Writing a Memoir: The Ultimate Selfie

Apparently, it’s simple. You flip the camera on your phone, extend your arm and snap away. It’s not so easy for me. It takes practice, a long arm and a certain degree of confidence.

Whether you love them or hate them, avoid them or post them, selfies are here to stay. ‘Selfie’ was even selected as word of the year for 2013 by Oxford Dictionaries

Selfie Culture

Selfies are also getting a lot of flak. People who post a lot of selfies have been accused of alienating people. They are said to be shallow and have low self-esteem because they need constant approval and are prone to superficial relationships. The selfie-obsessed seem to be down-right narcissistic. Some people go so far as to call them mentally ill. (Daily Mail)

On a more positive note, they are considered empowering. They give you an opportunity to express yourself and to show pride in your appearance. They can boost your confidence, but then you should guard against becoming dependent on the opinions of others. It also allows you to control your image. (TeenVougue)

Why selfies are like writing memoirs

A lot of the above descriptions can be applied to memoirs as well. Any well-adjusted person thinks twice before posting a selfie, but when it comes to writing a memoir it seems most of us are willing to have a go. With a selfie you can make sure your best side is showing, but with a memoir there is no place to hide. 50 000 words make lies and secrets tricky. You expose yourself in many ways and on so many levels.

I have met people who want to write a memoir to ‘bare all’. The funny thing is they avoid social media because they say it is egotistical or self-serving. Just think about that for a moment. Books are written with the hope that millions will read them. You will be exposing yourself to comment, compliment and ridicule just like the 'selfie-poster' you're berating. I am not saying you have to have a social media presence to write a memoir, but consider the similarities. Taking a selfie is also a lot easier than writing a memoir.

Three important questions to answer before writing a memoir:

  1. Has enough time passed? You can’t be too close to your story. You should give yourself enough time to heal. You can only write about pain once it has been dealt with. Until then, keep a journal, collect memories, make scrapbooks. You don’t know what is important yet.
  2. Why are you writing it? Writing a book because someone, a friend, a therapist, a spouse thinks you should is a bad idea. You must want to write it because you love writing more than anything else.
  3. Can you be honest? There is no Photoshop or Instagram filter for real life.

As with all things in life there is good and there is bad. There is too much and there is too little. Just think about why you are doing it and make sure you are comfortable with the reasons.

Feel free to post a Selfie and tag me. I’ll like it. I promise.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy The Top 12 Quotes On Writing Memoirs

Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

August 2014 - In Writing


Course

Description

Dates

Times

Writers Write

How to write a book

2,16,23,30

09:00-13:00

The Plain Language Programme   

Business Writing

26-27

08:30-16:30

The Social Brand

Social Media for Beginners

29

08:30-16:30

Short Cuts

How to write a short story

17

08:30-15:30

Event

Description

Date

Time

Saving Grace

Literary Dinner with Peter James

7

19:00-22:30

If you want more details on any of these, please email news@writerswrite.co.za

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

A Fabulous Resource for Writers - 350 Character Traits

Even if you adore your protagonist and loathe your antagonist, it is important to remember that nobody is perfectly good, or perfectly evil. Every character will have positive and negative personality traits. Make sure you have created real people rather than caricatures by giving your cast a selection of both.

I have compiled these lists to help you select the traits you need. Have fun, and happy writing.



 by Amanda Patterson

© Amanda Patterson

Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers Write, The Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Word Crimes by "Weird Al" Yankovic

If you have pet peeves about how people use English, this song is for you.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

The Inconsolable Writer - From Distraction to Inspiration in Four Easy Steps

As creative people, we seek out perfection—a story we want to tell, a sculpture we want to fashion, a photograph we want to take. Tennessee Williams called it inconsolability. That’s a word I like. 

We are restless, itchy, even a bit frustrated at times. It’s the stone in a shoe. The grain of sand that makes a pearl. This is often how a good story, film, or piece of music is formed. 

Jim. Why didn’t she love me back? Why is the world so dark without her? Why do I suffer? So Jim, a musician, sits down and tries to write a love song. He tries to make sense of his pain. But he’s blocked: he can’t do it.
In our search for this ideal state of art—let’s be brave and big and call it art—we often get side-tracked. Down blind alleys that seem to take us away from the thing we were looking for. Yet we go down these alleys. Maybe we think it’s a short cut, or the graffiti is fascinating or in the distance we hear a faint throb of music. We follow. 

