Are We There Yet?
One of the hardest parts of attempting a memoir is knowing when to stop. I keep thinking I'm "there," until something else pops into my head that I forgot to mention. This is a dangerous and slippery slope, as is all storytelling. You've got to know when enough is enough.
A memoir is different from an autobiography. The latter is someone's entire life story, from birth to the point of writing. I read these all the time because they are the lives of famous people, mostly writers and stars in the music business. My own life was impacted in some way because these people were who they were and did what they did. Many of them inspired me to take up the guitar, or the pen, and to start writing. So their stories matter to me.
But for the rest of us, who have not influenced a generation, or changed the world (yet), an autobiography would hold little interest to the buying public. How many people, in their retirement, decide to write their life story, which is fascinating--to them--only to discover that self-publishing is their only option? No one really wants to know.
But a memoir is different. It is limited in scope to some specific aspect of the writer's life . Its appeal is not the entire life of the writer but only those details that are shared by the reader. A memoir is not about what sets the writer apart. It is about what makes them the same as the rest of us.
My own memoir focuses on my lifelong relationship with the church. That means that many things about my life have been left out. The world is not waiting to hear about my school days or my romances or even about my personal development. But it might be interested in my experience of the church because, for many people, it will mirror their own.
So that becomes the criteria--does this juicy detail, this amusing anecdote, advance the story about my relationship with the church? If not, out it goes. But if so, how can I not include it? The problem is, there are so many details and anecdotes to tell. For the moment, they're all in there.
This is the reason all writers need a good editor. Much that I have written, in all likelihood, will have to go. But that will be someone else's call. To me, the stories are all my children, and precious. And there are miles to go before we sleep ...