Ranch life in the Big Sky state through the eyes of one who has lived through it...so far.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

And Then There Was the Time....

So, big news today, at least in my little world. I have completed the first draft of my latest novel. Yes, this is the third first draft, but hopefully the last. Not to say that it's anywhere close to finished. There will still be hours of tweaking and twiddling, cleaning up typos and repetitions, ironing out inconsistencies, but the heaviest lifting should be done (fingers crossed).

In the meantime, I have been invited to talk to the Women's Club here in town, an honor I earned by way of inflicting my rural humor column on readers of a few area newspapers every other week. I did a similar talk last week for the Friends of the Library. If you have nothing whatsoever to do for the next half an hour you can see the video over on the right sidebar under MFR Live, or click here.

This week I'm changing it up, talking about writing real life, which means things like memoirs and biographies, but also includes what I do here, and in my newspaper column. In my own way, I am recording the history of my people, whether they want me to or not. The majority of my stories are true, though often sanitized or embellished as needed to fill space on the page and avoid being banished forever from family gatherings.

Out of curiosity, how many of those who read this post have considered writing a memoir, or a family history? How many have actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keys, in this day and age)?

Since joining the board of directors at our local historical museum, my views on memoirs, family histories and even diaries have changed tremendously. I'd always thought of these things in one of two ways: either you had to live a big, important life to be worth writing about (aka, selling) or it only mattered to your family. Now I've seen how these personal accounts of a normal life can be a treasure trove for historians.

Rather than blathering on, I'm going to refer you to one of the masters, William Zinsser, whose book On Writing Well is considered a touchstone for non-fiction writers. This article from The American Scholar is a wonderful read:  How to Write a Memoir 

From that article I condensed this nugget, a bit of advice any writer in any genre should heed:

"When you write...don't try to be a writer....Be yourself and your readers will follow you anywhere. Try to commit an act of writing and your readers will jump overboard to get away." 

So write your stories, large or small. You never know what value they will hold for those to come.

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13 comments:

SundaySoup said...

Congratulations on finishing your draft! Now the fun part starts. At least for me. The first draft is a killer, but the fixing it and playing with it can be a real joy. I'm looking forward to the day I can buy it.
cheers,
Joelle

Gayle Carline said...

Although I write a weekly column for my local newspaper about my life as a wife, mom, and local resident, I think of myself as too boring for an entire memoir.

So I wrote my horse's - in his voice. When Snoopy was 3 years old, he won a championship (AQHA trail futurity). When he was 4, he broke his left hind sesamoid. Two years (a fused joint, metal plate, and a dozen screws) later, he was healed and rideable, and I show him again. His book, FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH: ONE LUCKY MEMOIR will be released this summer.

Trust me, his life is much more interesting than mine!

Darlene Underdahl said...

I did it. I got through my youth by promising myself I’d write about it someday.

Threadbare, www.VermillionRoadPress.com

A friend just contacted me and said she loved it! A friend of my husband hated it overall. Although he appreciated my sense of humor and observations, the casual racism of the adults and violence toward unwanted animals horrified him.

Good luck with the book!

Stephanie said...

Congratulations on your book. It's so fun to get to that point. I love the quote.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Joelle: Thanks. Of course, I already started back editing chapter 1 last night, but...*shrugs*

Gayle: Sounds like a great story.

Darlene: I probably would be right there with the guy who was horrified. I read a Gary Paulson book about the Yukon gold rush. Wonderful story but I still have nightmares about the stuff they did to those poor horses and dogs.

Stephanie: That's a great article. I love what he says about voice.

Rhonda said...

Well done, I suspect there are many who start but never finish. I'm sure it will be well received.

mscriver said...

"Bronze Inside and Out: A Biographical Memoir of Bob Scriver" by Mary Scriver. Many local tales and some rodeo characters. University of Calgary Press, available at Amazon, etc.

Prairie Mary

SundaySoup said...

Kari, you're never actually done until the publisher sends you your author copies. And even then, when you read aloud at signings, you can tweak it a little!
Joelle

BS said...

Congratulations on your draft! I know it must be lots of hard work so know you are getting to the exciting part.
Have never thought of writing family history on paper, but I am compiling the family tree history and have worked on that for years which is pretty interesting...
Hope it is not too cold there. Hope you have had enough snow to have a beautiful spring and summer!
weekendcowgirl.com

Beth Caldwell said...

Good on you, Kari Lynn! :)

gowestferalwoman said...

Thank you so much for the link! This confirms for me why I did start writing a blog at a later age; after my mothers passing I had so many questions that were left unanswered. Not wanting to do the same to my two daughters, I started capturing what was happening after they had both left for college - "what does happen at home with mom and dad after we go to pursue our own lives?"

And i took a sneak peek at some of your short stories listed on the side - yep, you be a writer, and a good one to boot! ;)

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Go West: That's part of why I started blogging, to keep the rest of my scattered family up to date on what's happening at the ranch and share some of our favorite stories. And thanks, this writing thing can be fun. Sometimes.

riparian said...

Congratulations on the first draft.
Thank you for the link to the Zinsser article. I found it helpful and forwarded it some of the members of my writing group.
I recently finished my memoir which relates my 8 years in the convent and I'm trying to decide what to do with it. I sent out about a dozen queries to agents without any interest. Perhaps something along the line of the prior poster and e publish.Thanks for your blog.