Thursday, 16 October 2014

How I Wrote the First Draft of My Memoir: 'My Skin, My Life' in Less than 90 days, the Stephen King Way.

It's true, I started writing the first draft of my memoir My Skin, My Life, on 1st June 2014.  I completed the draft on 8th August 2014. How is that possible you may ask? 

Here are the key steps I took:
  • Started a Memoir Journal in March 2014
  • Read a few memoirs and other related books (you'll find them listed below)
  • Wrote 4 short memoir pieces of about 2000 words each
  • Shared two memoir pieces with trusted friends; one a writing buddy who provided feedback/critique and copy editing, the other an interested reader who provided her five best highlights
  • Browsed the Internet and read a lot of 'How to Write Your Memoir?' websites
  • Read On Writing by Stephen King (for the second time)
  • Browsed the Internet for non-fiction publishers 
Page 175 caught my attention!
Stephen King's quotes from On Writing:

'...I believe the first draft of a book - even a long one - 
should take no more than three months, the length of a season.  
Any longer and - for me, at least - the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel...'

There's more:

'I like to get ten pages a day, which amounts to 2,000 words.  
That's 180,000 words over a three-month span, 
a goodish length for a book - 
something in which the reader can get happily lost,
 if the tale is done well and stays fresh.'

Stephen King suggests 1000 words a day, and he suggests taking one day a week off, at least to begin with. 'No more; you'll lose the urgency and immediacy of your story if you do.'

So I made a note in my memoir journal in bright red:


The commitment written - in red - stared back at me.  What the heck, I thought, let's give this a shot!
  • By 3rd July, I had a draft word count of over 19,000 words.
  • By 8th August, I had a completed first draft of over 32,000 words.

In a future post, I'll share the writing process I used and how it felt to complete and then submit my memoir's first draft to my publishers.

I would be very interested to receive your comments.  If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch here.  I promise to respond as soon as possible. 

Books I read:
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro
  • Volcano by Yvonne Weekes
  • Kiskadee Girl by Maggie Harris - more on this gem in a future post!
  • Bad Blood by Lorna Sage
  • Stet an editor's life by Diana Athill
  • My Song - A Memoir of Art, Race and Defiance by Harry Belafonte - my review is here
  • Growing Up by Russell Baker
  • Journey of Memoir, The Three Stages of Memoir Writing - A Workbook - by Linda Joy Myers
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