Planning My Memoir’s Structure
I’ve been listening to Jenny Lawson’s memoir, Let’s Pretend It Never Happened on audio book (hilarious and inspired, go buy it now), and it has motivated me to start working on my memoir again. Hey, it took her eleven years to finish, I’m only on year… three? Or is it four?
I finished the first draft during Nanowrimo 2010, started editing it, printed a hard copy, gave it to a friend with editing experience who read it and marked it up, and then I put it in a box and stowed it in the top of my closet where it remains today. My excuse for not revisiting it in more than two years has been that I don’t know how to structure it now that the main bits are written down, I have some major decisions to make, and I don’t want to “waste time” working on it before making these decisions.
So let’s start with those “major decisions” and get that excuse out of the way:
Write it as a fictional “based on a true story” story or as a non-fiction memoir? Non-fiction memoir. You’re not imaginative enough or an experienced enough writer to go fictional, and like they say “truth is stranger than fiction”. Just go with what you know happened. You’re also sort of lazy, so this way you can just write about what happened and it’s less work. Hopefully.
Write it in first voice or some other voice? It’s a memoir. Write it in your own voice, silly.
Include all the family skeletons? Hell, yeah. You want it to be interesting enough for Oprah and Ellen Degeneres to interview you, don’t you?
Change everyone’s name to protect the not-so-innocent? Hell, no. Why expose skeletons if you’re going to call them kittens?
Next I started thinking about how I’ve lived five distinct and separate lives:
- Hippie Life (5 years)
- Church Life (18 years)
- First Marriage Life (6 years)
- Single Parent Life (3 years)
- Gulf Island Life (4 years and counting…)
(I’ll save you doing the math. I’m 36 years old now.)
Seems to make sense splitting the book out in these sections. I could (and likely will) also split each life section into smaller sections based on major events within each “life”.
Topics, events and issues I want to include:
- Devastating effects of trauma on a family unit – death, abuse, divorce, addictions, etc…
- Recovery, discovery and living authentically with a healthy self-image & self-esteem, etc…
Next step: Use the hard copy draft as a reference, but re-write it from scratch so it flows and connects well.
In summary: I’m writing my memoir in first voice, I’m revealing most, if not all family skeletons, using real names, and I’m ready for the inevitable fall out. Bring it, motherfuckers.