Are You Struggling with Your #Memoir Structure?

When should you start thinking about the structure of your memoir? Will an outline help? What are some tips to help you organize the memories of your lifetime into a coherent story that keeps the reader wanting to turn the page?

How do you start thinking about the structure of your memoir?

You already have all the information for your memoir, after all it’s your life! Now, it’s a matter of structuring and including the pieces that will best tell your story in a logical way. Otherwise you may have a jumble of wonderful chapters and scenes that are disconnected. It comes down to what to leave in and what to leave out.

What’s the Story?

The big question to ask yourself is—what is your memoir about? It’s not enough to know it’s about your life and your memories. How to connect the stories of your lifetime, which may seem unrelated, in a way that keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. Essentially, keep them turning the page.

Find Your Own Method

Everyone has their own writing method. Mine was to write a scene from memory that had to do with the larger story of my memoir—the plane crash and aftermath that changed the course of my life. I didn’t write an outline, but I applaud those who do. It may save you a good deal of time if you know the theme of your memoir, where you want to start and where you intend to end.  Even if you change course later on, this will give you a compass. I might have written Replacement Child in less than the four years it took me if I had more of an idea of where I was headed. That said, I’m not sure it was possible in my case. The writing of the book was such a journey of discovery for me.  When I began, for instance, I had not even heard of the term “replacement child” let alone applied it to myself. So, this is a long way around of telling you that it will be a very personal decision how to tackle the writing of your story.

The Virtues of an Outline

I will tell you that if you are hoping to sell your book, an outline is almost essential. Agents and publishers want to see sample chapters and then an outline of the whole book. If you bite the bullet early on and do an outline, you’ll be saving yourself a good deal of angst when you get that request from an interested agent or publisher that they want an outline tomorrow! Been there!

The Three Act Structure

I have heard it said that you can simplify your story into the three-act structure ala Aristotle. This may work for some of you, but I believe it’s a difficult fit for memoir. I won’t belabor the detail of that structure here—you can find many references to it on the web or various books about story structure. Or, you can simplify it further by just thinking about your memoir in terms of a beginning, a middle and an end.  If you know roughly what will be included in those three parts of your memoir, you’ll have a giant head start.

Visual Aids May Help

To show you just what a struggle it was for me to find my own structure for Replacement Child, take a look at the photos I took when I shuffled the index cards describing my chapters and re-arranged them on bulletin boards that lined my hallways.

Piecing it together
Piecing it together

After this attempt, and feeling that I had to have the ENTIRE chapter at my fingertips to find the story structure, I took over my porch with the full hard copy chapters.

reorderOur house turned into a giant book outline for a time while I obsessed about structure. I realize I could have done this on my computer with various software programs, but I had to have it in my hands for some reason. I’m the same way with proofreading my work, always revising in hard copy before I return to my computer.

I would love to hear about some of your methods of organization as you go about creating your memoir. There may be as many techniques as there are writers!

Are You Waiting for Someone to Die to Write Your #Memoir?

That’s my topic on my guest blog at The Memoir Project.

Thanks to Marion Roach for hosting me!

 

 

Reading and Discussion of my #Memoir #Replacement Child, November 12 at #JCC New Haven

Come join me tomorrow, November 12 at 11 am at the JCC New Haven for a reading and discussion of Replacement Child – a memoir. Hope you can make it!
JCC New Haven event flyer

#Memoir writing, publishing, essays and interviews over the past month

Image@ The Muffin

blog url: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/
specific url: http://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/2013/04/author-judy-mandel-launches-her-memoir.html

@ Words by Webb
Stop by to find out what Jodi has to say about Replacement Child, a memoir about complicated family dynamics, by Judy Mandel.
blog url: http://jodiwebb.com
specific url: http://jodiwebb.com/reviews/replacement-child/

@ CMash Reads
Don’t miss Cheryl’s take on Replacement Child, a memoir about love, loss, and family by Judy Mandel.
blog url: http://cmashlovestoread.com/
specific url: http://cmashlovestoread.com/2013/04/10/guest-author-judy-mandel-showcase-giveaway/

@ Choices
Hear from Madeline about her thoughts on Replacement Child, a memoir of growing up as the replacement child by Judy Mandel.
blog url: http://madeline40.blogspot.com/
specific url: http://madeline40.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-huge-welcome-to-author-judy-mandel.html

@ Tiffany Talks Books
Don’t miss Tiffany talking about her thoughts after readingReplacement Child by Judy Mandel. This is a great memoir about family and loss.
blog url: http://tiffanytalksbooks.com
specific url: http://tiffanytalksbooks.com/guest-post-replacement-child-by-judy-l-mandel/

