Memoir writing: editing your memoir



Part 4 in the series ‘ who wants to read about you’. By Linda J Pifer, author of Windows and Violet Hopes.

So you’ve written it!  Congratulations, you’re already ahead of every person who’s ever thought of writing their memoirs but for one reason or another, never did.  You should at this time have exhausted your inner resources; those things you stored away for years and recalled as you wrote.  You’ve used up every piece of memorabilia and chosen your favourite pictures that the story is based upon.  You’ve spoken with those who know the stories and received the true facts.  Take a break!

Yes, at this point walk away and leave the written pages to stew in their own juices.  Go someplace besides your desk; play solitaire, cook a new recipe, and touch base with your family and friends.  I will allow a field trip to the local library or to Aunt Rose’s to find new info on that tattoo for the book, since it would include a change of scenery.  You should be able to sleep for at least a week without waking up to think of a new chapter or the mistake you made in chapter nine, before returning to your desk.

Put your software in charge when it comes to spell-check, sentence structure, comma use, and fragments

When you return, do a read-through of your work and correct any of the following items you notice: punctuation, sentence structure, repetitive use of words, overuse of ‘ing’ and ‘was’, overuse of descriptive adverbs, lovingly, quickly, slowly, etc.  I am not the expert on language use, that’s why I seek out others to do read-overs and the final edit.  If you feel confident after the first read you’ve captured most mistakes, put your software in charge when it comes to spell-check, sentence structure, comma use, and fragments and I’ll bet you’ll see a lot you didn’t notice.  It’s okay; we’re all built that way.  Our brains process the sentence whether it’s spelled correctly or not just as we can read messaging and texting on our phones.  After reading your story several times, your brain becomes numbed to most mistakes and passes them over.  For that reason, limit your reads to two and then stop.  You can take another break and make more reads with some success, but at this point you have decisions to make:

  1. If you have objective, non relatives at your disposal who have time to read over your memoir and mark it up with suggested corrections, take advantage; you are so lucky to have them available!  My mentor was my mother-in-law, a retired school teacher with a hard grasp on the English language.
  2. You may know other writers through a professional group or social network who will do a read-over and even offer suggestions for corrections or improvement in the story flow.
  3. There are unlimited numbers of editors, and copy editors on the Internet for a fee.  Yes, it is scary that they’re total strangers – use caution. I suggest you follow a few blogs and ask as many questions as you need before committing to their service.  Pay attention to what they feel is important; their techniques, terms, experience and training, and what the service will cost you. **

Apply for registration of copyright

As a precaution before sending work anywhere outside the family, I always apply for registration of copyright.  The fee is $55 here in the U.S. and the application is registered ‘Received’ with approval taking several weeks to months.  You get confirmation by email as soon as your document is received. There are similar registration systems in most countries. Although I am aware that copyright is vested in the author, personally I like to dot the i’s and cross the t’s.

The most important thing about reviews and edits – if it walks like a chicken and sounds like one too – IT IS!  Get over it and rewrite the section!



Books by Linda J Pifer

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