Questionable: Why Can’t I Write?

Deb asked:
I used to love to write fiction – fantasy and romance especially. I hoped to publish someday but mostly I just enjoyed writing and living in those worlds. I went through a divorce awhile ago and it rattled some of the carefree feel to my writing but I carried on, believing in the romance and fantasy and hoping for love again. Two years ago, my mom died and going through that and the fallout with my relationship with my dad just broke whatever it was remaining in me that could pretend or believe in the dream. I sit down and try to write fiction and it turns into memoir or how-to or similar. . . . [D]o you have any suggestions on getting my real/dreamer self back? I had resigned myself to the fact that this is the new me, like it or not, but lately I am mourning that loss and just not feeling okay with it.

First, what’s wrong with memoir or how-to?  I love writing non-fiction (as anybody who reads this blog knows, I LOVE the sound of my own voice) and I don’t see it as a second-choice genre at all.  If that’s where your inclination lies now, embrace it.

But you say you’re not okay with it, so my next question is “What is the story you have to tell that you can’t not write?”   

Continue reading

Questionable: How Do You Start a Memoir?

Carol asked:
I have my MIL’s memoir draft. My question – Would it be a good opening for the memoir to have a “scene” of somewhat dramatic moment in her life? Then go from there. Make it a story of her story?

No.  Also no, and please no.  (I don’t quite understand “make it a story of her story” so I’m ignoring that for now.) Those flash forward teasers (on any narrative, not just memoir) are basically the author saying, “I know this is a really boring beginning, so I’m going to give you this to hook you, and then you’re going to have to slog through the rest.” 

The question I need you to answer before I can tell you how to start this memoir is “How are you structuring this?”

Continue reading

Questionable: Is Collaborating on a Novel a Good Idea?

Danielle asked:
A friend recently approached me about collaborating. I think we could be great together but she is not a writer. She is a devoted reader and I trust her judgment. . . . What advice or resources would you have for someone taking on a partner? I don’t think she’ll be interested in the grunt work but in the plotting and world building.

In your case as described, I would strongly advise not to.  In fact, run away.

Continue reading

Questionable: How Can the Concepts of Fiction Apply to Non-Fiction?

Debbie wrote:
I write nonfiction (for work). But I find that many of the things you focus on–particularly the importance of the first scene, and timing–are helpful for both my written work and my presentations. I’m not sure that’s a question, exactly, but it would be interesting to talk about how many fiction rules also apply to non-fiction.

Kelly commented:
I’d like to expand that question to how much can be applied to presentations too, unless that’s getting too far beyond writing?

Nonfiction and fiction are different, of course, but there are some parallels. 

Continue reading