An Overdue Update

Since it’s been a while since I’ve blogged, several readers have emailed me over the last week or two asking if everything is okay. I appreciate the concern and am happy to report that, yes, everything is fine. Great actually. Life is just really, really busy. So busy, in fact, that blogging is one of many things that have fallen to the side. That being said, I find myself with a few minutes to provide a brief update on book, life, and a few other things.

  • Chronos update: The book as gone through its first editor. It was a bruising edit but it came back with a lot of good suggestions and feedback. I’m currently one third of the way through the revision process before the book will be handed over to a second editor. I wish I had all day to write so I could make faster progress but I do my best to make the most out of the 60-90 minutes of writing time I get each day. I don’t know when the book will be done but I’m doing my best to have it available this year.
     
  • Until I get this book out the door, I’m putting the Widower Wednesday columns on hold. I am still answering emails. So if you have a widower-related issue, feel free to email me or join the Dating a Widower group on Facebook (for girlfriends and wives of widowers) or the Widowers Dating Again group (for widowers who are dating again, remarried, etc.).
     
  • Marathon Girl and I are expecting our seventh, and final, child in November. A girl. And for the first time we’re actually close to agreeing on a name before the child is born. The kids are excited to have a little sister. Marathon Girl is exhausted. I’m just trying to fill in and help out the best I can until the baby comes.
     
  • I’ll be speaking at the 2015 Wyoming Suicide Prevention Conference next month as well as holding a workshop. Details of the speech and workshop can be found in the link.
     
  • I started a new marketing job at the beginning of the year. I love it. The work is challenging and it keeps my mind engaged and it doesn’t come with all the craziness and long hours of the old job. Marathon Girl likes the fact I usually come home in a good mood.
     
  • I’ve been running more than I have in a long time. If I keep to my schedule I should pass the 1,000 mile mark on Saturday. If I keep up the pace, I should hit around 1,300 miles by year’s end. And, no, I’m not running or training for any races. I’m simply running that much because I love it and it’s good for my mental health.
     
  • And though I don’t have time to blog on a regular basis right now, you can always follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Until I get back to blogging, it’s the easiest way to get a quick snippet of what’s going on.

That’s all for now. More later.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes: A Writing Update

It's been awhile since I posted anything on my writing projects so I thought I'd give a quick update.

As many of you know, I've been working on a novel, code named Chronos, that I was hoping to have done and off to the editor before the end of the year.

That didn't happen.

The main reason was that my day job had become unbearably stressful. I was so busy and caught up in the pressure surrounding my job that I couldn't write, be a halfway decent father to my kids, or the kind of husband that Marathon Girl deserves. As a result, I made a decision to start looking for a new job and put all of my free time into that endeavor. The good news is that about six weeks or so into my search I ended up with several job offers and was able to start a new one right after Christmas.

Once the stress of the old job was gone, I tried to get back into writing Chronos and found that I had been away from writing so long that I had a hard time getting back into it. So for kicks and giggles, I decided to start a small project to help me get back in the writing groove.

It worked.

Over the holidays I ended up writing the first draft of a Christmas-themed novella. My goal is to finish that book by the end of January and then return to writing Chronos. Though I don't have a date when Chronos will be done, I think it won't take long to get it back to the editor.

As for the Christmas-themed novella, it will be available in time for the holidays later this year. I never thought I'd write a Christmas book before but am happy with the way the story evolved. I hope that those who read it will find it do be unlike any other Christmas book they've read before.

Stay tuned for more details.

Where's Abel?

I'll be participating in the first annual Indie Author Hub Writing & Publishing Conference tomorrow (June 7) a the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in Provo Utah. About the conference:

That's right, it's conference time! Not just any conference, but a conference targeted toward all aspects of indie publishing. This year, our self-published keynote speaker is NYT bestselling author of A Different Blue, Amy Harmon. We will also have 21 breakout classes in three tracks: writing, book creation, and marketing/business. We are so excited to have many experienced and successful self-published authors and other professionals who have agreed to share their time with us.