@ All Things Audry

Stop by to learn more about Judy Mandel, author of the memoir about family, Replacement Child.
blog url: http://www.allthingsaudry.blogspot.com
specific url: http://allthingsaudry.blogspot.com/2013/04/welcome-judy-l-mandel-and-guest-post.html


@ Books I Think You Should Read
Liz takes a closer look at Replacement Child by Judy Mandel.
blog url: http://booksithinkyoushouldread.blogspot.com/
specific url: http://booksithinkyoushouldread.blogspot.com/2013/04/guest-post-judy-mandel-author-of.html

@ Mrs. Mommy Booknerd
Fact or Fiction? That’s the topic today with memoir writer Judy Mandel, author of Replacement Child.
blog url: http://mrsmommybooknerd.blogspot.com/
specific url: http://mrsmommybooknerd.blogspot.com/2013/04/blog-tour-with-wow-women-on-writing.html

@ Kristine Meldrum Denholm
Kristine interviews Judy Mandel, author of Replacement Child, and asks the fabulous question: How do you sell a self-published book to an agent/traditional publisher?
blog url: http://www.kristinemeldrumdenholm.com/
specific url: http://kristinemeldrumdenholm.com/blog/?p=3077

@ White Elephants
Find out what Chynna has to say about Replacement Child by Judy Mandel a memoir about life, loss, and love from a child born into a family that had suffered the loss of a daughter.
blog url: http://www.seethewhiteelephants.com/
specific url: http://www.seethewhiteelephants.com/2013_05_01_archive.html?m=0

@ National Association of Memoir Writers
Stop by to learn more about a riveting memoir, Replacement Child, and its author Judy Mandel.
blog url: http://www.namw.org/
specific url: http://www.namw.org/2013/05/wow-blog-tour-guest-an-interivew-with-judy-mandel-replacement-child/

@ Memory Writers Network
Enjoy an interview with writer Judy Mandel and discover why she felt the need to write her memoir, Replacement Child.
blog url: http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/

Specific url: http://memorywritersnetwork.com/blog/turning-tragedy-into-memoir/

 

Thanks to @tiffanytalksbooks and @booksIthinkyoushouldread for hosting my guest blog posts #RCmandel

wildflowers 1My thanks to two blog sites for hosting me this week.

Books I Think You Should Read hosted my blog:

How Writing Replacement Child Changed Me: http://tinyurl.com/dxksg2x

 

Tiffany Talks Books hosted my blog:

Club Replacement Childhttp://tinyurl.com/cfq6vnu

masthead

 

Recent updates for Replacement Child – a memoir

First, many thanks to Madeline Sharples, and her Choices blog for hosting me today for a guest post. I hope you’ll check it out!

You may also want to take a look at my ongoing blog on Psychology Today.

And, a couple of articles in Book Marketing Magazine. Check it out on iTunes–it’s a great new pub!

And here are some pics from some recent book happenings::IMG_0800IMG_0799IMG_0798IWWG

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Getting the Agent and Book Deal After Self-Publishing my Memoir

RC-final-cover-web-size8.jpgPeople have asked me how it happened. How my memoir, Replacement Child, was picked up by a traditional publisher after being self-published two years earlier. It was released in March from Seal Press/Perseus.

What’s Luck Got to Do With it?

Most authors don’t give any credence to luck, but they lie.  Luck has so much to do with everything. It was luck that I decided to put my book up on Barnes & Noble’s PubIt website in the summer of 2011. It was luck that I had met my incredible agent Rita Rosenkranz at a conference four years earlier. It was luck that I had knowledgeable colleagues to confer with to help me navigate my next steps.

Now for the Work

It was not luck that I attended many writer’s conferences prior to self-publishing, to figure out my best course of action. Those conferences gave me a good deal of valuable information about sending out queries, doing proposals and the ins and outs of approaching agents. I knew I wanted an agent and a traditional publisher, but I also knew that as an unknown memoirist, it would be a tough road. I gave myself a year to query agents, send out chapters when requested, to do my best to procure an agent. I wasn’t getting any younger.

When that year was over I had requests for partials and the entire manuscript from 50 agents. My query was working. About half of them showed interest in the book, but were wary of taking it on in the market at the time in 2008. Not a great year for any beginning endeavor. At that point I started looking at self-publishing and decided to form my own imprint to publish my book. I had been in marketing for twenty years and knew how to project manage any creative project. Although, looking back, I didn’t know exactly all of what I was taking on. I hired an editor, a designer and an online marketer to start.