Jim. Jim can’t write. In despair, he packs his bags and goes to Spain. It seems like a good idea. Here he meets lots of interesting friends. One—let’s call him Stieg—invites him to help out in a refugee camp in Africa. Jim is drawn into this world. Seeing real suffering makes him forget about the girl who didn’t love him back.
So now you are seemingly further away from the thing you want—the song, the poem, the story. You feel like you’re running away and maybe you are. Running away is never a bad idea—even if you play truant from work or escape into a good book. This alley is interesting, it draws you in. You want to know what’s on the other side.

Jim. Jim is on a connecting flight to London—he promised Stieg he’d meet him at a music concert. On the plane, he meets a girl. They get talking. She’s also going to the concert—there’s a connection. There’s a first date, first kiss, a night at his hotel. It’s a summer fling. It’s the best summer ever.
Sometimes the alley leads to a cul-de-sac. There’s nothing there. Other times it opens into an open field, a place of extraordinary light—an unexpected and magical door that takes you into a new world. 

Jim. Back in his home city, Jim sits, drinking a beer in his favourite café and the lyrics for the song come. He remembers the pain of the break-up but he can even smile at the absurdity of the relationship.
Now, if he didn’t write the song that would also be fine. Maybe Jim stayed in Africa and founded a mission—his distraction led him to the thing he was supposed to be doing in the first place. Maybe he created a way for music to heal people and bring them together. It doesn’t matter. He went down the alley—he went looking for something. 

Distraction is not the end of the world.
Taking a break from your creative project can lead to places of inspiration, insight and deeper experience. They may even help you find the truth—truth isn’t as clean as perfection, but everyone recognises its smell. It will be real.

 by Anthony Ehlers


Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. 
In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. 
In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - Writing courses for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to Communicate

Is it important to have an author platform?

Any author needs to have an author platform. It generates sales, it creates awareness, and it builds relationships for future sales. It also gives you credibility and establishes you as a serious writer. 

It is not only for authors who wish to self-publish. Authors who publish traditionally are also required to have an online presence. Social media interaction and blogging are large parts of the publicity strategy for the publisher. eBooks and eReaders have played a huge role in this. 

For any aspiring author it is something you need to establish as soon as possible. Your online presence is where you will direct publishers in your query letters and how you will reach readers if you wish to self-publish. Basically you want to build your following before you publish.

How do you start?

Your blog is your base; which other sites you choose to use is up to you. Spend some time on each one before you decide. You use your social media pages to direct your readers to your blog or website. You can set up a blog using any of the sites. It is free and easy. So easy even I could do it. I got stuck at stages, but Google, or a friend, could always help me out. For your author platform you should think carefully about the topic of your blog or website. You can use it as a showcase, as an informative site for other writers, as a place to express your creativity, or as a window into a writer’s life.

Authors who blog

There are so many, but I’ll mention a few, and what they do, here. 
Janet Fitch publishes a short story. Jane Porter gives us a glimpse into her writing life. Julia Quinn and Mary Balogh post encouragement and jokes and share their writing experiences with their followers. 
Michael RobothamAndrea CremerGeorge RR MartinJodi PicoultMargaret AtwoodCory DoctorowJackie Collins,Veronica Roth and Neil Gaiman interact with fans and share news of publications, book reviews and recommendations. 
John Green is a blogging legend. Paulo Coelho shares his life with his fans. Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner blog about anything that interests them and suits their Freakanomics brand. 
What to do is as varied as the books we write.

Which platform is right for you?

Social media can be daunting, but by spending time online you will soon be able to find a place where you are comfortable. Start by lurking. 

  1. Facebook and Google+ are a good first stop. Most people are on one of these already. It is almost non-negotiable. Facebook, because it is so big and Google+ because Google+ is Google and Google is the internet. You cannot ignore this platform. Facebook is no longer organic. It is a money game. Google+ is more organic, and you don’t have to pay to get your posts noticed in feeds.
  2. Twitter also drives traffic to your blog, but it is not everyone’s cup of tea. You either love Twitter or you hate it. Pinterest is my personal favourite, just because I like pretty pictures. I use it more as a creative base, writing being only one of the elements. Instagram is fun and a must if your writing has anything to do with fashion or if your work is very image driven like travel or photography.
  3. LinkedIn is good to keep your CV up to date. It is crucial if you write for payment, as in copy writing or ghost writing and for non-fiction writers who wish to establish their credentials on their topic. I believe every writer should have a Goodreads profile. Update books you have read, review books you’ve read and add books you’d like to read.

And then...

Regardless of which platforms you choose, find authors who also use them and follow them. Follow publishers and agents and booksellers. It will give you a good idea of what is going on in the industry. There is no one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to social media. It’s up to you to find your fit. 

