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Monday, February 19, 2024

Construction: The Security Web for Your Memoir


Image: close-up photo of a nylon safety net against a blue background.

Right this moment’s publish is by author and editor Lisa Cooper Ellison. Be a part of her on Wednesday, Feb. 21, for the web class Discover the Memoir Construction That Works for You.


Just a few weeks in the past, I geeked out on construction with screenwriter, filmmaker, and budding memoirist Alyson Shelton. Throughout our dialog, she mentioned, “Construction is the protection web readers fall into. Nailing it’s the approach we maintain area for them and allow them to know that whereas we’d preserve them guessing, or fire up difficult feelings, we’re taking them someplace essential.”

Construction is a security web for writers too. When it’s lacking, they ship anxious emails to me and different writing coaches asking what to do. As a author, I do know what it’s like to hold from the trapeze bar of an concept and surprise if I can maintain on lengthy sufficient to seek out each a degree and a satisfying ending.

Writers have to domesticate two varieties of construction: course of and venture. Course of construction sustains you when you’re drafting and revising. Undertaking construction is what you use to offer your work form.

Many nice writing books educate processes you’ll be able to observe, however I need to give you a framework you should utilize to assist your self whatever the guidebook you observe.

Enter the Circle of Safety, a parenting mannequin I encountered throughout graduate college.

The Circle of Safety was created by Robert Marvin, Glen Cooper, Kent Hoffman, and Bert Powell to assist mother and father attend to their baby’s wants as they be taught to discover the world. Image an ellipse with a caregiver on one finish and pictures of kids at varied plot factors both shifting away from the caregiver as they discover, or reaching again as they search consolation and reassurance. The caregiver’s job is to drag again as they discover and lean in once they’re feeling unsafe or troubled.

Toddlers want to have the ability to enterprise off and examine the unknown, safe within the information {that a} mum or dad is there to catch and luxury them in the event that they fall. Whereas writers aren’t toddlers, additionally they have to enterprise off, play, meander, and delight of their work whereas understanding one thing is there to catch them when doubts emerge, a venture veers towards collapse, or the work feels overly emotional or simply plain an excessive amount of.

So how can writers apply this concept to their work?

Construct a safe course of 

Your first activity is to decide on a course of to observe. Higher but, kind a bunch that may do that work with you. That approach, you’ve bought a posse to lean on when the predictable struggles observe.

It doesn’t matter if you choose the mannequin Allison Okay Williams shares in Seven Drafts, the experimental invites of Jane Alison’s Meander, Spiral, Explode, the journey Sue William Silverman takes you on in Acetylene Torch Songs, or the first-draft tips I supply in this publish. Decide one. Use the content material as your security web—no less than in your subsequent draft—however don’t be afraid to wander away by yourself.

When the inevitable doubts creep in, refer again to your security web. Take pleasure in its consolation and fall into its steerage. In case you’re nonetheless misplaced, discover what’s happening together with your writing group. Whenever you’re feeling extra grounded, wander away once more.

Construct your memoir’s construction

When you perceive what your story is about, you’re able to deal with your venture’s construction. A few of you’ll know precisely what this needs to be. In case you don’t, take into account whether or not a easy or complicated construction is greatest in your e-book. Some buildings, just like the three-act, will really feel like their very own security web, as a result of they ship a sure stage of predictability. The extra experimental you’re, the extra you could function that security web in your reader by actually understanding the story you’re making an attempt to inform and making certain that the construction you’ve chosen leads them within the course you’re hoping for.

After you’ve chosen a construction, be taught each the fundamentals and nuances of working with it in addition to the abilities wanted to efficiently execute it. As you do that, establish one or two exemplar texts to check, and be happy to choose one thing everybody’s raving about (it needn’t be a comp title in your work). As you mull over which construction is perhaps one of the best match, learn evaluations for these books to see what resonates with readers. Attend to the issues individuals say about how the e-book is structured or how the story unfolds.

Now, decide it aside. Map the key turning factors on word playing cards. Analyze the thematic threads woven by way of the narrative. Discover the beats the place inside change happens. Do the whole lot you’ll be able to to grasp its development.

In your subsequent revision, emulate this textual content’s construction. At this level, don’t fear if it’s an ideal match. Simply see if you happen to can mildew your content material into it utilizing word playing cards. After finishing this train, see if you happen to can increase, fracture, or break freed from this constraint to make it your personal. In case you get misplaced, or it feels such as you’ve damaged your e-book, return to the map you’ve created for the unique textual content and take a look at what you might need missed. When you’ve regained your footing, attempt once more.

If it nonetheless fails to work, or it feels such as you’re making an attempt to sturdy arm your story right into a construction that merely doesn’t match, cease. It is a signal that you just’ve chosen the incorrect construction.

Whereas this may seem to be additional work, this course of will can help you actually perceive your story and why a selected construction works. The extra religion you may have in your story’s construction, the extra you’ll turn out to be the protection web your reader is hoping for.


Find the Memoir Structure That Works for You with Lisa Cooper Ellison. $25 class. Wednesday, February 21, 2024. 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eastern.

Word from Jane: In case you loved this publish, be part of us on Wednesday, Feb. 21 for the web class Discover the Memoir Construction That Works for You.



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