HOW SHOULD YOU EDIT YOUR MEMOIR?
How should you edit your memoir? Like an editor would!
So you’ve written the last words of your memoir, put it away for 6 weeks, taken it back out, chopped out paragraphs, scenes, done spell & grammar checks, and now you’re ready to send it to a publisher, or literary agent or self-publish. Wait! Are you sure it’s ready for publication? Below, according to Rachelle Gardner, an agent with Books and Such Literary Agency, is what a good editor will do to your manuscript.
A good editor would have coached the author to find his main theme, and to focus tightly on it, cutting out rabbit trails and eliminating entertaining stories that didn’t fit in this book. The editor could have helped decide which stories should stay and which should go (often difficult for a memoirist, because they’re so close to the material).
An editor would have conveyed that teaching and preaching don’t belong in a memoir. Save that for another book — a how-to or self-help. The memoir is your story and your reflections on your story, but should avoid the self-help vibe.
An editor would have eliminated bragging, and suggested ways to convey moments of success or triumph without sounding arrogant.
An editor would have brought out the importance of a humble tone, of admitting the journey isn’t over and you’re still learning, a sort of “fellow pilgrim” approach. When your story is nothing but triumph and “look what a great thing I did,” real people don’t tend to relate to your message.
An editor would have challenged the author to truly let the reader in. Authenticity and vulnerability are hallmarks of powerful memoirs, and this one has neither. I had the feeling of skimming over the surface, never quite being allowed in.
An editor would have ensured readers didn’t feel like complete losers if they don’t currently share the author’s lifestyle.
An editor would have protected the author’s reputation. The author conveyed a message he may not have intended by including certain observations and behaviors unrelated to the theme of the book, but which made him seem like a womanizer and a bit of a sexist. A savvy editor would have gently inquired if this was really what the author wanted readers to take away.
So now, after reading Rachelle’s comments, is your memoir really ready for the scrutiny of a publisher or literary agent? Is it really what those who don’t know you will be interested in, and want to read? This is the time to get really tough with yourself. Chop out the unnecessary. Cut the padding. Stop with the teaching, preaching and coaching. Remember, a MEMOIR IS A STORY first and foremost! Thanks Rachelle Gardner for the reminder. Learn more from Rachelle on her BLOG at http://www.rachellegardner.com