You can find more information about the conference here.

Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work not Content of Biography

For the record, happily I signed the following statement:

Mormon Writers Ask for Manuscripts to be Treated on Quality of Work not Content of Biography

In response to recent events and attention in local and national media, we authors, who are also members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, feel the need to express our disagreement and disappointment with Cedar Fort in their dealings with David Powers King and Michael Jensen in regards to the manuscript, Woven. We appreciate that Cedar Fort has returned the rights to the work in question and want to note that there are many wonderful people working at Cedar Fort–staff members and authors–who strive to carry out their duties with professionalism and courtesy. Nevertheless we wish to offer our support to our fellow authors and feel compelled to speak out.

As writers, many of whom have published with Cedar Fort, we believe everyone should be treated fairly and with respect, regardless of political or religious affiliation, age, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe that degrading attacks are inappropriate in any business or personal relationship. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), we understand our church to teach respect and encourage civility–even when we have differences of opinion.

While publishers have the right to choose what they will and will not publish, we believe books should be accepted or rejected upon the merits of their content, quality, and commercial viability, not on any other factor. If a publisher isn’t comfortable with an author’s personal choices, those concerns should be discussed clearly and respectfully upon signing a contract–not hours before the book goes to press.

We believe that all publishers should be clear and professional in their submission requirements, treat others with dignity and respect, and give all authors the right to be judged on the quality of their work, not the content of their biography.

You can find a full list of authors who have signed the statement here.

There's a story about this in the Salt Lake Tribune here.

Books in Progress

For those who have been asking or are curious about my upcoming books, here's the latest: Currently I have four books, two novels and two works of non-fiction, in various stages of development. You can see their progress (draft and word count) below. I'm hoping to have at least one of the non-fiction projects and possibly one of the novels done by the end of the year.  As I haven't settled on titles for any of them yet, they all have code names and a summary which you can find below. I'll be adding these to the sidebar of my website soon. In addition, keep your eyes open for a call for stories for one of the non-fiction projects in the next 30-45 days! White Whale (novel) | Draft 1

A mystery about a young boy's death on a remote Wyoming mountain.

Watcher (novel) | Draft 1

A thriller about a man who's figured out the secret to eternal life.

7 Hearts (non-fiction, relationship) | Draft 2

A relationship book that focuses on the 7 things that matter most in any romantic relationship.

Widower 3 (non-fiction, relationship) | Draft 2

My final book in the Widower series. This one will touch on topics not covered in Dating a Widower or Marrying a Widower that keep coming up in the inbox or discussion boards.

The Best Obituary Ever

Val Patterson wrote his own obituary and in doing so probably wrote the best one I've ever read

I was Born in Salt Lake City, March 27th 1953. I died of Throat Cancer on July 10th 2012. I went to six different grade schools, then to Churchill, Skyline and the U of U. I loved school, Salt Lake City, the mountains, Utah. I was a true Scientist. Electronics, chemistry, physics, auto mechanic, wood worker, artist, inventor, business man, ribald comedian, husband, brother, son, cat lover, cynic. I had a lot of fun. It was an honor for me to be friends with some truly great people. I thank you. I've had great joy living and playing with my dog, my cats and my parrot. But, the one special thing that made my spirit whole, is my long love and friendship with my remarkable wife, my beloved Mary Jane. I loved her more than I have words to express. Every moment spent with my Mary Jane was time spent wisely.

***

Now that I have gone to my reward, I have confessions and things I should now say. As it turns out, I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn't even graduate, I only had about 3 years of college credit. In fact, I never did even learn what the letters "PhD" even stood for. For all of the Electronic Engineers I have worked with, I'm sorry, but you have to admit my designs always worked very well, and were well engineered, and I always made you laugh at work.