I did a great deal of marketing for Replacement Child in 2009 and 2010 when I first self-published the book. I went on a nationwide book tour at my own expense, visiting bookstores that would have me in towns where I had friends or family to put me up.  It was a great adventure really, and a chance to see people I normally don’t get to visit.  Some of the stops were great, where I was able to get some advance publicity. And some were terrible where only one person showed up for a reading. C’est la vie.

The online blogging community was very receptive and I am very grateful to them for their support with reviews and guest blogs. Review copies were sent out to blog reviewers before the book was released, to bloggers that had reviewed memoirs in the past.

Local media was receptive, and I had articles in my local papers in my town in Connecticut, and did readings at local libraries.  I had several radio interviews, both for blog radio and traditional stations. I joined organizations and took advantage of opportunities to speak and do readings whenever possible. Replacement Child also garnered several awards for self-published books, including a National Indie Excellence Award and a Writer’s Digest award.

By the summer of 2011 I had sold about 2,000 print books and a few hundred ebooks on Amazon. It’s very hard to say which marketing tactic worked best, but all combined produced this modest success. I decided to list the eBook on the Barnes & Noble site in July and was encouraged to see that they had picked it for a featured book of the month. I credit that pick for bringing more awareness to the book.

Surprise, Surprise

Just after I listed the eBook for that last shot, I wound up in the hospital. My book was the farthest thing from my mind that fall, knowing I had to go back for surgery in a few months. It was Christmas when I noticed some weird deposits in my bank account online.  Again, I absolutely forgot that I had arranged direct deposit for the eBook sales. It turned out I was selling between four to five thousand eBooks a month. I wasn’t Grisham, but I was selling many books.

That’s when I contacted Rita Rosenkranz and we talked about whether it made sense to approach a publisher. I was grateful for her wise counsel that helped me think through the decision. In the end, I felt that that there was still a measure of credibility in having a traditional publisher. Reviews come more easily and you are taken more seriously.  That is changing, but I believe it is still widely the case. After considering the pros and cons, I told her I would like to try if she was up for it. She sold it very quickly to Seal Press.

Find more information about Replacement Child.

This post previously appeared on Jane Friedman’s blog, Writing on the Ether.

Reviews and Blog Tour News for Replacement Child – a memoir

April is off to an incredible start, with a new review in Publishers Weekly, and the start of a blog tour.

Check out the review in Publishers Weekly–so exciting!

Nonfiction Review- Replacement Child- A Memoir by Judy L. Mandel. Seal, $16 (224p) ISBN 978-1-58005-476-8

 

 

 

 

And, my blog tour starts today with Women on Writing.

 

On #Replacement Child, Writing, and Hearing Your #Memoir Story

Wildflowers 2In the past week, I’ve been contacted by people who were touched by my book, Replacement Child, my writing here and on my Psychology Today blog. Some are replacement children, and we seem like long lost relatives when we compare notes. Some have had relatives who were challenged physically, or disfigured in some way. A brother, a father, a sister. Some are struggling to dig up memories that illuminate their own memoirs.

I am grateful for these connections for many reasons. First, for the growing community of replacement children that seems to be springing up like multi-colored wildflowers; distinctly separate but of the same seed. We talk about our families and at some point in the conversation there is always one “aha” in our experience that we share so completely that I get goose bumps. A mother’s overprotection, a father’s rejection, a dream un-pursued, a love lost to indiscretion or withdrawal.

People who are the “other” in their family, for whatever reason have a great deal in common. An adopted child, now an adult, tells me she still feels that otherness in her life. And, those of us who assign ourselves as protector of a loved one who is different – whether physically or mentally, know that we can’t always lay the reeds down flat in the grass for them to pass unscathed. We, nevertheless, keep imagining how we could have done a better job at it.

The writers of memoir are all wrestling with synapses of memory. Molding and ordering disjointed scenes into a sculpture that reflects their journey. Discovering where the journey began and where it has led is sometimes the function of their writing, as it was for me. I offer some tips to anyone who asks, things that worked for me while writing Replacement Child. But, always with the caveat that everyone needs to find their own method. While some writers need a strict schedule, others recoil at that discipline. Many like outlines; others would rather put a pin in their eye. One constant, I believe, is to have other eyes evaluate the work and give advice. I’ll stick to that one.

As I start to have some book related appearances in the coming months, I am looking forward to talking to more of you who relate to my story, or are writing your own. Come talk to me if you are in the audience at any of these conferences or bookstore events coming up. Or write to me here. I promise you I am interested.

A Psychoanalyst’s View of the Replacement Child

butterfliesRecently, I had the good fortune of speaking at length with psychoanalyst Kristina Schellinski about her in-depth work with replacement children in her practice.

