'Memoir isn’t the summary of a life; it’s a window into a life, very much like a photograph in its selective composition. It may look like a casual and even random calling up of bygone events. It’s not; it’s a deliberate construction.' William Zinsser.
'Gritty professional memoirs are the hot publishing trend.' Financial Times, November 2019.
'I love all insider memoirs. It doesn’t matter whether it’s truck-drivers or doctors. I think everybody likes to go backstage, find out what people think and what they talk about and what specialised job they have.' David Mamet.
How to begin writing a memoir? What to include? What to leave out?
Typically, an author, whether they're trained as a fiction writer or non-fiction will start with a theme which might be summed up as a powerful relationship important to their lives.
For Haruki Murakami, in his memoir 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' this was the almost spiritual proximity of running to the craft of writing.
But sometimes the apparent, or proposed theme, is a way of looking sideways at something that's difficult to explore any other way whether directly in non-fiction or through the guise of another character and situation in fiction. It's something the author has experienced that cuts too deep to be put into an essay-type format, and yet they feel it so strongly and personally, it wouldn't do it injustice or be possible to attribute the experience or relationship to a make-believe person who didn't share their precise set of circumstances.
In 'H is for Hawk' Helen Macdonald treats the impact of the loss of her important relationship with her father by exploring the business of taming a hawk. In 'The Scent of Dried Roses', Tim Lott explores his lower-middle-class English background and examines his relationship with his mother who he lost to an unexpected and apparently unfathomable suicide.
''The Scent of Dried Roses' is superficially about my mother's suicide and my experience of depression. What it's really about is how we construct stories for ourselves in order to stay sane.' Tim Lott.
These accounts required an excavation, or a dismemberment of 'personality', beyond the everyday duties we perform as our social selves, to go deeper, into the heart of the matter of who we are and why. This isn't possible in fiction as a form which deals with 'others' and 'the other'. In the memoir form the author looks forensically at who she or he is, and what makes them their self.
In our brand new Memoir course at The Novelry, over the course of fifteen bold lectures, with text and practical direction for would-be memoirists, author Tim Lott leads us in the quest for selfhood.
Addressing us directly in the video lectures and text, Tim Lott explores how memoirs work, guiding the writer step-by-step through the all-important matter of composition, what to consider, what to leave out, what to include. It's a process of refinement, right down to the ties that bind - most strongly, dearly, dangerously - going behind and beyond to find what remains.
Whether you're hoping to have your memoir published, whether its an account of an unusual experience or set of events and the relationships formed in the heat of a crucible of the setting such as Adam Kay's 'This Is Going To Hurt' or 'Orange is the New Black; My Year in a Woman's Prison' by Piper Kerman, whether you're usually a fiction or non-fiction writer, besides preparing to produce a beautiful memoir to a high standard, you'll find the course deeply therapeutic and emerge with that prize most beloved to allow writers across all genres - something called 'truth'. Discover how to mine for it, and how to handle it when you find.
If you're ready to go deep towards the within and meet something universal and fragile there, that which T.S Eliot called 'the infinitely gentle, infinitely suffering thing', life in its raw state, then sign up for The Memoir Course and start the journey today.
It's the gift you give yourself. At just £149 as the introductory price.
Find out more here and start a new journey today.
If you’re just starting out, you’d be wise to start with The Classic Course which will help you nail the big idea here. If you would like guidance all the way from an idea through to completing a book to publishing standard then our Book in a Year plan is best for you here. If you’d like to get stuck in and start writing an idea you have, then our Ninety Day Novel course would be the jumpstart for you here. You’ll be able to choose your own tutor from our award-winning and bestselling authors, and as a member you’ll have access to our regular writing classes. You’ll enjoy the worldwide community of writers like you in every time zone. It’s a happy place and you’ll find a warm welcome whether you're an old hand or a complete beginner. Discover why so many writers describe The Novelry as 'life-changing' (it's the phrase we hear most!) Happy writing starts here.