An author platform is more important than ever before. For more information, advice and encouragement join me for The Social Brand workshop on Thursday, 31 July 2014.

 by Mia Botha

If you enjoyed this post, you'll love A Writer's Friends - how to build an author platform.

Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

Follow @Writers_Write

Writers Write - Write to communicate

How to write an irresistible book blurb in five easy steps

Your blurb will be an important part of your marketing. It is vital to get a reader’s attention. To write a good blurb, you have to make it short. Cut out sub-plots. Add tension to make it dramatic. Try not to mention more than two character’s names, and promise your audience a read they won’t forget.

I’ve come up with this easy acronym to help you create a blurb. I call it SCOPE. Follow these five pointers and see if it works for you.

Setting
Conflict
Objective
Possible Solution
Emotional Promise

  1. Setting: All stories involve characters who are in a certain setting at a certain time. 
  2. Conflict: A good story places these characters in a situation where they have to act or react. A good way to start this part of your blurb is with the words: But, However, Until
  3. Objective: What do your characters need to do?
  4. Possible Solution: Offer the reader hope here. Show them how the protagonist can overcome. Give them a reason to pick up the book. Use the word ‘If’ here.
  5. Emotional Promise: Tell them how the book will make them feel. This sets the mood for your reader.

    I saw The Edge of Tomorrow today, and I decided to write a blurb using this formula.

    Example

    1. London. The near future. Aliens have invaded Earth and colonised Europe. Major William Cage is a PR expert for the US Army, which is working with the British to prevent the invaders from crossing the English Channel. Battle after battle is lost until an unexpected victory gives humanity hope.
    2. But the enemy is invincible. A planned push into Europe fails and Cage finds himself in a war he has no way to fight, and he is killed. However, he wakes up, rebooted back a day every time he dies.
    3. He lives through hellish day after day, until he finds another soldier, Sergeant Rita Vrataski, who understands what he can do to fight the enemy. Cage and Vrataski have to take the fight to the aliens, learning more after each repeated encounter.
    4. If they succeed, they will destroy the enemy, and save Earth.
    5. This thrilling action-packed science fiction war story will show you how heroes are made and wars can be won. Against the odds.

    SCOPE will work for any blurb. Why don’t you try it?

    If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy How to write a query letter in 12 easy steps and How to write a one-page synopsis

     by Amanda Patterson

    © Amanda Patterson

    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature course, Writers Write, specializes in the teaching of fiction writing. 

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

    Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

    Follow @Writers_Write

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Writers Write Interview - Lauren Beukes

    Author: Lauren Beukes


    We enjoyed hosting South African author, Lauren Beukes. Lauren is the best-selling author of The Shining Girls

    Lauren was in Johannesburg to promote her latest novel, Broken Monsters. She was charming and irreverent. She believes we should be promiscuous in our reading and try different genres and authors. One of her latest favourite finds has been Jennifer Egan. Her down-to-earth writing advice also inspired us. As she says, 'There's no such thing as writer's block. There is such a thing as a big lump of fear and procrastination and the way to get through it is to chip away at it. Or sneak around it when the block’s not looking.'

    Date of Birth: 5 June 1976
    Date of Interview: 10 July 2014
    Place: Winehouse, Ten Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg
    The Book: Broken Monsters
    1. Who is your favourite hero of fiction?
    Halo Jones from The Ballad of Halo Jones, which is a science fiction comic strip written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson. I read this when I was 12-years-old and I loved the story of an ordinary girl doing extraordinary things. It has great social commentary.

    2. What is your most treasured possession?
    My daughter's toys, especially 'Puppy'.

    3. Which living person do you most dislike?
    There are so many. Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Clarkson, the president of Uganda. Generally, just stupid people doing stupid things. 

    4. What is your greatest fear?
    Failure.

    5. Who or what has been the greatest love of your life?
    My daughter. 

    6. What is your greatest regret?
    That I did not finish my Bachelor Of Arts degree. 

    7. If you could choose to be a character in a book, who would it be?
    Cace Pollard from Pattern Recognition by  William Gibson. Cace is a 32-year-old marketing consultant who has a psychological sensitivity to corporate symbols.

    8. Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
    Probably a selection of my daughter's favourite comics.

    9. What is your favourite journey?
    The 10 000 miles I travelled across North America in a VW Beetle in 1996 with my brother. We drove from San Diego to Vancouver to Toronto to New York. We avoided the mid-west and got stuck a lot. We even managed to get stuck in a little town called Hope. It was an incredible adventure.

