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10 Secrets Of Successful Memoir Writers

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Love it or loathe it, the memoir is thought of by many readers and critics as the most popular and relevant book genre of our time. Depicting life's messiest moments, memoirs provoke strong feelings; just mention the M-word at a dinner party and watch the sparks fly. Now writing a memoir has become all the rage--whether written one blog post at a time, or offline, page by page. Unfortunately, many would-be memoirists stumble on the same writing hurdles: if only it wasn't so tough to begin, figure out a plot line, recreate conversations you had five months or five years ago, and keep it all interesting until arriving at "the end."

So, to demystify the process, let's forget for a moment that you're aiming to fill 200-plus pages. Refrain from comparing the aftermath of your divorce to that of Elizabeth Gilbert. And, wait before visualizing your baby picture splashed on a book cover or I-Pad screen. Start by thinking of your memoir as a lower-stakes hobby, like, say, furniture refinishing. If your memoir was a piece of furniture, it would be grandma's antique rocker. You've been saving that old piece in the attic so that one day you can restore it to its former glory. You've never restored anything before, but how hard can it be? You've even bought the tools on E-bay. Meanwhile, the rocker accumulates more dust; waiting for you to mean it when you say it: "Okay, today I do it."

If that doesn't work, here are ten secrets for getting started and finishing--gathered for The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing a Memoir [Alpha, $15.95]. They come from some famous memoir writers and revered memoir teachers. Use their advice to write the true story only you can tell.

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