Make a Plan to Start—and Finish!—Your Memoir

Have you ever thought of writing your own memoir? Or preserving your family’s history by recording your relatives’ life stories? Many of us have, but so few of us do it. Why? Maybe we think we’re not “good enough” at writing. Or perhaps we’re scared to reveal family secrets. You might have started and somehow just never finished.

Bestselling author Darien Gee understands how hard it can be to start and finish writing a memoir. In her book, Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story (from our parent imprint Watermark Publishing), she provides concise, step-by-step guidance for writers of all experience levels. Even better, her book goes beyond “how to” and gets you to completion through exercises and encouragement. The emphasis is not on publication—though if that is your end goal, you’ll find pointers for that, too—but on finishing your memoir so it can be shared with others.

9781935690535Here, Darien shares some writing wisdom, beginning with why we might want to write a memoir in the first place:

Sharing our lives opens us up. It connects us. It helps us (as the writer) to make sense of things, to celebrate moments that might otherwise be lost, to remember what matters most. It helps us (as the reader) to see that we’re not alone, that our lives are both personal and universal, that the human spirit is deeper and more profound than we may remember when we’re trying to pay our bills or care for a sick child or parent. We get to be a part of another person’s experience. We can share the joys, the laughter, the chicken skin coincidences, the sorrow, the grief. We can take what we learn and apply it to our own lives. Then we can turn it around and do the same for others.

In Hawaiian, mana‘o means several things—thought, belief, intention, ideas, desire. Your mana‘o emanates from who you are as a person. It is individual and unique. You get to claim your life, your experiences, your story. What you put down on the page is up to you. You are the only one who can put the words down in that way. But how to get started…?

It’s actually as simple as this:

Start Wherever You Are.

Writing is ready when you are, wherever you are. All you need are the thoughts in your head, something to capture them—pen and paper, typewriter, computer, voice recorder, whatever suits you best—and a place to sit still and just do it.

Set Goals.

The key is to start simple. There’s nothing wrong with setting an ambitious goal, but you want to set yourself up for success. That means having a clear idea of what you want to achieve and establishing a rhythm that works with the realities of your life. Twenty minutes or three pages a day may not sound like much, but you’ll know when you’re ready for more. Better to start at a place that feels easy than one that feels too hard.

Establish a Routine.

Many people approach writing a book in a haphazard way. They sit down, write a few words, organize their desk, get up for a cup of coffee, write some more, take a bathroom break, check their email, do some laundry, make a sandwich, then throw in the towel for the rest of the day because it’s time to pick up the kids or catch the evening news. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you want to write a book—more importantly, if you want to finish writing a book—you greatly increase your chances by establishing a routine.

Set a Deadline and Finish What You Start.

Do you want to write your memoir, or do you want to write and finish your memoir? It may seem like an odd question, but there are lots of writers who write without ever finishing their manuscript. Setting a deadline isn’t meant to quash your creative spirit. It provides focus, and when the brain puts its full attention on something, it filters out everything else. You can move the deadline up or push it back, but you must set a deadline when you begin. Without it, your writing project will be unmoored, left to float about and be pushed around by circumstance or whimsy. The brain loves parameters, and it will rally all your resources around it. The time to do this isn’t when you’re midway through the project, but before you begin. If you want to have a finished manuscript in your hands, set a deadline.

Even boiled down to four simple steps, the idea of writing something as “serious” as a memoir may seem daunting. A task for “a real writer,” not you. But if you know how to write, you are a writer. It’s as simple as that. You may be a terrible speller, suffer at the thought of writing a single paragraph or hate reading anything over two pages, but you are a writer. And you already possess all the material you need—your memories. While you may want to look for ways to develop and improve your basic skills (such as punctuation, grammar, story structure), the first thing you must work on is your own thoughts, especially the negative ones. This trumps everything else, because tormented, unhappy writers are no fun at all. Don’t put yourself down. Be kind. Trust your words. Trust your desire to write. I know you can do it—shouldn’t you, too?

