Denis Ledoux is a well-known and well-respected memoir writing author and coach. It is my pleasure to feature him in this post about pushing through when we feel stuck in our writing. Denis has posted memoir writing tips here in the past. He is on a virtual book tour for The Memoir Network”s Memoir Writing Series. Today he will present excerpts from one of the eBooks in his series,”How to Write to the End” and discuss strategies for finishing your manuscript and achieving publication.
Welcome back, Denis!
What Kind of Stalled Writer Are You ~and What to Do About It
An unfinished manuscript haunts a writer, sapping energy that ought to go into more writing. Over the years of editing and coaching, I’ve noticed that there seem to be two sorts of people who do not finish their manuscripts.
- Those who have been writing a good amount of text, which is accumulating without somehow coalescing into a book. The manuscript lacks dramatic arc and pacing. It is like a scarf being knitted without any sense of where it will end. So… the knitter knits and knits.
- Those who have already composed 20, 30, or even 50 or more independent stories or vignettes and these, too, are not coalescing into a book. These writers produce stand-alone pieces, which is not a bad goal to have really, but writing a series of stand-alone pieces is not what they set out to do.
Writers in both groups want to make a statement about their lives as a whole—not to record in an ad hoc fashion interesting, unique and possibly weird events that may have happened to them. (Yes, alas, there are writers who believe that a memoir ought to consist of this dazzle!) Both groups have been working on their memoirs for a significant while, but they are spinning their wheels. They are stuck and not moving forward to publication and seem to have driven off what once seemed like a clear road to finishing their memoirs.
What writers in either group want is to finish to write a polished memoir, a memoir which reads and eventually looks like a real book, but they are not doing it.
There are many reasons why people stop writing and do are not finish their memoirs.
- Sometimes people don’t finish simply because they don’t put in enough work. They are, in other words, “couch potatoes” who would prefer their memoirs to finish themselves. As I have written many times, “No one ever said that writing a memoir was going to be easy!” This sort of person makes many excuses—“I need time to go really deep and I don’t have the time to do that now”—but produces little text. This may not be you, but if it is, your best bet is to schedule writing time and do the work.
- There is another group of people to whom a lot of life has happened—often quickly. The memoir has had to take a back seat. Progress becomes impossible or at least improbable—given all else in their lives: a new job with a steep learning curve, personal or relationship issues, the birth of a child, the illness of a family member, a move from one home to another. For these or other reasons completely unrelated to being a couch potato, a number of months later, these writers find their memoir is at a standstill. These writers would do well to look for half an hour here and there to undertake to write snippets. In this way, their re-connection with the memoir, as well as a whole chunk of memoir writing, could be achieved.
- Another category is of writers who have insufficient skills to write a memoir. Coaching, books and MP3s on writing in general and memoir writing in particular, tele-classes, and memberships in memoir-writing groups could all be of great benefit. But something stops these writers from pursuing such options. The question becomes: why do they not partake in these services, moving quickly through the beginning ranks? Evaluate your needs and take a step towards addressing them.
- Some writers don’t have their subject yet and consequently have been writing about the wrong life experiences or writing them from the wrong point of view. These are sincere hard-working writers but they too find they are not making progress. If this is you. take some time to understand what you really want to write and why you aren’t doing that, I feel confident you would make some progress towards finishing your memoir.
- Too many writers have become “frozen” in fear of what others may say. They are afraid of reactions of family members and friends or of revealing something about themselves. An antidote is to give yourself permission to write only for yourself. Any thought of sharing with an audience needs to be put off. That decision is for later—after you have finished your memoir.
- There is the overly ambitious writer who wants to say ever more in his/her memoir (the memoir is always open-ended). The over-ambitious writer might set deadline in which to finish the book. This may keep expansion on hold.
- There is also the unfocused writer who sets the current manuscript aside in favor of starting a new one. The unfocused writer needs to make a firm decision not to quit a manuscript until it is finished no matter how compelling another manuscript may seem to become.
Over time, stalled writers become non-writers. Too often, writers do not know how to re-connect to their manuscript. Writers who have stopped writing may want to write again, to pick up their memoir, but the train of thought, the feeling, and the sensibility that went into the creation of those previously-written stories have now been lost. They are no longer in that zone where writing a memoir is something they can execute easily. The source of their inspiration has dried up. Better to never have allowed one’s self to stop writing!
- If you have felt stalled in your writing, identify which of the above examples of writers who do not finish is true for you.
- Follow the suggested strategy today and tomorrow and the day after to counter “not writing”
About the Author:
Denis Ledoux is the author, most recently, of Write to the End / 8 Strategies which is part of the seven book Memoir Network Writing Series. Also in publication is Should I Write My Memoir? and Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You. A complete list of publications is available. Receive free membership in My Memoir Education.
Write to the End / 8 Strategies [http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-writing-books-series]
Should I Write My Memoir? : [http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Should%20I%20write%20my%20memoir]
Memoir Network Writing Series: http://thememoirnetwork.com/memoir-writing-books-series
Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You: [http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Let-Writers-Block-Stop-ebook/product-reviews/B00PCKIS6G/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1]
My Memoir Education: http://thememoirnetwork.com
How about you? What do you do when you feel “stalled”?
We’d love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below~
Reminder: I am on a Lenten Sabbatical from my own blog posts and social media until 4/13/15. However, I will be available for comments and sharing of all guest posts.
Monday, 03/23/15: “The Next Chapter: Life After Publication by Memoir Author Pamela Little.”