Thin Places – Writing Memoirs
By Mary DeMuth
I wrote Thin Places only after I gave myself permission to say it all. More on that later.
First, one clarification about memoir: no memoir can be 100% accurate. Every memoirist must recall, to the best of his/her ability what happened in the past. Only God knows what truly happened! And to protect the people listed in a memoir, I’ve changed names and distinguishing characteristics. That’s allowable in a memoir, and is often expected. To make a memoir work, it must be:
- From someone famous.
- Or a story so strong and surprising, the story carries the book.
The most important thing for a memoir is that it be memorable and beautifully written. If you don’t have a platform, near perfect writing is a must backed up by an intriguing/surprising story. Think of a memoir as a novel with rising action, climax and denouement. Consider writing it as you would a novel, with characters, dialogue and a plot (even if the plot is your life!)
A great example of a memoir that tells an amazing story is Parting the Waters by Jeanne Damoff.
But even though the story is beautifully written, Jeanne shopped the story to every publishing house far and wide through her agent. Though it was a great story, she faced a lot of rejection.
Eventually, after much prayer and seeking wisdom, she decided to self-publish the book through WinePress. It’s got a wonderful cover and is selling well.
Another amazing memoir is Startling Beauty by wife Heather Gemmen. Wow. It’s one of the most beautifully written, achingly painful memoirs I’ve read.
It’s not easy to write a memoir. I fear that some people are so afraid to do it because the people involved aren’t yet dead. So they work on a fictionalized version. Is that really honest? What is the purpose of telling your true story if you make it fiction? Of course, you can take elements of your struggle and life and place that in fiction, but I’ve found that tacked on messages seldom make a book.
My best advice: obey God. Write what He tells you to write. If you’re too afraid to write a memoir, then don’t do it. Prayerfully consider whether your need to get it all out is, instead, a form of catharsis that no reader really needs to see. And if you add some of your story to the memoir, consider that story is the king. The story must support what you write about.
*Zondervan provided me a free copy of this book.
I am revisiting this post while linking up with Friendship Friday at Create With Joy.