***

To the gang: We grew up in the very best time to grow up in the history of America. The best music, muscle cars, cheap gas, fun kegs, buying a car for "a buck a year" - before Salt Lake got ruined by over population and Lake Powell was brand new. TV was boring back then, so we went outside and actually had lives. We always tried to have as much fun as possible without doing harm to anybody - we did a good job at that.

Read the entire obituary here.

I think everyone should write their own obituaries. They're a lot more personal, revealing, emotional, and they turn strangers into real people.

So even though I didn't know Val, I'd like to thank him for setting a new standard in obituary writing. I hope others follow suit.

Update: The Salt Lake Tribune has a great follow-up to the obituary that gives greater insight to Val and his life.

 

2012 Blog Changes

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope 2012 is off to a great start for all of you.  I’m making changes to my blog this year in order to give readers a better idea what they can expect from this blog. My goal is to not only write more often but make the blog more predictable and interesting for readers.

Starting today the following columns will appear every week:

Monday – Column will focus on writing, publishing, industry changes, and other writing and book related topics including current writing projects.

Wednesday – Widower Wednesday columns will continue.

Friday – Will focus on current events, politics, and things of that nature.

Appearing at least once a month (maybe more depending on what’s going on in my life)

Tuesday or Thursday – Family related posts. What Marathon Girl, me, and the kids are up to.

Saturday or Sunday – Videos, pop culture, sports, and lighter topics.

Whether you’re new to this blog or have been reading for years, I hope these changes will make the blog more enjoyable.

How I Write (or a NaNoWriMo 2011 Summary)

Just realized that I never gave an final update my NaNoWriMo progress. Here it is:

For the second year I realized that the way I write isn't conducive to putting out as much words as possible in 30 days. When I write a novel, I usually do so with a pretty thorough outline. Even with that, however, I still find that characters and minor plot details evolve as I write. And as the change, I find myself going back to rewrite details earlier in the book so they match up with changes made halfway through.

For example, say I write 1,000 words a day for a week giving me a grand total of 7,000 words at the end of the week. But as I finished up Day 7 of writing, I realize that a character needs to evolve or change to make him or her more interesting or real. As a result, I may spend several days re-reading everything written to date and rewriting 1,000 words a day. So after nine days my "official" word count still remains in the neighborhood of 7,000 words even though I've probably written somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 words. So when trying to write as many words as possible in a certain amount of time, I find myself going back and rewriting stuff before I move forward and create new content.

Anyway, I finished NaNoWriMo with 20,135 "new" words though if you count all the rewriting I did during this time, the actual count is probably three times that number or enough to make me a NaNoWriMo winner--but not in any official sense. On the flip side, the 20,135 words I did write are pretty polished. Just another rewrite should get them up to publishable quality. Now I just have to work at writing the other 80,000 or so words of content. It's something I can do over the next several months--it's just going to take an awful lot of rewriting to get there. :-)

My Next Book

I want to thank everyone for the support they’ve given my latest book, Dating a Widower. Sales have surpassed expectations and the reviews and feedback have been very positive. As a result of its success, I’m thrilled to announce that a follow-up book, Marrying a Widower, is in the works and will be released the first half of next year. Look for more details in January. Like its predecessor, I’ll be asking for readers to contribute their stories. So if you’re engaged to, married to, or divorced from a widower, start thinking about a story you might want to share. A full list of topics will be posted in January.

And no, I haven’t stopped writing fiction. I expect to release a novel next year as well. Look for more details on that in early 2012.

Blast from the Past: Diaryland

Remember Diaryland?

When I started blogging back in 2001 (long before blog was a commonly used term), I used a platform called Diaryland. All things considered it was a decent platform. The platform was easy enough that anyone could sign up and start writing, if you knew some basic HTML, you could take one of their basic templates and make it look halfway decent. It also had a neat feature that let you follow other Diaryland blogs and would let you know the ones that had been updated since the last time you logged in.

