When Shit Gets Scary, You Know You’re Writing Something Real

Writing Advice, Sites, Writers, and Links

Hemingway
Hemingway
I’m buckling down now that I have found all the information I wanted to boost me into actually sitting my ass down in the chair and outlining and piecing and writing the memoir bits that will, so help me God, come together someday. I spent the day researching basically, and then I got caught up in writing tips and advice and blunt honesty from author blogs, editor blogs and sites, writers, memoir writers, professors and teachers and other bloggers alike, and I, for now, have come up with a delightful collection I am going to print out and keep on my desk with me for motivation and, well, common sense. And this delightful collection I am sharing with you.

Ass. In. Chair. These words are coming from these people along with notes I took from writing podcasts, such as Debra Gwartney‘s podcast over at Tin House called “When the Action is Hot, Write Cool.” Here are just some of the things she said in my notes that hit home, that inspire me and turn me in the right direction. Writing a memoir is fucking overwhelming. There’s just so much.

So here’s some of Debra Gwartney’s words to inspire you right in the gut:

Pull them in don’t force them to see how bad the trauma was
–very off-putting
No over emotion
Convey emotion w/ a matter of fact tone and highly controlled language

Let readers feel for themselves not be instructed by you

Can’t be just about what happened

You have to focus on recitation of events but use EVENT AS PRY BAR TO OPEN UP AND ILLUMINATE THE DYNAMIC–REWRITE IT THAT WAY, FIGURE IT OUT

How you engage the reader, not just what happened

Something else has to happen to resonate

Don’t shove trauma into readers face to say how bad it was

Don’t demand they recognize the horror
–admirable elemtent –matter of fact in worst part, take breath away images, perfect verbs, no excess; pacing slows down, open up w/ great precision and care, avoid chaos you were feeling I the moment, you want the control of the narrator; CURIOSITY NOT DEFENSIVENESS; not contrived but taut, stretched, few images, careful verbs/words (when action is hot write cool)
Trust language and images you pick, let readre feel for herself
FLATTEN IT OUT, IT’S NOT THIS OH MY GOD, IT’S MATTER OF FACT
-here it is, go, don’t embellish what day it is blah blah blah
PRECISE DETAILS
Those images, very sparse
Don’t overload w/ images, be selective
SLOWER PACE, let them be in the moment

Avoid overwrought description–STAY OUT OF SENTIMENTALITY CAMP

POWER OF MOMENT COMES UP FROM UNDERNEATH SOMEWHERE

Indicate to reader –experience-not what the essay is about, essay is about …..

By writing this way, they know something even larger is happening–the point of the essay

NO ADVERBS

“I FRANTICALLY did this….”
No bodily functions******

NO NO NO CRYING–everyone will assume, you don’t have to tell that

“YOU HAVE TO NORMALIZE THE INCREDIBLE”

Take the emotion out, don’t add to
in essays–could use second person to distance self

RECORD THE PANIC BUT DON’T ALLOW THE WRITING TO BECOME PANICKED

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John Updike on Writing

(taken from Fresh Air: Writer’s Speak with Terry Gross)

“…you can take painful and bad experiences and somehow just in writing about them you get rid of the pain…Writing as a release, a kind of therapy…when you write about something in a strange way you become lightened of it.  Writing is my sole remaining vice; it is an addiction, an illusory release, a presumptuous taming of reality, a way of expressing lightly the unbearable.  In the morning light one can write breezily without the slightest acceleration of one’s pulse about what one cannot contemplate in the dark without turning in a panic to God.  In the dark one truly feels that immense sliding, that turning, of the vast earth into darkness and eternal cold, taking with it all nature and scenery, and the bright distractions and furniture of our lives; even the barest earthly facts are unbearably heavy, weighted as they are with our personal death.  Writing and making the world light in distorting, pitifying, verbalizing approaches blasphemy.  …I think there’s something demonic in the complete writer…an ideally nice person would probably not become a writer…we are cruel beings and all of the shadow sides of one’s self-knowledge goes into writing and in a way energizes it.”