How to make the choice Memoir vs. Novel?
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 This is something I've given a lot of thought to in the past 24 hours. Currently, my manuscript is written as complete non-fiction. The positive is that the story is one of those where "truth is stranger than fiction" so it is unique and exciting on its own accord. The drawbacks are twofold:

1) I was restricted in writing style. I'm a sensing person. I feel everything in my bones. The girl whose story I told is not. Her story is an amazing journey, but I was limited in the way I told the story by my desire to be true to her voice.

2) I'm a first time author and don't have a desire to establish a global platform as an advocate. I just have an amazing story to tell, that's all. But because it has the words stamped on it nonfiction I'm having to jump through the same hoops as true nonfiction writers who give talks on radio shows and lead seminars.

All this to say I'm considering the merits of starting over and re-writing the book as a novel based on a true story. What about your work? What made you decide to go Memoir or a Fictionalized account of a true story? Here's a really great article I just read that might help you sort it through BEFORE you are firmly on a path one way or the other.

  • Great article- thank you for sharing it. These are all points that I have been struggling with. The memories are mine but are they accurate? Do I want to alienate family members? If it becomes a work of fiction, do I lose my voice somehow? I am not sure yet what I want to do and perhaps I do not need to make the decision now.
  • After reading this, I am highly considering writing a memoir. I did not grow doing what I wanted to do and that struggle could spark a few pages here and there.
  • I would like to write my memoir as a memoir, but I don't know if I can legitimately do it. My coping mechanism of choice for the stresses of a difficult childhood was "lost time." I learned unconsciously to block memories that are painful and/or difficult to deal with.
  • I'm writing a memoir, and have toyed with the idea of making it a novel. I've already changed all the characters' names, including my own, and the places, as there are some people I mention who I know will be angry at my representation of them. But I still think I may do the novel "based on a true story" in the end. Have you made any progress on your quest? I'd be interested to know what you decide.
  • Thanks, Debi, quite a solid message! I actually was inspired to send out my query on a whim a the suggestion of Joan (in this group). I used this website: Agent Query and searched for agents who were accepting nonfiction/multi-cultural queries. I e-mailed my query to a BUNCH of agents! Hope this helps. :)

  • Wow, Shelagh! That's a pretty solid message you received. I'm so glad! Perhaps it's partially a message for me as well, since I've not even gotten close to looking for representation -- how did you get this agent?

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Debi! I agree that in your situation it is very clear that Memoir is the way to go! Thanks also for the book recommendation! Interestingly, I received an offer for representation by an agent last night who is very excited the book is "true" and a Memoir! So just when I was contemplating re-working everything, I received confirmation that it will find a home just as it is. This is making me think more about the importance of finding a good fit for our vision when it comes to agents/publishers....much like finding a good spouse or friend! I sense a blog post coming on. ;)

  • Shelagh, that's an interesting conundrum. I am lucky to be telling my own story, with all the knowledge I need to get through it myself, and a great interest in whatever circus could follow it that might create real change in the world. For you, I wonder if there is anything you could learn from Dave Eggers' book "Zeitoun" and however he went about publicizing it. I don't know how he did it, but I see some obvious parallels in your approaches.