    10. What is your favourite quotation?
    I don't have any particular one. 

    11. Dogs or Cats? Which do you prefer?
    Cats. Definitely. I have two.

    12. What do you most value in a friend?
    A sense of humour. Actually, more than that, irreverence.

    13. What quality do you most admire in a woman?
    The courage to pursue her dreams, and to kick back against society.

    Lauren Beukes and Mia Botha

    14. Which book that you’ve written is your favourite?
    I wouldn't tell any of my other children this, but I would have to say Zoo City. It is about Johannesburg and what it has meant to other people means a lot to me. 

    15. What are your favourite names?
    Cole - I love the name and I want to use it in a book. If anyone else uses it before me I will hunt them down and...
    Kirby

    16. What do you do as a hobby?
    I read. I walk on the promenade. I enjoy dinner parties with friends. I want to get back into boxing. It helps keep me fit and grounded.

    17. Which are your three favourite books?

    1. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
    2. Pattern Recognition by William Gibson
    3. The Ballad of Halo Jones by Alan Moore.
    18. Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
    Everywhere. I pick up the stompies of life and I hoard them. In South Africa, we have a great expression, “picking up stompies” (cigarette stubs) which means eavesdropping on snippets of a conversation and jumping to conclusions. I pick up a lot of stompies, from stuff I’ve read or seen or overheard or a news story or an advertising billboard or something half-glanced from the car windows – and I use that as a jumping off point.

    Anthony Ehlers and Lauren Beukes

    19. What is your Writing Routine?
    I avoid writing. I mess around on Twitter. I procrastinate. Then I feel sick that I haven't done anything. I turn on App Freedom (the best $10 you'll ever spend), which blocks me off from the Internet and I spend the afternoon writing. I write for two to three hours a day - more if I'm on deadline. I have an amazing nanny who looks after my daughter. I write every day.

    20. What are your Top Five Writing Tips?

    1. Finish the damn book. You don’t know what you have until you’ve finished it. You don’t know how to fix it until it’s all down on the page.
    2. There is no magical motivation fairy. Success is 10% talent, 10% luck, and 80% blood, sweat, tears and determination.  
    3. If you want to write you won't find the time, you will make the time. I wrote a novel at night when I had a three-month-old daughter and a full-time job.
    4. Remember that first drafts are always messy but you can fix them. 
    5. You learn how to write by writing. I found having a deadline worked well for me when I was studying creative writing at UCT.

    Follow this link for more photographs from the dinner with Lauren Beukes.

    Visit Lauren Beukes's Website to find out more. Follow Lauren on Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter.

    Interviewer: Amanda Patterson (Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter)

    Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature course, Writers Write, specializes in the teaching of fiction writing. More than 150 Writers Write students have been published.

    (We have started a new interview for guests called The Writers Write Interview. This is based on Amanda Patterson's old format of 17 Questions and Answers for Authors. We've added a few more to make it 20 Questions. We hope you enjoy it.)

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

    Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

    Follow @Writers_Write

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Three Top Tips for Writing for Social Media

    Writing for social media is all about engaging your audience, and showing your personality. It is a fun and effective way to talk about your business. If you communicate well on your networks, you will be successful.

    Here are three things you should remember before you write a word.

    1. The shorter the better

    Even if some platforms allow you to write a longer message, always share yours in the shortest, most effective length. Cut unnecessary padding words and phrases. Examples: nearly, very, really, almost, finally, in fact, I mean, what I wanted to say. Use sentence fragments. It adds a conversational tone and saves space.

    2. Make a scene

    Stand out. Get noticed. Offer something valuable. You could be sharing a link, giving advice, posting a quote, announcing an event, or asking a question. Whatever you do it must be of value to your audience. You also have to write that message in a way that makes your words sound exciting, intriguing, and irresistible.

    3. Be friendly

    Social media is about interacting. It is not necessarily about having a conversation, but you are sharing your product and your world with real people and you need to write conversationally. You need to be charming and you need to make friends. Do not use hype. Do not use jargon. Do not sound as if you are selling something. Do not lecture. Communicate. You would not use these tactics with real friends, why use them on social media?

    What is the most important thing to remember?

    You are not invisible. You are completely exposed on Social Media. So, look good, sound good, and be on your best behaviour. 

    If you want some help with social media marketing, enrol on our one-day workshop, The Social Brand, to find out how we do it. We will be in Johannesburg on 31 July 2014.


    © Amanda Patterson

    Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. She has more than 240 000 followers on social media. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter

    If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy All About BloggingThe Top Seven Tips for Writing Emails and A Writer's Friends - how to build an author platform.

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. To find out about Writers Write - How to write a book, or The Plain Language Programme - How to write for business, email news@writerswrite.co.za 

    Join us on Facebook and Twitter for daily writing tips

    Follow @Writers_Write

    Writers Write - Write to communicate