If you’re attempting the brave feat of writing a true story based on your life or experiences, you’re probably overwhelmed by the options of where and how and what to write.
When I sat down to write what became my first memoir, even as a seasoned writer (I’d been publishing articles and essays for eight years at that time) I had NO idea how to turn a true story into a well-constructed narrative that would keep a reader invested for 80 000 – 100 000 words.
I loved to write, I’d been published before, I had an interesting tale to tell, but I had NO idea about story structure.
This enthusiasm got me pumping out thousands and thousands of words until, at 110 000 words I decided that I’d call that a first draft (!).
It wasn’t until I started the gruelling task of trying to find a publisher that I realised it was missing SO many vital components to a workable memoir manuscript.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STORY STRUCTURE
When i DID learn about story structure around memoir specifically, I realised I needed to throw over 70 000 words in the little bin on the bottom right of my computer screen. They weren’t just words – these were nights spent hunched over my little laptop, refusing fun invites out with friends… This time spent on my unuseable manuscript was my life!
So how could I have avoided this wasted time, effort, unnecessary agony?
When I started to read about the 3 Act Story Structure and more specifically, how The Hero’s Journey connects with the 3 Act Structure, things started to make sense.
It was like I’d been given a lamp and a torch for the writing journey through the fog and the blackness of wading through memories and possible roads and everything in between.
The hardest part of writing a literary memoir (which isn’t your life story) is knowing what to include, and keeping it compelling.
The Hero’s Journey works SO well for memoir because it provides a very compelling container for your story. Let’s face it – any one personal story could go a hundred different ways.
And it’s so simple, too! Twelve stages, three acts, 6-8 archetypes, and the narrator (you) is always the Hero.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY AND MEMOIR
Some people say the Hero’s Journey is too masculine, but I completely disagree – particularly when you see the stages, and the archetypes, from a place of symbolism and metaphor. In memoir, particularly, the ‘villain’ archetype is very often the shadow part of the self, so the battle may be internal. Your ‘mentor’ is merely a function, so if that function is to relay encouragement or information, yours might just be Gary Vee’s latest podcast!
When I sat down to write A Letter From Paris, I knew a lot more about story structure (and memoir publishing) than I did when I wrote that first draft of what became Love & Other U-Turns.
I made myself a notebook where I analysed a comparative title from the 12 Stage Hero’s Journey, and asked myself questions related to each stage so that I would get a draft down that included all those components that make a compelling true story.
It’s this process of questioning and connecting these stages that I’ve applied to memoir specifically and developed into 90 Day Memoir. You can find out more about my process, and about 90 Day Memoir in my new masterclass.
If you struggle with story structure or even applying certain structures to a personal story like a memoir, you will learn a lot from my class. It’s a pre-recorded presentation which means you can pause, rewind, whatever you like, to get the most from the steps that I share with you.
If you want to turn your true story into a compelling book, in a way that feels good, the masterclass will be so valuable to you in your writing journey. I also talk more about why the Hero’s Journey Framework is so psychotherapeutic for memoir. Watch it here!