Tag Archives: publishing

Mining for Precious Metals

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Cartoon by Kev Howlett

There are many similarities between your life and mine. We are born, we go to school, we get jobs, maybe get married, have kids and so on. But each of us has our own experience within those similarities. And not everyone gets married or has kids. Or they may get married, then widowed or not be able to have children or choose not to have children.

So how does a writer tell their life story without boring the pants off the reader? Do I want to hear about your life if it’s been similar to mine? Maybe yes, to a degree, because we all like to connect with someone with a shared experience. But I don’t want to read a blow-by-blow description of your life from the day you were born to now.

Think about your life, or the part of your life you’d like to share with the reader. Are there aspects of it that stand out and have a common theme? You may not discover this until you have started writing. That’s okay. Writing a first draft isn’t going to produce the gold that will come when you rewrite.

Have you noticed the metaphor here? I’m comparing writing to mining. The use of metaphor can make your writing more vivid. At first, when getting out your first draft, you’ll feel like it’s very rough and maybe not even worth pursuing. But don’t give up. There will be a diamond in there waiting to be polished up. Have you heard the story of the miner who gave up digging for diamonds, not realising that a fortune could have been had if only he had chipped away at another few metres of rock?

We dream in metaphor. Often when we wake we try to decipher the strange messages that our unconscious mind has been trying to give us. It stands to reason that the use of metaphor in writing appeals to the unconscious mind.

Relating your life to metaphor will help you create links and images that will appeal to the reader. Has your life been like a box of chocolates? Has it been crisis after crisis, ending as one big train wreck? Or maybe, despite many hardships, you feel blessed with everything that you have and it has been a fortunate life?

Here are examples of memoir/biography that have used metaphor to create a theme in their book:

Open by Andre Agassi
Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith
Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski
Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement by Michael D’Orso and John Lewis

Finding that metaphor to describe your life could be the gem you need to create a compelling read.

Whose Story are You Telling?

10478216_897380713609499_4540340778360193946_nMemory can be a fickle business and everyone will have their own version of history, depending on their age, gender, where they sit amongst siblings in age, and the way they feel within a family. In my family of two brothers and one sister, one event from our childhood will have four different versions of the ‘truth’.

So who does your story belong to when you’re writing your family history? Should you consult your siblings, or any other members of the family before you put something out there in the public forum?

There is no right or wrong answer and I’m sure we could have a great debate about it.

Last week, when I was at the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, I had the pleasure of listening to many writers about their writing of memoirs. One panel, ‘The Secret Lives of Mothers and Fathers’, had Kate Grenville, Ramona Koval and Barrie Cassidy. Each one of them has written about their parents and the secrets that many families might hide.

Ramona believes that Bloodhound: Searching For My Father is her story to tell, despite her sister not wanting to know the truth when a DNA test showed that they are half sisters. From hearing her speak, you could tell that she would have been like a dog with a bone (pun intended) in her search for answers. Kate Grenville, One Life: My Mother’s Story, on the other hand believes that family stories belong to everyone and that the writer needs to respect this when sharing the story.

As you can tell, this topic had both women polarized. Barrie on the other hand had consulted with his siblings and they all felt that the story needed to be told. Maybe it depends on what secrets are being shared. Either way, out of respect for anyone who might be connected to your story, you should let them know about what you’re doing and maybe let them be involved in the process. You might also find that they will add value to the story by putting forward their own memories, experiences and opinions.

Thanks to the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, I have a few more books on my ‘to read’ list now …