Kristina Schellinski has an M.A. in Political Science and Literature. She worked for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in New York and Geneva from 1983-1998 and received her Diploma as Jungian Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist from the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich in 2002. She practices as a Jungian Analyst in Geneva, Switzerland. She is a training analyst and supervisor at ISAP (International School of Analytical Psychology), Zürich and a member of IAAP, AGAP, ASP and EAP, the Swiss and European Association of Psychotherapists, and a founding member of the Rencontres Jungiennes at Lavigny, Switzerland.

Judy: Thanks so much for sharing some of your insights with my readers. I understand that you have done a great deal of research on replacement children; children who are born after the death of another child in the family. Can you explain what brought you to the subject, and why you feel it’s an important topic to research and write about now?

K.S.: Being born after the death of another child may be a very special experience; depending on the circumstances, this may mean being born in the shadow of death of another human being, whereby one’s own life may slowly over a lifetime reveal itself as being overshadowed by the “presence of the absence” of the other.

Whether the joy of the newborn – or the sorrow of the one who was lost before, will be in the foreground of the consciousness of the parent, in the unconscious of the child there is the other who was not – and who she or he is to replace. Yet if she or he replaces that other child who died before, he or she is not really himself or herself…  This is the existential dilemma of the replacement child.

I have found many persons suffering from the replacement child syndrome, sometimes even in the second or third generation, i.e. those born to replacement children, or even their grandchildren, still may carry this special type of suffering in their soul.

I discovered this in the late stages of my training as an Analytical Psychologist at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zürich.

Judy: Do you have any personal experience as a replacement child, or with replacement children?

K.S.:  I was born six months after my baby-brother died of an undiagnosed appendicitis at the age of two. I knew this fact, growing up, but I only started to understand it meant for my own life and my relationships during my analysis when  training to become a psychoanalyst.  Research in the 1960 with children rescued from the Holocaust had first identified the specific suffering of the replacement child.

Judy: How about in your own practice? I understand that you have treated replacement children. Have you found similarities among them as to the issues they face? What are some of them that you find most often?

K.S.:  I have worked with many adult replacement children in my practice, and with children of replacement children and even with grandchildren of replacement children.  When we try to imagine the terrible loss the parents suffer when loosing a child, we can but begin to imagine the effect this may have on their attachment to a child born thereafter.

Judy: Do you find that parents are aware that they are having, or have had, a replacement child? And do they usually prefer the term ‘subsequent child?’

K.S.:  In my experience, it depends on the grieving process, whether the parents were able to have help and receive empathy and understanding and whether there was enough time between the loss of the child and a new child being born.  Sometimes, the grieving may have been so hard, that the awareness is not there, is dissociated or cut off together with the unbearable grief over the loss.  “Subsequent” child may be a term which recognizes that no human being can truly replace another one; each human being is unique. Yet, the term “subsequent” still evokes the presence of the other.

Judy: Can you talk about the spectrum of issues you see with replacement children? Some who may have more issues than others, and why there is that difference?

K.S.:  Each person, also each replacement child is unique, also in their suffering.  There may be some issues that are faced by many: such as the quest for their true identity, feelings of survivor’s guilt, difficulties in their own relationships, their attachment patterns… Their level of awareness, and the degree of consciousness of the parents may also play a role.

Judy: Are there measures that you believe parents can take to minimize any potential negative effects of having a child subsequent to another child’s death? What would you advise parents to look out for?

K.S.: First and foremost, the parents are advised to live through their grief as consciously and completely as humanely possible, hopefully assisted. Leave enough time between the loss of a child and a new conception.  Watch your fantasies and images, that they may not merge the two.  Do not name the new child with the same name, or any recall to the name of the lost child.  Be mindful of the unique new being that will be born and that is not to replace anyone – but just to develop to the fullest potential possible of his or her own new life.

Judy: Are there any surprises as yet with your research? Things about replacement children or their parents that you did not expect?

K.S.: What has surprised me in the beginning was the level of unconsciousness about this issue – of the replacement child or their parents; later on, what surprised me is that one can still find traces of this two, three generations later.

The most wonderful surprise – if I may call it that, is that the soul of a replacement child will try and find a way to resurrect, to come into being, to rediscover – from under the ashes of a replacement-like existence – the true originality which may once have been lost.  Seeing how an individual may rediscover the inalienable self that was once smothered by the others’ shadowy memory is like a miracle which never ceases to amaze me in practice.

Judy: What is your advice to those who discover that being a replacement child may have had a negative effect on their life?

K.S.: Do seek good counseling! Try to understand yourself, your life.  This is one promising way of discovering who you really are, of stepping into your own life.