Writing Tips Season 3 Episode 10: Why This Matters

Our season finale, a reminder of why you wanted to write this in the first place.

Writer friend,

Welcome to my free creative writing newsletter. This is the last newsletter in season three (memoir) and we are talking about why you’re writing a memoir in the first place and why you need to finish it.

This entire season, like the previous two, has been free. If you’ve enjoyed these free writing tips, there are ways you can support me that I will list really quickly for you:

1) Buy my memoir, Brown Baby: A Memoir Of Race, Family And Home. Here are links to places you can get it if you don’t have a preferred retailer

2) Subscribe to the Brown Baby podcast, which is my weekly parenting podcast. Recent guests include Nadiya Hussain, Meera Syal, Jay Sean, Himesh Patel, Courttia Newland, Kit de Waal and more.

3) If you’ve already done 1 + 2, please consider plugging both of them on your social media, Twitter or Instagram, and leaving a review on your retailer/podcast hub of choice.

4) Alternatively, I do have a tip jar here at Ko-Fi. You can buy me a coffee (I drink a lot of coffee). Or buy one of my previous books.

5) Please share this newsletter on social media and encourage subscriptions!

Thank you for any and all support. I appreciate it so much. It allows me to keep this creative writing newsletter and the podcast free. Good luck writing your memoir and I look forward to seeing you in season four, later this year.

WRITING TIP: WHY YOUR STORY MATTERS

One of the things that can act as a barrier as we move through our memoirs is this persistent feeling: why am I doing this? Will anyone care? It’s a very real feeling. Don’t ignore it. I don’t want to minimise the feeling of how a book might be received by its readers. But I do want to say this: it’s the least important thing in the world right now.

What matters, is that you write this story because you feel like you need to tell it, and you feel like a version of you needs to read it at a specific time in your life.

Your first draft is for you. Subsequent drafts can move you towards a wider readership. But this first draft, especially of a memoir, it is solely with you as the reader in mind.

Instead of asking yourself if anyone will care, let’s unpack the question: why am I doing this?

There are three things to consider here.

1) As a person, who has been through something, who needs somewhere to record it, process it and understand it, seek closure on it and name the pain, as it were, you can find writing an incredibly cathartic and beautiful process.

2) As a writer, whose natural curiosity leads you to ask big questions of the world, of the self, your memoir can do both of these things and you use your own story to interrogate something within yourself.

3) As a reader, who might feel alone, like an outsider, like someone who is not truly understood, a memoir can exist to offer a balm, a connection, a sense of togetherness. And so, you as the writer can help you as the reader through something.

Don’t worry about the publishing machine, about literary agents, about readers and GoodReads reviews, about advances and publicity plans and covers and titles. All that matters right now is that you tell this story. You feel a compulsion in you to get it down on to paper. Trust that this is enough right now. The rest? It’ll come once you’ve finished that first draft, and put your story down as you need to tell it in order to process it. Subsequent drafts can tease out themes and characters and tone and style and what’s interesting to other readers and what’s not. Right now, this first draft belongs to you and you only. And that is ok.

Write the book you need to read. That is all that matters right now. The rest will come. You control who reads your memoir, when they read it and what reason they’re reading it for, be it a literary agent or other readers. Books take a long time to finish. Give this the time it needs for you to write it properly. Don’t rush it. If you want this book to exist forever and resonate with readers, you need to give it, and you, time to breathe. Also, controversially, I would consider finishing your memoir and editing it to a high standard before sending it to literary agents. I know that non-fiction submissions can be judged on proposals and extracts. But given you know a lot of the work that needs to go into this memoir, having lived it, getting it to a high standard so you realise your vision for what this book can be will lift it as a submission to literary agents. Also, you tend to find the rhythm, tone, voice and style of a book a way into it, so writing three chapters and being done might mean you don’t show off the full potential of this book.

You are undertaking a huge personal thing. You do not need external voices yet. All you need is to show up, on the page, and speak your truth.

WRITING PROMPT:

Remember in week one I made you answer these questions?

Why am I writing this story?

What will writing it do for me?

What will writing it do for readers?

What is the emotional truth at the heart of my story?
What is the bigger conversation this is contributing to?

What is the cost of me not writing it?

Why am I writing now?

Well, re-read your answers. And get writing. You need you.

Right, that’s enough for this season.

Thank you for sticking with me this far. If you enjoyed the last ten weeks of free writing tips, please do pick up a copy of my memoir, ‘Brown Baby’, which is one of the most hopeful memoirs you’ll read that came out in 2021. Again, I’d really love it if you picked this book up. Sorry to harp on but putting a book out in lockdown is hard and stressful. You don’t have as many opportunities to promote the work you put everything into. If each of you subscribing to this newsletter clicked on one of the below links and bought the book between now and Saturday, I would top the bestseller charts. Which would have a huge impact on so many hidden parts of the book industry. So please do add to cart.

1) Buy my memoir, Brown Baby: A Memoir Of Race, Family And Home. Here are links to places you can get it if you don’t have a preferred retailer

2) Subscribe to the Brown Baby podcast, which is my weekly parenting podcast. Recent guests include Nadiya Hussain, Meera Syal, Jay Sean, Himesh Patel, Courttia Newland, Kit de Waal and more.

3) If you’ve already done 1 + 2, please consider plugging both of them on your social media, Twitter or Instagram, and leaving a review on your retailer/podcast hub of choice.

4) Alternatively, I do have a tip jar here at Ko-Fi. You can buy me a coffee (I drink a lot of coffee). Or one of my previous books.

5) Please share this newsletter on social media and encourage subscriptions!

Love

Nikesh