Diaryland did have its downsides. Comments weren’t tied to posts (they were left in a Guestbook that resided on a separate page), you had to host images on a different server, and the backend interface left a lot to be desired. However, but back at the turn of the century, those features weren’t that big of a deal. The few other blogging platforms out there weren’t much better.

A couple years later Blogger and Wordpress exploded on the scene and, oddly, Diaryland never tried to catch up or upgrade its features. Bloggers complained and the only thing Diaryland did was offer a Gold Membership that offered images hosting and comments for a price. One by one bloggers I followed on Diaryland left for better blogging platforms. Frustrated at the lack of updates, I joined the mass exodus sometime in 2004.

So this weekend I decided to go see if Diaryland was still around. Much to my surprise, it’s still there. Even a bigger surprise was that, with the exception of the site’s logo, it hasn’t changed since I last used it. Apparently people are still using it though it seems like the number of active users have fallen dramatically.  When I checked my list of blogs I used to follow, only one person still uses Diaryalnd and, sadly, their blog is locked. If there are stats somewhere, I’d be curious to know how many active users Diaryland has and why people continue to use it even through there are far superior blogging platforms available.

Still, it’s amazing that all these years the site remains virtually unchanged. It’s a stark reminder that if you don’t adapt and change, the only thing you’re good for is a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Keeping Me Honest III

A quick update on my 2011 creative writing goals:

  • The Dating a Widower book is 99% done. Basically all that needs to be done is some marketing copy and final cover layout (which is dependent on my writing the marketing copy). Hope to have everything to the designer this week as Marathon Girl is scheduled to be induced next week unless she goes into labor before that.
  • Since I turned down a publishing contract and went the Indie route with Dating a Widower, I haven’t had as much time to work on “White Whale.” However, I should be able to go full bore on that once the baby comes.
  • The sequel to The Third still needs some tweaks but is essentially done. Hopefully there will be some good news regarding its release date soon.

Also, I’ve had several people who read Room for Two this summer and wanted to know if I’ve ever considered writing a book about life after I married Marathon Girl. I’ve tossed the idea around and though I don’t know if I have a consistent enough storyline for a memoir, I do have enough content to write a dozen or so long essays about second marriages, moving on, and starting a new life that could be complied into a book. Anyway, I’d like to toss the idea out there to see if book like that something you’d be interested in reading. I probably won’t get around to completing it until next year but if there’s enough interest in it, it’s something I can start on relatively soon.

Leave a comment below or email me your thoughts if that's something you'd like to read.

Where I'm At: Write Here in Ephraim

Write Here in Ephraim 2011

On Saturday I'll be teaching a memoir writing workshop at the Write Here in Ephraim event in Ephraim, Utah. The event is sponsored by the Ephraim Library and is free and open to the public. It will be held at the old South Ward Chruch at 105 E 200 S. The doors to the event open at 8:30. Workshops start at 9:00 a.m and will run until 5:00 p.m. My workshop, Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story, will start at 9:15 a.m. and run until 10:00 a.m. I'll be showing ways to bring personal stories to life as well as covering the dos and don'ts of memoir writing. I'll also be on an author panel at 3:15 about the path to publication.

Even if you don't want to see me, there are other great authors who will be giving writing tips including Julie Coulter Bellon, Rachelle Christensen, Michael Young, Jewel Adams, Tristi Pinkston, Gregg Luke, Clint Johnson, and more.

Here's a complete schedule:

8:30: Registration

9:00 A.M. WELCOME – PRIZE DRAWING

9:15 A.M.

E-Books - JEWEL ADAMS Welcome to the wonderful world of E-books! Got a great novel you want to publish but can’t find a publisher? Or would you like to have full control of your novel an make it available to purchase until you find a publisher? Or do you just plain not care about finding a publisher and want to fly solo? - E-books aren’t just the future of book reading or a temporary fad, they are here to stay. Learn why you should give publishing E-books a go and take advantage of the wide open market. Come to understand that an E-books isn’t “just an E-books,” they are just as important as traditionally published books. Get tips on how to market your E-books and learn about the numerous outlets in which to sell your books and share your work with the world.

Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story - ABEL KEOGH- Writing a memoir is a great way to share a personal experience. Learn how to bring your story to life in such a way that will wow readers and keep them engrossed from page one to the end. In addition we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of memoir writing as well as how to know whether you have a story that agents, publishers, and readers will want to read.

Fish Slap: What’s your writing motivation? - BRON AND SHIRLEY BAHLMANN Many people say they want to write a book but never follow through. Yet if, say, a fish slapped their face every time they missed a deadline, the result might be the opposite. In the absence of raw fish, what separates the sayers from the doers? A humorous and informative look at various motivational strategies for writing.

10:00 A.M.

"A Serious Look at Comedy" – BERIN STEPHENS

Essential Elements of Suspense – GREGG LUKE: A brief overview of each element and how each contributes to writing nail-biting suspense. Q&A to follow. Key Points covered: Characterization, Pacing, Anticipation, Detailing, Resolution.

Finding Time for our Talents– JULIE COULTER BELLON - Have you ever wished there were more hours in a day? Wondered how you can fit it all in? Is being a writer a dream you have yet to accomplish because you just don't have time? This class will give you some insight, tips, and inspiration on how to maintain that balance of developing your writing talent with the other demands on your time. Julie Coulter Bellon, the author of seven books, a mother of eight children, and a teacher at BYU, will share all her secrets for how to have it all.

10:45 A.M.

My Journey as a Writer and How I Got That Book Published – CHERI CHESLEY

Writing Mystery – JOAN SOWARDS - There is nothing more fun than losing yourself in a great mystery novel than writing one! Every story can have a touch of mystery. Learn the tools, terms, and how to diagram a story, along with basic plotting and good writing elements, no matter if your mystery is a cozy or hard-boiled.

Blog Tours and Book Promotions – It's a Piggyback Ride – RACHELLE CHRISTENSEN - Learn the secrets of effective Internet marketing for you and your products/books including author promotion, blog tours, blog hops, giveaways & more. How can you increase your blog readership and followers? Find out how Rachelle promoted her blog, increased her followers to over 500 in one year and got paid to do it.

11:30 A.M.

Author Panel – Habits of Published Authors –Heather Justesen, Berin Stephens, Rachelle Christensen, Tristi Pinkston, Clint Johnson, Karen Hoover

12:15 –MIX AND MINGLE with guests

1:45 P.M.

Story Construction 101- REBECCA TALLEY - A story needs a strong foundation and certain building blocks to be successful. Learn what you need to include in your blueprint to begin building your story. After we learn what essential materials we'll need, we'll use our tools to begin construction as a class. Come prepared to share your creative ingenuity.

Writing for the Peanut Butter Crowd: Essentials of Picture Book Writing – LINDA GARNER - In this Picture Book Primer you will learn that writing picture books is not necessarily kid stuff. All the rules for good writing apply to picture books but with less margin for error. If you’ve ever wanted to write a picture book, you’ll love this class. “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”. Madeleine ‘L Engle

The Long and Short of It: Writing and Selling Short Fiction – MICHAEL YOUNG - Writing and selling short stories is a fun and rewarding way to improve your writing and to gain a readership. Writing short stories, however, takes a different skill set than writing longer works and also are sold in a different way. Learn some of the techniques you'll need to craft quality short fiction and the ins and out of getting it in print.

2:30 P.M.

"Chuck the Junk - Self-Editing for Word Hoarders" – MICHAEL KNUDSEN - Most writers are terrified when they read through their first draft --it can be rough, ugly and bloated with excessive verbiage, lame adverbs, and entire scenes that go nowhere. But there's hope! We'll look at rough text at all levels and toss the dingy bathwater while keeping your baby!

