Writer’s homework

My book Coach Annie sent me ‘homework’ to do regarding my Memoir and I wanted to share my answers with you…because…why not?

(just quietly, I am an attention whore and love it).

Here you go:

Writing exercises:

What is your memoir’s working title? Why did you choose it? What other titles have you considered? Why did you choose them? Why do they not fit? 

Photo by Tembela Bohle

The first title I thought of was “Jane Bevan is a knob” purely because Alun and I think it’s funny.

Alun was on Facebook one evening and posted a picture of a brown snake (really dangerous here in OZ) he’d seen in the bushes – on a Facebook group about animals. Some random woman commented “I have a fear of snakes – you should think before posting offensive pictures”. Alun responded with a laughing emoji and put “You’re a knob” and we both laughed about how EVERYTHING is offensive to SOMEBODY these days. Even an innocent photo of a snake.

I pictured that title on a paperback book and was pleased. If I was in a store, that would attract my attention – who is Jane Bevan and why is she a knob? I like the irreverence of it and I like also that it’s an ‘in joke’ between Alun and I that would be sold in bookstores around the world.

I also changed the title when I was going through a particularly deep depression to “22 storeys” because I was on a rooftop considering jumping off one day only a few months ago. I thought if I named my Memoir “22 storeys” it could have the picture of a building on the front – and include 22 chapters – or STORIES – inside it. I thought that was really clever. I liked it.

Once I’d “properly finished” my Manuscript, though – the theme of “Adversity” came up so much in each chapter that I wanted the title to reflect that. I changed it to “The First pancake” because for most people, the first pancake is the ‘test one’ that isn’t as nice as the pancakes that come afterwards. I created an introduction that explained that concept and explained the chapters and the ‘takeaway’ at the end.

I’ve since changed it back to “Jane Bevan is a knob” because I’m in a psych ward right now – and looking for ANYTHING to make me smile.

It’s interesting how our moods affect our viewpoints on books and their titles, hey?

What is your memoir about? Be thoughtful, but brief.

My memoir is about all the times something hurt me deeply and had a big impact upon my life and how I navigated through that situation. I ultimately wanted to leave a ‘road map’ behind for anyone else who was struggling. Maybe they could learn from my mistakes and have less heartache? As time goes on though, I am more and more convinced that this memoir is me speaking to my 5-year-old self and saying “It’s okay, little one…I’ve got you”.

Who are you writing your memoir for? Explain.

I wanted to write my Memoir for all the outcasts, the lonely, the ‘weirdos’ that ache to be included. I wanted people who are hurting to see themselves in my stories and feel less alone. If I can reach one person…if I can ‘touch’ one person and have them think “Gee…I don’t feel so damn alone now – this person really gets it” …then I’ll consider my book a success. I really will.

My memoir is for all the ‘unfavourites’ in families (I did my research on Facebook – there are A LOT of us out there and their stories were heartbreaking), the ones constantly getting fired from jobs, the people constantly moving homes/being re-homed, the people struggling with mental illness…those people are my tribe. It is my pleasure to write something for them and be their voice when maybe they’ve been ordered to be silent.

What do you expect from writing and publishing your memoir? Really dig deep here

I expect healing and a sense of much-sought-out closure for the 5-year-old in my heart that doesn’t understand why she wasn’t worthy of the love her younger sibling got. That’s the truth of it right there. Obviously I hope for great sales and to ‘go viral’ due to the books’ awesome success, but mostly I just want to write it and see it published so there is a record I was here. I existed. That 5-year-old who got erased…SHE EXISTED, too. That is critical to me in this process.

Who do you want your audience to be? Describe your target readers in detail. Age, gender identity, physical appearance, location, occupation, marital and family status, mannerisms and traits. Describe at least 3 target readers.

Ideally I’d like to cast my net fairly wide net on this.

I hope my book appeals to 20-year-olds looking for jobs and hoping for homes of their own, trying things out for the first time and getting into their first serious relationships.

I hope my memoir appeals to 30-year-olds who are finding their place in the world with so much more responsibility and work than they ever expected. The ones who are “still single” when all their friends are married – the ones struggling to ‘keep up’ with a lot of family expectation to meet and no one there to support them so that they can reach the high bars set before them.

I hope this book reaches 40-year-olds who are working and are in relationships that cause great joy as well as grief. The ones having to set boundaries between their parents and friends while at the same time holding down full-time jobs and trying to keep everything together without losing their minds.

I hope this memoir touches the hearts of the people no-one else chose for sports in school because I was one of them – and that shame? it doesn’t rub off – no matter how successful you may grow up to be.

What do you think it means to write in your authentic voice? What are the benefits? What are the risks? 

I think to ‘write in my authentic voice’ is to lay myself bare before readers – no covering up the ‘bad bits’ but letting a reader into my world – warts and all. To have a ‘voice’ that is uniquely mine – one that feels like the book was written just for that reader – that’s my goal.

The Benefits:

Close, lasting connection with the reader so they’ll want to keep turning the pages and be rooting for me (Woohoo!)

Allowing my world to be shared globally

Creating a unique quality to my writing because no one else can write the way I do. It’s special.

The Risks:

  • Getting too close to the material.
  • Too much ‘telling’ and no ‘showing’, making for a boring book that’s all “look at me, look at me” and not fun to read.
  • Not everyone likes my voice in real life – that can also be the case with my ‘author’s voice”
  • My memoir is not going to be liked by ‘everyone’ and the rejection is going to hurt because this book is so personal. I can’t point to ‘characters’ and a Fictional world and take criticism ‘on the chin’ – this is someone looking at my LIFE and calling it ‘rubbish’ which is going to hurt a lot.
  • People recognising themselves in my book even though I’ve changed names and physical descriptions and wanting to sue me. I say GO AHEAD. I have facts here and in many cases, can back up my stories with solid proof…so…yeah.

How is the experience for the reader different when a piece is written in second person from when it’s written in first or third person? 

Hmm this is a tough one as I don’t have a full understanding of “third person” and will have to look it up on Google haha.

First person is much more “up close and personal” which I really appreciate as a reader and enjoy immensely as a writer. 2nd person seems to suit fiction more, I think…it seems out of place in a Memoir. I could be wrong about that and am open to hearing new ideas on this one.

3 responses to “Writer’s homework”

  1. I think your book is important because it will show parents or potential parents how horrible favouritism is and how it can affect someone’s whole life. It will make them more aware of their own actions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so, Shanti. When I asked on a Facebook forum about it, the answers I got were so heartbreaking from so many others who suffer the same fate. Favouritism has really f**ked some people up – for life. Parents need to be open about this and have conversations about this with their kids. It’s vital.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Favouritism is never ok …it truly messes one up ..it’s heartbreaking for the unfortunate child.

        Liked by 1 person

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