Simone-Says Has a Question

Have a question like Simone? Well then email it! Okay! Let’s focus on Simone!

Dear Memoirista:

My question relates to your comment about focusing on a specific time period or situation. I’m struggling to find my hook because my memoir begins with my childhood, growing up in an alcoholic home and how my upbringing affected my teen years and adult years – specifically with my own addictions and the men I loved… (I had a bad picker). I’m 6 years sober, so I’m looking back with sober eyes.

In your opinion, does this concept work? Maybe if I handled each chapter as a self-contain story? Or is it too much subject matter? Or should I pick one relationship, “The Year I Fell Madly in Love with a Madman?” and stick to that situation, adding in parts of my past?

I appreciate any suggestions, comments, advice you can send my way. Seriously – your word is bond. I’m holding off on starting my edits because I value your guidance tremendously. But no pressure… 😉

Thank you (so much),

Dear Simone:
Thanks for writing. This is tricky business indeed (as memoir writing tends to be), and there’s nothing tougher than picking and choosing what to put in and what to leave out. I totally understand your quandary. You mention two totally different structures. . . the short, almost-a-story-in-a-chapter kind of situation (very much like Kirk Read’s How I Learned To Snap, which is GENIUS by the way) – and then a completely different Year In The Life with back flashes kind of thing. . . . VERY DIFFERENT. This makes me think you need to sit back, and consider a few things:

1) What kind of writing shows of your strengths?
2) What kind of writing do you LIKE to do?
3) What new stuff are you adding to your genre? IE What’s your hook?

Overall, Memoirista is diagnosing a structure problem (I know, you already knew that and are thinking DUH, seriously, are you going to help me or what?). Don’t panic. I am going to help. I think you need to list out the “five new things you bring to the table” from chapter four. I think pondering for a spell about which of these two styles is a better fit for your style, voice, writing ability and material should help guide you. What is is about you and YOUR story that we should get excited about? Make a list! See how what you come up with guides you to a structure.

And if you’re still feeling like you have too much stuff, ask yourself those hard questions. Seriously, is this interesting to anyone other than me? Does this need to STAY IN THE JOURNAL?
I hope that sheds some light. . .

Memoirista. . .

There’s another memoir WEBINAR happening this Thursday, September the 22nd at 1pm. The topic? Write a Memoir That Sells: How to Use Voice, Structure and Platform to Draw Readers to Your Story

Here’s the info. You get a critique of your query letter and the first 1,500 pages of your memoir by me!
Here’s the link to the registration page. . .



Filed under Chapter Four

7 responses to “Simone-Says Has a Question

  1. As much as I would LOVE to have you critique 1500 pages, do you mean 1500 words?


  2. That Nolen Chick is right. Um, yeah, 1,500 words not pages. Clearly I need to re-read the chapter on proof reading! Thanks!

    • Her book is great! I’ve got all sorts of stuff underlined, highlighted, and (best of all) put into practice in my life. I have a huge paper above my desk with my goals, timelines, and, most importantly, a date circled in red. My deadline.

      Seriously, though. Out of the handful of books I’ve read about “how to write your memoir,” this one is at the top of the heap. Paula is very real with her writing, not condescending at all, and gives great real-world advice.

  3. @heatherlambie has MADE my day!

  4. Debu

    I also have a similar story, like (Simone-Says) and I’ve been struggling with my hook, voice and structure, but your book “Writing & Selling your Memoir” has really helped me. My childhood was awful, which lead to several years of substance abuse, then confinement; At the time, it was a horrible experience, but while I was confined, I met my husband through the mail, who was in the same position. We were released two weeks apart, married 6 months later, and now it’s been 23 years. I am now a successful entrepreneur. I’m a beginner at this writing biz and intimidated to write this story. I’ve considered using a pseudonym. What’s your thought on using pseudonyms when writing a memoir?

  5. After reading “Writing and Selling Your Memoir” my approach to writing my memoir completely changed. I didn’t have a solid hook, structure or flow to my story (hence my question above – that I sent to Paula prior to reading the book. yes, I’m terribly impatient). I followed Paula’s suggestions, did the exercises, took a few hundred deep breaths and went back to the beginning.

    I’m actually enjoying the editing process (crazy, right?) and my story is starting to dance!

    Paula’s book was a game changer for me. I recommend it to all of my writer friends, even if they aren’t working on a memoir. The information is incredibly helpful and Paula’s voice is brilliantly humorous.

    Now I need to figure out how to grow my currently tiny platform into one of abundance (miracle, anyone?). There’s an entire chapter on this dreaded topic, so I feel somewhat hopeful.


    Simone of Simone Says…

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