No, I’m not naked or drunk, but I am writing. I haven’t quite finished reading Adair Lara’s Naked, Drunk, and Writing, but I can’t wait to share it with you. The subtitle: Shed Your inhibitions and Craft a Compelling Memoir or Personal Essay tell you what this book published in 2010 by Ten Speed Press is about.
I have been writing essays and memoir for decades, but I have never found a book or a teacher that made the process so incredibly clear. It comes at a perfect time for me as I struggle to figure out what to do with almost 800 pages of journals I’m trying to turn into a memoir. Now, thanks to this book, I know how.
Lara, a longtime columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and author of 13 books, as well as a popular teacher and writing coach, has packed this book with information that will help you write personal nonfiction that will get published. She uses her own experiences and that of her friends, offers tons of examples, lots of great exercises, and clear steps to crafting an essay designed to please your editor, not your English teacher, and memoirs that read like the best fiction.
Topics include: finding the question that drives your essay or memoir, establishing tone and voice, mining your emotions, figuring out what to keep and what to take out, how to craft a scene, how to submit your work to editors, and more. Lara presents it all in a voice that makes you want to keep reading.
Read this book. Get inspired. Write.
I find it distracting to be naked or drunk while writing. Lara wasn’t naked or drunk either. She just thought the title would get people’s attention. So, put on your clothes, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and let’s write.
It’s the holidays, time for giving, so this week I’m offering some links to articles and books full of helpful information. Next week, get ready for a Christmas stocking full of prompts, ideas to get you writing.
1) “How to Sell Loads of Books” by Russell Blake
This one is aimed at people publishing their own books, but it includes great career advice for all of us. Highlights include: finding time to write, investing in writing as a business and being successful while staying true to yourself. Among Blake’s recommendations: don’t genre-hop. Pick one and stay with it. Give it a read and let me know what you think.
I looked to this slim volume to answer some questions I had about digital photography, and it answered them. I’m going to have to reread the bit about pixels, etc., a few more times, but it’s there to be read. Just remember 300, the magic number for print-publishable pix. Now I know more about digital cameras and how they work. A couple things seem dated. Who sends their work out on “CD-ROMs” anymore? I also wish this book said more about online publications. The book is very, very British, both in language and content. Chapters cover cameras, photo techniques, the legalities of commercial photography, photo software, and marketing. It’s a little basic for me but perfect for someone just starting out.
3) “You can try to be the next Hemingway—for $6,000” by Suzanne McGee, the Guardian, Aug. 28, 2014.
How much does it really cost to self-publish a book and do a good job of it? This article lays it out step by step, including how much it costs. Read the comments, too, and see if you agree.
4) Nina Amir, guru for the November nonfiction marathon, NaNonFiWrimo, has an extensive list of books for nonfiction writers on her website. You might want to peruse them—and request a few for Christmas. She has also written a couple of books for writers herself, including The Write Nonfiction NOW! Guide to Writing a Book in 30 Days, Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business around Your Book, and The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified: An Easy-Schmeasy Guide to Writing a Business Plan for Your Book.
I’m sure there are more. Feel free to share. And also, if you have prompt suggestions, include them in the comments.
Now let’s go write.
Book review: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
by Dani Shapiro, Grove Press, 2013
Still writing? It turns out I’m not the only writer who gets that question. I usually reply with some variation of “If I’m still breathing, I’m still writing.” Dani Shapiro, author of two memoirs and five novels, as well as Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life, is also asked that question. She says she usually nods and smiles then changes the subject, but adds: “Here is what I would like to put down my fork and say: Yes, yes, I am. I will write until the day I die, or until I am robbed of y capacity to reason. Even if my fingers were to clench and wither, even if I were to grow deaf or blind, even if I were unable to move a muscle in my body save for the blink of one eye, I would still write.” Amen!
Sections of this book address all kinds of things about the writing life. Shapiro talks about writer’s block and finding time to write, common subjects in books for writers, but she also discusses insecurity, trust, envy, and luck. She shares generously of her own life, of her successes and failures and her struggles to balance family and art. Her reflections are personal yet universal because we are all equals as we face the blank page.
It took me months to read Still Writing because it was too beautiful to rush. It is filled with wisdom, inspiration and truth for the writer. Sermonettes is the word I keep coming up with. I recommend writers read this book not just once, but at least once every year, pausing between sections to reflect on what has been said. You will not find grammar advice, marketing tips, or how to build a platform here. It’s all about the writing, without which the rest is useless.
I recently purchased Your Life is a Book: How to Craft & Publish Your Memoir by Brenda Peterson and Sarah Jane Freymann. I haven’t read it yet, but the one section I read in the sample pages on Amazon.com changed my whole outlook on the memoir I’m working on for National Nonfiction Writing Month. Years ago, Freymann was the literary agent who spent a half hour on the phone with me explaining why she was rejecting my book and what I needed to change to make it work. She was so right. That book is Childless by Marriage, which I published in 2012. I’ll report back to you after I finish reading Your Life is a Book, but I suspect I’m going to love this book.
Meanwhile, we’ve got some writing to do.
Let’s go write.
Once a week I offer three quick tips that you can use right away. For those of us who would rather be writing than reading blogs, this is a place you can grab something useful and get back to work. If you have suggestions, please share them in the comments section.
Not sure what to do next in your quest to be a successful writer? Try a page from The Writer’s Workout by Christina Katz from right here in Oregon. Katz, writer, teacher and platform powerhouse, has put together 366 tips, tasks and techniques to get you going. Writing, networking, marketing, climbing out the swamp when you can’t write–it’s all here.
I just clicked on WritersWeekly.com and almost didn’t come back because there were so many great things. Markets, how-tos, comparisons of the different print-on-demand publishers, trivia, and more! Subscriptions are free.
Finish this sentence: “After he ___________________”
Now Go Write
Once a week I am offering three quick tips that you can take and use right away. For those of us who would rather be writing than reading blogs, this is a place you can grab something useful and get back to work.
Writing-World.com has been offering great advice, information and markets for writers for 12 years and is still one of the best sites I’ve seen. Whatever type of writing you do, it has articles to help you do it. Click here and give it a read.
While we’re talking about Writing-World.com, editor Moira Allen has some books you might want to read. I’m proud to have contributed sections to two of them. Starting Your Career as a Freelance Writer focuses mostly on nonfiction writing and covers everything you need to know to run a freelancing writing business. The Writer’s Guide to Queries, Pitches & Proposals tells how to approach agents, editors and publishers with all types of writing. Her latest is Writing to Win: The Colossal Guide to Writing Contests.
Have you noticed how most of the headlines on magazine covers seem to have numbers? 12 ways to please your man, 5 foods that fight cancer, 8 romantic getaways. Numbered pieces sell and are easy to write. So, fill in the blank and starting: 10 ways to _______________________. It can be a how-to article, an essay, a humorous column, a poem, a short story, whatever suits your fancy. Remember Paul Simon’s song “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover?”