Fragile--Handle With Care: Writing on a Sensitive Subject - LINDA GARNER- -Death, suicide, divorce, abuse, war, depression, drugs, pornography, religion, eating disorders, bullying, hate. Do you have an interest in a subject that is hard to talk about? Just because it’s a sensitive subject doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. The walls are coming down. Lots of people are talking about subjects that used to be taboo. You can write about anything, if you handle with care.

How to Become and Idea Factory- KAREN HOOVER

3:15 P.M.

Author Panel in the Big Room – The Path to Publication: Panelists – Carole Thayne Warburton, Mike Knudsen, Julie Bellon, Rebecca Talley, Abel Keogh, Gregg Luke, Cory Poulson

4:00 P.M.

Children's Literature Game Show – CLINT JOHNSON Simple, Strange, Sophisticated, and Stupid Questions for Smart Kids (and Kids at Heart)--The game show that teaches more than you ever wanted to know about writing and writers, some of which you will certainly regret later. Prove your superiority in a humorous and educational contest that explores the world of children's literature, from its comical quirks to personalities and events that profoundly shaped our world. Numerous participants of all ages are selected from the audience and given the chance to compete for fun and glory and prizes!

5:00 P.M. END

Hope to see you there.

Keeping Me Honest II

A quick update on the Creative Writing goals I made at the beginning of year.

  • Positive vibes from the publisher on the Dating a Widower book but no answer as of posting time. Whether they take it or I go the indie publishing route, I hope to have it out before too long
  • Slowed down a bit this month on the “White Whale” novel but still good progress was made. I have a month to wrap it up and pitch it at a writing conference in May.

Other Writing Notes

April Appearances

  • I’ll be teaching a memoir writing class in Ephraim, Utah on April 9 as part of the Write Here in Ephraim Writer’s Conference. It will take place at 105 E. 200 S. Ephriam, Utah and begins at 9:00 a.m. my memoir writing class begins at 9:15 a.m. If you’re in the area and want to know the ins and outs of memoir writing, you’re welcome to attend. You can download more information here.
  • A book launch party for The Third will take place the evening of Earth Day (Friday, April 22 ) in Ogden, Utah. There will be prizes, food, and quite a bit of politically incorrect (but family friendly) fun. You, your spouses, significant others, and kids are all welcome to attend. More details will be coming soon.

Keeping Me Honest

A quick update on the Creative Writing goals I made at the beginning of year.

  • The Dating a Widower manuscript is now in the hands of my publisher. No word yet on whether or not they’ve accepted it. Hope to have an update by my next monthly update.
  • The Third is scheduled for an April release. More details will be forthcoming. In addition to being available on Amazon, bookstores, and e-book format, I’ll also be selling personalized copies from my improved online store for those who want one. The new store will be up within the next two weeks.
  • Worked out the kinks with the “White Whale” book I’ll be pitching in May. With plot and character problems mostly worked out, I’m hoping to make more progress and have a first draft completed by the end of the month.

For more information on these and other writing projects, keep your eye on this blog or join my mailing list if you want the scoop before anyone else.

How to Write a (Grief) Memoir

Since this post is on memoirs, a bit of shameless self-promotion: I’m teaching a memoir writing class in Ephraim, Utah on April 9. Don’t have full details as to where the class will be taught but it is part of Write Here in Ephraim Conference that will include many other wonderful authors and presenters. Stay tuned for details. If you’re in the area and want to know the ins and outs of memoir writing, I’d love to have you attend.

***

Ever since The New York Times slammed Joyce Carol Oates memoir, A Widow’s Story, there’s been uproar in the widow(er) community about the review with many widow(er)s saying that the reviewer just doesn’t “get” what’s it’s like to be a widow. I haven’t read JCO’s memoir so I can’t say whether or not the book is worthy of the criticism it received. Thanks to a reader’s tip, I read an excerpt in The New Yorker. Though I was impressed with JCO’s prose, I found the telling of the last week of her husband’s life and first few hours of widowhood similar to what you might find on a recent widow blog. And, in my mind, that’s a problem.

