Back to work on my memoir and how to get it published

“I’ve known I needed to write this story for a while now. I would tell my sister Annie’s story in her own words if I could. In fact there is nothing I would like better than to tell her story from her perspective. But I don’t know what she was thinking or how she felt—it wasn’t possible while she was alive and any remote hope that someday, somehow she might be able to communicate that to us has died with her.

“I know I need to write her story, but I am afraid I have waited too long and won’t be able to remember it clearly. I am afraid it is too soon and I will remember it too well.” October 5, 2009 – from Dancing in Heaven

My edited manuscript was waiting for me in the held mail the postman delivered the day after we got home. After nearly two weeks of traveling, I am ready to sit a while and work on it again. (If you missed my earlier post about my memoir, Writing through the hard place, you can read it here.)

I started writing this memoir about my disabled sister Annie on October 5, 2009, although I incorporated stories in it that I had previously written for a short story class and also an essay published in St. Anthony Messenger based on an interview I conducted with my parents.

I structured the memoir to have a strict chronology of the days leading up to Annie’s death in the first part of each chapter, followed by a vignette from my memory or an explanation of some aspect of life with Annie in the second part of each chapter. So the reading sort of hops from “present” time to recollection and back. I was struggling with writing about the last days of Annie’s illness and death. As the anniversary of her death approached last summer, I committed to writing each day the events that had occurred on that date the preceding year. With this difficult part out of the way, I finally finished the first draft in November, 2010, right when I got an e-mail announcing a Writer’s Digest Workshop on memoirs. I took it as a sign.

Through the workshop I met Carolyn Walker, the moderator, who I later hired as a consultant to edit the complete manuscript.

Meanwhile, I bought and have read the following books:

Author 101 — Bestselling secrets from top agents by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman
How to write a book proposal  by Michael Larsen
Literary Agents— what they do, how they do it, and how to find and work with the right one for you by Michael Larsen
Get an Agent — A Writer’s Digest guide
Jeff Herman’s guide to book publishers, editors, & literary agents 2011

I also have a membership to Writer’s Market online.

I have also joined the Writer’s Digest Community on Publishing Advice from Writer’s Market and Self Publishing. The moderator of the self publishing group, Linton Robinson has provided me some very good and explicit directions on how to get started in the self-publishing world.

The publishing business is a complicated entangled maze. Do I get an agent? Try to represent myself with a small publishing house? Self-publish?

Here’s my plan as I know it today. I’m going to revise and polish my manuscript so it will be ready to go when agents start clamoring for it over my e-mail. I have a query letter drafted. I’m going to draft a book proposal. According to Larsen, most book proposals range from 30 to 50 pages and contain three parts: the introduction, the outline and sample chapter/s. The introduction consists of 13 parts, ten of which are optional, and include the book hook and information about length, and your bio among other things. For the outline, Larsen recommends about one line of text for about every page of text in the chapter. Once it’s drafted, revised and let’s not forget, polished, my shiny book proposal will sit on my desk beside my shiny manuscript waiting for all those agents to come calling.

Then I mass-e-mail my also-polished query letter to agents I have identified from Writer’s Market.

I have a bit of writing, polishing and e-mailing to do.

While I’m waiting for all those agents to get back to me, I’m going to take Linton Robinson’s advice and get accounts on Lulu.com, CreateSpace and Lightning Source and learn all about self-publishing. I’m going to format my manuscript as a pdf  and get a book or two printed. (Quite fortunately for me I have a talented industrial designer and artist son who has provided me with a cover graphic and a talented graphic designer daughter who will design the cover and format the manuscript for me. I think I can probably get this done pretty cheap.)

Garden in April, with several stone statues, one glass ball and one live ornament.

Over the next weeks, maybe months, perhaps even years, you should be able to find me right here at my desk, typing away, (that is, if I’m not out in my garden should the weather ever decide to warm up.)

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6 thoughts on “Back to work on my memoir and how to get it published”

  1. This is great — not only is it good to see the thought process you’re going through, but it also provides a road map that can provide a framework for other writers (that’s me! 🙂
    Thanks for a very helpful post! p.s. cute dog!

  2. Your info is very useful. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing my own memoir for a little while. I’ve had the same issues as you, how to go about it, whether to self-publish or not. With friends and relatives hounding me to write a book, the idea has moved from the back burner to the front. But I must admit, all that you’ve outlined deters me from such an all-consuming project. At 61, with the possibility of Alzheimer’s looming, I’m not sure I want to isolate myself in order to do the job that’s necessary to get published, purchased, and read. I guess that’s why I turned to blogging.

    So I give you tons of credit and much congratulations for your stamina and ongoing efforts.

    i’m sure you’ve a great book in the offing…hugmamma. 🙂

    1. You may be able to easily write a memoir and it makes a great keepsake for family members.
      Don’t let the whole publishing maze deter you. You don’t have to publish or sell it. It’s still a very worthwhile project.

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