People often tell me they are writing a memoir. Here’s some fantastic advice from Susan Shapiro, on the New York Times Opinionator blog.

Are you writing about “falling off the cliff”? If so, great. And if so, make sure you are avoiding the “litany of bitterness.” What’s your change? What’s your metamorphosis?

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Susan Shapiro, on the NY Times Opinionator Blog, offers an excellent take on an issue that often befuddles beginning nonfiction writers, fascinates editors  and readers, and underlies many (not all) successful book-length memoirs.  Here is a taste, and a link to the full essay:

The author Phillip Lopate complains that the problem with confessional writing is that people don’t confess enough. And I agree. The biggest mistake new writers make is going to the computer wearing a three-piece suit. They craft love letters about their wonderful parents, spouses, children and they share upbeat anecdotal slices of life. This rarely inspires brilliance or self-insight. Drama, conflict and tension are more compelling, especially when the piece starts with your “I” narrator about to fall off a cliff (metaphorically, of course). It’s counter-intuitive  but qualities that make you likable and popular in real life – good looks, wild success, happy marriage, lovely home, healthy…

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