Today I’m visiting with Susan Rowland at her blog, Journal with Sue. I was honored when Susan invited me to answer some interview questions about writing through pain. In writing memoir, some of us find our writing dredges up painful memories and thus, we must write through our resurrected pain.
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1) How do you as a writer deal with hurt or trauma?
Susan, this is a good question. I thought when I started writing that the childhood hurts and trauma would not still be fresh enough to be bothersome. Was I ever wrong!
With each word, sentence or paragraph, I felt myself cringing at some of the memories dredged up with my writing. I began slowly because of the recalled pain and soon realized I needed to find a way to cope with these resurgent memories.
One fortunate occurrence for me was the forgiveness I felt for my mother shortly before her death. There were multiple reasons for this forgiveness, none of which were verbal between us. Yet to share them here would give away an essential part of my memoir.
Currently, self-publishing is a major topic at writing conferences, workshops and on blogs. Although I am not near the point of even beginning to check and edit a first draft, I try to stay aware of all that is happening with self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.
Based on my reading, it is my opinion that we all hope self-publishing requires a smaller outlay than traditional publishing. However, that may depend on how well you’ve charted your course through all the necessary avenues before actually publishing your book.
One cost which can be controlled by you, the writer, on the front end is the cost of editorial services. Let me qualify that statement by saying that if you’re a first-time author, you will need to hire an editor at some point in the process. Here are a few suggestions to help keep the editorial cost down.
Most importantly, work with your manuscript diligently editing and revising it yourself so that you hand the editor of your choice the cleanest possible copy.
Content editing is one tool you can use to reach the clean manuscript for your editor.
Watch for repetitive words, avoiding where possible the use of the same word twice in a single paragraph.
Example: Jeff’s eyes met my eyes, and as we gazed into each other’s eyes, I knew our love would last forever.
Revision: Jeff’s eyes met mine, and as we gazed at each other, I knew our love would last forever.
Eliminate descriptors which weaken your characters and diminish them to less than they what they are.
Example: Sarah felt slightly afraid as someone rummaged through the downstairs rooms.
Revision: Sarah felt afraid as someone rummaged through the downstairs rooms.
Carefully construct character reactions so that they come afterthe action. Otherwise, it confuses your reader.
Example: Emily jumped into Sam’s waiting arms as the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed.
Revision: As the thunder rolled and the lightning flashed, Emily jumped into Sam’s waiting arms.
Past or past perfect tense is always tricky. You should carefully check this. Rule of thumb: When writing in past tense, anything occurring before the point your story begins is past perfect tense.
Example: Dad had purchased (past perfect) a red Mustang convertible in 1964 and was (past) in love with it as much today as the first time he drove it.
And, as always, be sure you are showing and not telling. The best way to lose readers’ attention is to tell them, and not show them through rich detail the personalities of your characters, the scene you want to set, and the clever dialogue you use.
Telling: Max was mad.
Showing: Max doubled up his fists and gritted his teeth.
These are just a few of the steps you can take to make sure that your manuscript is in good editorial shape before you send it to your editor.In so doing, your editor will not need to spend as much time editing and revising your manuscript as she or he might have otherwise.
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In Part 2, we’ll look at thinking like an editor before the editor takes your manuscript for review.
Today I am honored to be a guest at Madeline Sharples’ blog, Choices. I hope you’ll join me as I visit with Madeline and share my thoughts on the many and varied benefits of writing your story.
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In 2001, when my mother died, the story of our lives together had traversed many years and battled many storms. Yet at the end, something unusual and unexpected happened. I tucked that memory away knowing it was possibly the core for a memoir. When I retired in 2006, I remembered how often I had said, “When I have time, I want to write a book.”
Little did I know when I began accumulating my memories on the computer and sorting through family photos the benefit writing this story would give. Never had it occurred to me that writing could be a restorative, healing process.
With each word typed, I felt changes taking place. The invisible scars created by years of verbal and emotional abuse seemed to loosen. Old hurts seemed to soften despite the painful process of remembering.
I am not here to tell you that writing memoir is easy. It isn’t. Writing your own story may dredge up painful memories. Alternatively, writing your story will likely be cathartic.