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Author Darien Gee wants to help YOU with your memoir!

Need more help? Join Darien Gee at her upcoming intensive workshop through Pacific New Media or free lecture at Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana.

  • Pacific New Media Workshop. “Writing the Memoir: A One-Day Intensive with Darien Gee.” Saturday, March 21. 9am – 4pm. UH Mānoa. Workshop fee of $125 includes a copy of Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir. Optional one-on-one 25-minute consults available following the workshop ($45). outreach.hawaii.edu/pnm/programs/2015/EVENT-L13668.asp or 808-956-8400 to register.
  • Lecture & Book Signing. Barnes & Noble, Ala Moana, Sunday, March 22. 1pm – 2pm. Bring your laptop or a pen or pencil and some paper as Darien will lead a short writing exercise to get you inspired! A portion of proceeds from books purchased on this day help benefit PBS Hawaii and their “New Home” Campaign.

 

PBSBookFairCoupon_Darien

Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story

by Darien Gee
Softcover, 144 pages

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Excerpted from Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir by Darien Gee. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the publisher, except for brief passages quoted in reviews.

 

Working On My Memoir (Or So They Say)

Inspired by the @WrknOnMyNovel Twitter account, we thought we’d do a search on the phrase “Working On My Memoir” to see what’s being tweeted about memoir writing. Turns out, it’s an entertaining mix of legit memoirists at work and folks offering tongue-in-cheek summations of their lives.

We saved the Twitter search. Check it out here.

Working on edits for my memoir (pub date fall of 2015) Favorite part so far is that I get to re-name all my ex-boyfriends. #writerpower

@KimvanAlkemade @ClaireCookwrite congrats. I signed the contract for my memoir last year when I was 64.. was working on it for years.

Working on my #memoir. It’s gonna be really personal. So please be kind. #amwriting #writing

Working on my boss’s memoir for him. I dislike being gawked at by the ancient old men in this retirement home D:

I can’t believe I’m almost done with the first complete draft of my memoir. I’ve been working on it for 5 years and dreaming of it for 15.

I’m working on a memoir of motherhood entitled “The Astonishing Number of Things I Do with My Feet.”

Working on my memoir "Hell is Working Tuesday Afternoon". I have time to write it because I'm working on Tuesday afternoon and it's boring.

Been up since 3:50 working on my memoir. Thanks(?), jetlag

 

Writing the Six-Word Hawaii Memoir

Ready to flex those memoir-writing muscles?

SixWordMemoirGiveaway

To celebrate the release of Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story by Darien Gee, we’re giving away three sets of memoir books, including the new how-to guide, plus a 15% discount credit on a Legacy Isle Publishing package. All you have to do to enter is share your own Six-Word Memoir®. See the end of the post for complete details.

The Six-Word Memoir® is the brainchild of SMITH Magazine. The goal is simple: Write your memoir in exactly six words, no more, no less. You can’t break up compound words but you can play with contractions (“do not” = two words, “don’t” = one word). Their tagline sums it up: One life. Six words. What’s yours?TM

Here are some examples shared in Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir:

“Born on O‘ahu, raised on Hawai‘i.” (Kai Ibana)
“Got hit, life bit, rage quit.” (Taran Takahashi)
“I live clean and surf mean.” (Kamuela Spencer-Herring)
“All my scars are my stories.” (Ryan Hooley)
“Roping wild cattle is a battle.” (Levi Higa)
“He loved me but left anyway.” (Elsbeth McKeen)

And here are a few written and shared by visitors to our booth at the Hawaii Book & Music Festival:

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Here’s how to enter:

  • Post your own Six Word Memoir in a comment below. Your memoir MUST be six words, exactly.
  • Additional entries: Post a DIFFERENT memoir on our Legacy Isle Publishing Facebook Page and/or on Twitter (don’t forget to tag us @LegacyIsle). Memoirs submitted for each channel must be unique. Duplicate entries will be discarded. You may enter once per channel (blog comment, Facebook, Twitter).
  • Each memoir submitted is entered in our drawing for one of three prize packages to be given away.
  • Entries must be submitted by July 15, 2014. DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JULY 31, 2014!
  • Legacy Isle Publishing is not responsible for misdirected or improperly tagged entries.
  • Open to U.S. residents only.

