Writing your memoir can be exhausting, lonely and confusing. Here are some of the things I found helpful when writing my debut book….The Grace of a Nightingale – A Memoir of Vulnerability, Hope and Love, April 2019.
Keep believing in Your Story and your ability to write whether its fiction or non-fiction.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Despite how saturated literary sales may seem, we all love new stories. Don’t give up! For centuries, stories have helped people to feel accepted, connected and less alone. Stories can inspire, empower, comfort, teach, motivate and create transformational change. Deep soulful longings within the reader connect with the author and create a synergy which allows both to realise their true selves. Both can achieve their dreams.
Invest in a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors such as Scrivener or Evernote https://scrivenerville.com/scrivener-alternative/scrivener-vs-evernote/.
I use Scrivener which provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. I was able to organize notes, concepts, research and whole documents for easy access and reference. Its worth every penny! Or like me…my husband bought it as a Christmas gift. He realised I needed a system when he saw me scribbling endless notes which littered the house, coat pockets, my phone, computer and iPad.
Find the right editor.
But how do you choose the right editor for your work when there are hundreds of highly skilled and experienced ones to choose from https://www.sfep.org.uk? How do you know who will genuinely edit your work with integrity and not regard it as yet another mundane work task? And who can you work with confidentially with ease and mutual trust without fear of criticism and judgment?
I was in a predicament as these questions evolved part way through writing my book. Despite having never worked with an editor before something was telling me I needed one. Here is my story http://www.maryannewillow.uk/finding-the-right-editor/.
Just as every good musician needs a producer, every writer needs an editor. You cannot be the creative crafter and editor. Inevitably you become attached and deeply protective of your work. You are the parent nurturing the child. To try and edit will block the creative process. Invest in researching the right editor for you.
This relationship for me is profoundly important. My editor coached and befriended me in ways that enabled me to share some of my most intimate personal details. There was never a moment I doubted the goodness and love of her intentions. The relationship is sacred, precious and unique. Thank you dear Helen!
Where and when do you begin? What’s the first chapter, sentence or scenario? Who are the main characters? What period is your book set in?
Just Write….Just Write…..was the advice given by a trusted and loyal friend Fr Daniel. Don’t submit to anxiety-based procrastination….this will steal your time, creativity and energy…..it will eventually lengthen the distance from the place of beginning making it increasingly more difficult to return and carry on. When the gravity of procrastination pulls you away from your writing, you become paralysed with feelings of melancholic worthlessness and dread. It can deny you fulfilling your destiny. You begin to feel overwhelmed by delay and avoidance…..your very essence of worthiness, significance and talent becomes repressed. Don’t despair, don’t give up and don’t give in. Cling to that which will strengthen your enthusiasm and will power.
Thank you Fr Daniel, I will always be grateful for the simplicity of your wise advice. I kept writing and resisted interfering negative thoughts which had the potential to thwart my endeavours. Thoughts such as …no one will read this….my writing is messy, miserable and a disgrace and I am a failure were wilfully ignored. These disparaging comments made by my school teachers haunted me. Competition and destructive criticism tormented me. There are so many talented writers out there. Even a visit to my local supermarket reminded me of this. Endless shelves of books for sale with bright creative illustrative covers or glamorous pictures of acclaimed authors became a visible message “Im not worthy of writing and publishing….I failed my English exams which is proof of my inability…I have nothing worth saying compared to all these clever authors”.
Instead I became defiant. I valiantly silenced my inner saboteur and chose the power of positive affirming self talk (also known as internal dialogue, or personal commentary which frames our reactions to life and its circumstances). Compassionate statements such as….’I am blessed with a beautiful day, intelligence, love and peace’….’I will be given all that I need not necessarily want’…. ‘I can and I will do this’…These simple statements evoked optimistic hope, self confidence and energy which engendered restorative healing. I was able to write with fresh vitality. I found freedom from vulnerability, anxiety, fear and self doubt.
Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.
Read and Read and Read…..
Try new genres, poetry and articles/blogs by other authors and writers:
- The classical and the contemporary
- The Known and Unknown
- Adult and Childrens
- Fiction and Non-fiction
Be eclectic with your choices. If a book doesn’t inspire you then move on to one that does. Don’t waste your precious time hoping it will improve, it probably never will. Just because others have enjoyed a particular book do not assume you will. Reading as a writer is different to the passive pleasure of one who seeks relaxation and distraction. Trust in your inner sense of knowing.
Remember – limited reading limits and habituates your thinking….and preserves the status quo.
Alternatively, remove the chair from beneath your mind….this can diversify, open and deepen your thinking taking you to new horizons….
Challenging your choice of reading material will excite and enthralled you…. I promise!
Imagine you are stood on a balcony overlooking a dance floor filled with people oblivious to their surroundings. You are aware of an intimate distance which enables you to watch, look and feel what’s happening with intricate detail. Closer proximity would only obscure your vision. Instead you can appreciate the dynamic beauty and joy experienced by all those engaged with dancing.
So position yourself on your reading balcony as you become critically observant to the style, structure and characters described by other writers. Become conscious of the tone and rhythm of their story telling. This will invigorate your writing which is why you will need a word processing programme.
Here are some of the books I have read….
Invite others to read and critique your work.
The art of writing wrestles with contradiction. This creative process is therapeutic and life enhancing whilst also lonely. It can evoke feelings of frustration, elation, boredom and bewilderment. You can slide downwards from the excitement of developing an unexpected character described with elegant prose… only to arrive at the bottom where you are emotionally and mentally exhausted. I purposefully isolated myself so that I could avoid the noise of distraction. I needed the silence of calm seclusion in my trance-like writing bubble.
Asking others to read and critique your work can enhance your writing. The primary aim of the reader is to provide helpful feedback and comments which will enable you and your editor to develop your writing and story telling.
Here is a suggested list of areas your readers can focus on:
- blind spots
- clarity and cohesion
- confusion and vagueness
- insufficient descriptive detail
- plot and character believability
- readability and flow – strengths and weaknesses
- tautological and typographical errors
I chose a diverse selection of TRUSTED readers. From the experienced writer/poet to avid fiction readers and the subject expert. I provided some areas I wanted them to concentrate on without being overly prescriptive. I encouraged them to try and remain objective, impartial and unbiased.
They carefully read the manuscript and asked questions and made suggestions which enabled me to consider the content more carefully.
Here are 2 useful links:
Go out into the unknown and allow your soul to experience the wildness of nature.
Allow the beauty of her rapturous world to evoke visions of endless possibilities. These will infuse you with soulful powers and inspiration which will take you away from your confined imagination. Stretch your mind beyond its life of predictable security and self limiting beliefs. Let the silence of stillness carry you to new mysterious frontiers.
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
each stone, blossom, child—
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So like children, we begin again
to learn from the things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
by Rainer Maria Rilke, from Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God