV. Read the Write On Author Q&A.Tags: Advice from the Experts Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker Good Date Bad Date Hearts on the Line Marla Martenson Memoir Moving Write Along Non-fiction