Eliciting Emotion in Your Readers: 3 Tips on Writing Highly-Charged Scenes


“When you… want to make the reader feel pity, try to be somewhat colder — that seems to give a kind of background to another’s grief, against which it stands out more clearly… The more objective you are, the stronger will be the impression you make.” – Anton Chekov Recently, I was reading a chapter of my memoir to my writing group. In one chapter, a character makes a startling confession, and my response in the book was something like, “I felt shattered.” Later, when I was reading the group’s comments on my story, I saw that Joyce, a highly perceptive critic, had written next to that passage, “I don’t feel the intensity here.” Others agreed. I thought about this for a while. Why didn’t my writing convey to readers the intensity of my emotional response? After all, I had felt shattered – or had I? I frowned, trying to remember. Did “shattered” truly describe what I had felt? Or … Read on

How to Write a Memoir or Novel According to Shakespeare – And 4 Other Famous Artists


  It’s fashionable these days to turn to the artists and writers we know and love for advice or wisdom – How to Live like Proust, how navigate the complexities of marriage and morality according to George Eliot*, how to grow up through the novels of Jane Austen.  What can the writers and artists who have endured tell us about writing?  Below are five tips from some of the best: 1. Isak Dinesen: Don’t wait for the perfect frame of mind to begin writing “When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, without faith and without hope…suddenly the work will find itself.–” Isak Dinesen. When I searched on-line for the above quote just now, I found that the words “without faith and without hope” had been deleted, as though they detracted from what Dinesen is saying. But to me, those words are what make the quote … Read on

The Likability Factor: 5 Tips to Keep Your Readers Reading – and Coming Back for More


Your memoir may be well-written; it may be dramatic, funny or sad, but what makes a reader fall in love with your story is you, the narrator. When I take deep pleasure in a book, especially a memoir, it’s because I enjoy the author’s company; I like hanging out with her. In politics, journalists and voters discuss a candidate’s “likability.” But what makes a narrator likable?  I’ve been thinking about this, and have come up with five tips to insure that readers return to your book again and again, place it on a favorite shelf and wait impatiently for your next one to come out. 1. Write with Heart Writing with heart doesn’t mean you have to be serious, but it does mean you have to be honest with your readers. Don’t write to show how witty you are, although your wit may be wicked and add a lot to the story. It may even be the story. But writing … Read on

R You Ready to Write Your Memoir?


Writing a memoir, whether dark, light, funny or sad (or all of those) may be the most rewarding thing you ever do. Here’s why: 1 Retreat Writing a memoir is like an extended writing retreat. You withdraw for a few hours, or even a few minutes, to a private place all your own where you allow memories to carry you back to an earlier time. Over the years I worked on writing my memoir, I frequently stopped to work on other writing projects, but I always returned to the past, what I call “long ago in the here and now.” 2 Rescue In memoir, you rescue the past from obscurity, misunderstanding and misinterpretation (at least someone else’s misinterpretation; you’re free to create your own – this is your memoir!) You rescue the hidden structure of your life as you dig for the bones to support your narrative. You rescue your voice that may have been ignored or neglected, and your … Read on

The Query that Got Me a Book Contract – And 5 Tips for Writing Your Own


I’m always interested in reading successful queries, especially memoir queries because they are so difficult to write–at least for me. I was so close to my story that it was nearly impossible for me to describe it with any degree of objectivity. It seemed easier just to write the whole darn book! But after much revising and tweaking, I did write a query that ultimately sold my memoir, “An Incredible Talent for Existing: A Writer’s Story.” Enclosed below is my query and five tips to help you write your own. Query “An Incredible Talent for Existing” is the story of a young woman who longs for an idyllic past even though, as a revolutionary, she believes everything that exists must be destroyed. The story is set in the 1960s, the era of love, light–and revolution. While the romantic narrator imagines a bucolic future in an old country house with children running through the dappled sunlight, her new husband plots to … Read on

5 Tips for Getting Your Memoir Published in 2017


This is the first of a two-part series on strategies for publishing your memoir. In this post, we’ll examine ways to find an agent or publisher, while the next post will focus on new developments in the rapidly-expanding field of self-publishing. Finding an agent or a publisher for your memoir can be a daunting task, but not an impossible one! Assuming you have revised and polished your memoir to the best of your ability, following are five tips to help you get your book into print and to your readers: 1. Agents online There are several online resources for finding agents, but I have found AgentQuery by far to be the best. As AgentQuery writes on its website: “AgentQuery.com offers one of the largest searchable databases of literary agents on the web—a treasure trove of reputable, established literary agents seeking writers just like you…” AgentQuery has recently expanded the website to include success stories, including successful queries, so it truly … Read on

Dear Pamela: September 2016

Dear Pamela

I am having great difficulty in writing a synopsis for my memoir… No matter how much I seem to read about synopsis they don’t seem to cover memoir synopsis. My book is written in prose and verse and short story format. My book is called ‘Cuz I’m Mixed’ It’s about me as a young girl growing up in a culturally diverse mixed race family. Any suggestions you have I know would help…So if you can HELP I would be most thankful. Yours truly, Sharon-Seeking-Synopsis-Advice Dear Sharon-Seeking-Synopsis-Advice, Thank you so much for your question about writing a memoir synopsis. I think that any synopsis is difficult to write (even a synopsis for someone else’s book) so imagine how difficult it is to encapsulate the essence of a story you are so close to, a story in fact that is you. You won’t believe this, but when I thought about your question and researched “how to write a memoir synopsis” I found … Read on

Dear Pamela: August 2016

Dear Pamela

I DO have a question . . . I have finished the first draft of my memoir and am currently working on a Proposal for submission to agents. I also have a friend (met at a writing conference) who is just a little ahead of me in the game and is ready to submit to agents (manuscript professionally edited, proposal ready to go). She has, however, built her proposal completely online and I wonder if this is a newer trend. Her website is password locked, so that she can provide access to agents or publishers that are interested, once a query letter has been received and they want more information. The site has all of the proper proposal sections (Intro, Summary, Competitive Titles, Marketing Plans, Bio, Chapter Synopsis and even Sample Chapters). Is this the wave of the future? Thanks, Looking-for-Book-Proposal-Advice Laureen Dear Laureen-Looking-for-Book-Proposal-Advice, Thank you for your question regarding memoir proposals, and congratulations on completing the first draft of … Read on