OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
On writing your life story, tips for memoir writers.
Jo Parfitt is an author, speaker, mentor and writing teacher living in The Hague in the Netherlands. She specializes in helping people release the book within and also how to write their life story.
In this podcast you learn:
- How Jo started in publishing with cookbooks. ‘French Tarts' in France and then ‘Dates' in the Middle East, as well as word processing handbooks. Then moving into journalism and finally into helping expats to write their stories. (Jo is actively looking for expat writers)
- The importance of having a great idea and a great book title, as well as being able to market
- Why writing life story is so important. It's a dream of many people to write a book and leave a legacy. Older people want to leave something for their children. Younger people can also write life stories around a theme or a particular experience. We all have much to share.
- On writing from the past and how memory can be fickle. It has to be your truth but it's your version. You also need plot, pace, character as if it is a novel. You still need it to be a compelling story. You can have big gaps in a memoir as long as there are themes, or a thread through the story.
- Stories must inspire, support, inform or entertain. Memoir writers need to know about fiction devices.
- Add SPICE: specifics, place, incident, character and emotion to your story. This will make your writing more compelling.
- On using real people in memoir. Be careful. There's a place for honesty but you might have to fictionalize them if it is too close to home. Combine characters or change physical appearance. You can also show, don't tell.
- On writing about place. It's important in a memoir as you have to set the scene so what happens makes sense. Place also helps people to empathize with you. Transport the reader to where it happened. Use all the senses. Be specific, don't generalize. On writing travel vs memoir. Many books seem to span across the genres and end up on bookshelves in either place.
- What is just writing for yourself and what should be published. Basically it has to be publishable and there has to be a market. Writing for therapy or self-help is entirely justified but it has to be changed into more of a story to be published. Sharing personal information also helps people connect.
- Marketing is incredibly important if you aren't already famous. If you want to sell books, you need to be on the internet. You have to build that presence. Your blog should be related to the subject you are marketing. We mention the Author 2.0 Blueprint available free here. Jo gives lots of ideas for blogs and books. You can take one idea and change it into multiple books and products. Example of Louise Hay.
Jo's online course ‘Write your life stories‘ is available here.