Each prize package consists of:

Legacy Isle Authors at Hawaii Book & Music Festival 2014

These Legacy Isle Publishing authors will be attending their first Hawaii Book & Music Festival next weekend, May 3 & 4, at Honolulu Hale. Come down and support them!

Author Frances Kirk, The Society of Seven: Last of the Great Show Bands, will lead a panel discussion on the famed entertainers, with co-panelists John Berger (Honolulu Star-Advertiser) and Brickwood Galuteria.

Panel discussion begins at 2pm on Sun., May 4
Makai Authors’ Pavilion

Books available at the Watermark Publishing/Legacy Isle tent all weekend.

ADVANCE PURCHASE EVENTJoin author Norman Osumi at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii for a special presentation in the Community Gallery on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 2 to 4pm.Mr. Osumi will share his thoughts behind writing this book about his late father. Advance copies of Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message will be available for purchase at the event, ahead of general release to the public. Mr. Osumi will also sign books following the event.For more information, contact JCCH at (808) 945-7633 or email at info@jcch.com

Author Norman Osumi will host a tent of his own, offering Today’s Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: The Man & His Message, at a special Festival price of just $15 (regularly $17.95), which includes a complimentary gift-wrapping option (just in time for Mother’s Day!). In addition, Norman will have copies of Rev. Osumi’s previous books, Today’s Thought, Volumes 1 and 3 (2 has completely sold out) for $3 each.

COMING SOON: Writing the Hawaii Memoir

Writing the Hawaii Memoir by Darien GeeWriting the Hawai‘i Memoir: Advice and Exercises to Help You Tell Your Story by Darien Gee from Watermark Publishing (our traditional publishing division) is an essential read for all aspiring memoirists. Author Darien Gee, a nationally bestselling novelist and writing coach based in Waimea, Hawai‘i, has assembled a collection of writing exercises, advice from more than 20 other Hawai‘i writers and detailed explanations of the various steps and phases in the memoir-writing experience. Appendices also cover other types of life-writing, such as autobiography/biography, oral history and corporate biographies, plus a handy list of resources.

Contributing writers include: Billy Bergin, Pamela Varma Brown, Bob Buss, Lee Cataluna, Ben Cayetano, Stuart Homes Coleman, Craig Howes, Patricia Jennings, Frances Kakugawa, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Beth-Ann Kozlovich, Leslie Lang, Gail Miyasaki, Warren Nishimoto, Mark Panek, Laurie Rubin, Phil Slott, Christine Thomas, David Ulrich, Chris Vandercook and Cedric Yamanaka.

Meet author Darien Gee at the Hawaii Book & Music Festival on Saturday, May 3, 2014.

Darien will offer a presentation on memoir writing at 10am in the Makai Authors’ Pavilion.

For more info on the Festival, visit the official website.

Among the topics covered in Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir:

– How to brainstorm different themes and ideas
– Building a “bento box” and other ways to organize your memoir
– Overcoming writer’s block and other challenges
– Dealing with issues of libel, “talking stink” and copyright infringement
– How to choose the best way to publish your book
– How to stay encouraged and motivated

Here are practical tips and tools to take a wannabe author from, “You ought to write a book about that” to getting words down on paper to share with family, friends and generations to come.

—Robbie Dingeman, editor of HONOLULU Magazine and co-author of
Honolulu Homicide: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise

Everyone has a story to tell. Darien Gee instills the confidence every new author needs to let the words fly.

—Pamela Young, KITV news reporter and co-author of My Name is Makia: A Memoir of Kalaupapa

Visit the dedicated Writing the Hawai‘i Memoir page for printable worksheets, excerpts and tips.