Blogs aren’t memoirs. They have a different purpose and audience. When done well, blogs are vignettes that focus on one moment and give the reader some insight into that incident or person. Memoirs have more meat. Instead of focusing on a day or special moment, modern memoirs usually focus on a major event (or series of events) where the author learns something from the experience and shares it with the reader.

Maybe when I read JCO’s work in its entirety, I’ll feel different. But the little bit I read seemed like something lifted from a personal journal. It’s interesting if you know the person but utterly lacking the depth necessary to give the reader insight into losing a spouse. (I’m going to order the book later this week. However if any readers know of any more online excerpts, please email me or leave a note in the comment section below.)

So what does it take to write a good memoir? Five things immediately come to mind. (For those looking write a memoir on a different subject, just replace grief theme with whatever the crux of your experience is about. The suggestions below still apply.)

  1. Your story needs to be unique. You lost a spouse. So what. Millions of people lose a spouse every year. What makes your spouse’s death and your journey so different that other people will want to read it? You aren’t the first person to walk this path. To get the attention of agents, publishers, and readers your experience has to something unique about their story that makes it stand out from the crowd.
  2. You need to offer new insight on the subject. Many books have been written on losing a spouse. Most of them might as well be carbon copies of each other. What has your experience/journey taught you that may not be known by those who have written or walked down the same path? For example, most widow(er)s learn that life goes on and they can be happy again after losing a spouse. While that insight may be new to the writer, it’s not an earth shattering concept to most people. To make it worth the reader’s time, you need to offer some insight or unique perspective into death, grieving, moving on, etc. that other people may not have noticed.
  3. You need to be honest. With memoirs—especially grief memoirs—authors have a tendency to turn themselves look like a tragic hero for going through the experience. They don’t want to make themselves appear human. Big mistake. Even widow(er)s have flaws and make bad decisions. You need to appear just as human as the next person or the reader will feel you’ve been less than truthful and will blow your credibility. With a memoir you never want the reader to feel that way about you.
  4. You need to know how to tell a story. Good writers know what events to include and what events to leave out of their memoirs. For example, there’s no need to include the funeral of the late spouse unless something happened there that’s important to the story or can offer the reader some bit of insight into yourself or your culture that can’t come out in another part of the story. Otherwise you’re just filling up the book with pointless information and wasting the reader’s time. Good writers also know how to make quotidian events come alive and paint a vivid picture in the reader’s head. (Side note: This is one thing JCO is very good at.) They know how to take an event like death and widow(er)hood and make it interesting to the reader instead of it simply feeling like they’re reading something they’ve read a hundred times before. Being able to do this is a very difficult talent to master.
  5. Your book needs to appeal to a wide audience. Good memoirs will appeal to their target audience. Great memoirs appeal to a wider audience. If you write a grief memoir and get positive feedback from other widow(er)s, you’ve probably done a decent job writing what it’s like to lose a spouse. However, when you start getting good reviews and feedback from those who have no clue what it’s like to lose a spouse, then you know you’ve written a compelling memoir with the depth and insight needed (see #2) to get people to look at the world I a different way. These are the kinds of memoirs that agents and publishers are interested in.

When I do get around to reading, JCO’s memoir, the above five points are the standard I'll review it against. Once it arrives via Amazon, it goes to the top of my reading stack.

The Passive Voice and the Business of Writing

For those writers and authors (or aspiring writers and authors) who follow this blog, a writer friend of mine has started a blog on writing and the business of writing called The Passive Voice. The blog consists of excerpts to news articles, blogs, and other resources along with my friend's commentary on it. It's a great resource for anyone with an interest in writing and publishing but, like me, doesn’t have  a lot of time to search out various blogs and news articles on the subject.  For those who are interested in these sorts of things, it's well worth a once-a-day visit.