Making Memoir: Cut, Cut, Cut, and Find Connections

January 18, 2018 § 4 Comments

chelseydrysdalephoto-1In our latest issue, Chelsey Drysdale chronicles how expert advice from an outside editor-for-hire allowed her to find the cohesive, interconnected memoir hidden within a series of disconnected essays.

“Once I started making tough decisions about what was ‘earning its space,’” she writes, “it became obvious that four essays I had diligently crafted—one for seven years—were no longer needed. Meticulous dialogue, tornadoes, a sudden death, a doozy of a New Year’s Eve, an atrocious haircut that solidified my resolve to move, and the unlikely prophecy of an obnoxious stranger on a pier all got axed. Somewhere is a crowded cemetery replete with precious darlings I don’t miss.”

Drysdale details her slash and burn journey, which resulted ultimately in discovering new material where she hadn’t expected to find it, and recommends the journey to other writers:

“When I’ve heard authors say they’ve rewritten their books more than once, starting from page one, I’ve thought, ‘There’s no way I could do that.’ But I did, and I’m grateful. Now I relish the lengthy process and trust it.”

You can read more of what Drysdale learned in her full Craft Essay, and remember: never underestimate the usefulness of an intelligent, experienced, objective editor.


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§ 4 Responses to Making Memoir: Cut, Cut, Cut, and Find Connections

  • davidwberner2 says:

    So true! It’s the daily shoveling to find what’s in the ground, underneath everything. There is so much there!

  • Rose says:

    Your words are so inspiring. I have been trying to create meaning from the many words written in secret so that they can be seen and heard. One of my goals is to pair a few of my poetry with my art.

  • Thanks for telling this. It is inspirational to memoirists, self included, to understand this craft process through others’ experiences. My best takeaway here is to find a good, effective editor who can lead you through the forest of experiences and autobiographical stuff to find the golden nugget of memoir. This process also takes patience. My memoir, Under the Birch Tree (out in June) took years and many rewrites to extract the truth, the memoir.

  • KJBoldon says:

    I read the excerpt in the Brevity email, and will read the entire piece soon. Thank you for sharing this experience. I sometimes feel the pressure of time passing, and that I need to work fast, rather than deep. But in memoir, it’s the deep connections that make it sing.

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