Fast-Draft Your Memoir: Write Your Life Story in 45 Hours by Rachael Herron, a best-selling memoirist, contains all the basics you need to know about planning and writing your memoir.
‘Can I really write my life story in 45 hours?’ you might well be wondering.
Which, depending on how many hours a day you write, could be as little as a week or two.
The important word here is ‘write.’ Rachael is a big proponent of planning your memoir.
She says that if you have a plan in place on how you’re going to structure and write it, you can indeed write the first draft of your memoir in 45 hours.
Fast-Draft Your Memoir by Rachael Herron
Reviews For Fast-Draft Your Memoir
This book has 380 ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, with an average of 4.6 stars out of 5.
Here are a few of the comments:
‘Rachael Herron resonates with our audience, and not just because she knows her stuff--she does--or because she's hilarious--she is--but because her honesty and earnestness come through in all her messaging. ’ (Samantha Sanders - Writers Digest)
‘Not only is it a brilliant approach, but it's well written, witty and wise, easy to read, and inspiring, with Rachael's lyrical, heartwarming vignettes providing helpful examples. If you are considering writing your personal story--don't try it without grabbing this book!' (Best-Selling Author - Toby Neal)
‘Of all the how-to-write-memoir books I've purchased, checked out, or perused and put back, this book offers by far the most coherent, compact, inspiring, and clear advice.’ (S.Day Conner)
Fast-Draft Your Memoir Synopsis
This book could be subtitled ‘Everything You Need To Know About Writing Your Memoir But Were Afraid To Ask.’ For a relatively short book, (218 pages in print), it packs a powerful punch.
The book follows a clear and logical progression, starting with necessary basic knowledge such as what is a memoir, reasons not to write your memoir and types of memoir. (See my blog post Memoir Writing: Why Tell Your Story?)
Then we get into the practical, hands-on part. This starts with planning, complete with practical exercises to help you drill down to the theme and essence of your memoir.
Included is the most important part of the planning process, the outline, a detailed blueprint of each chapter and the scenes within it.
Herron then goes on to discuss story structure and character arc. Even though memoirs are true stories, they still need to follow the traditional methods of storytelling to attract and maintain the reader’s interest.
So the story needs to have tension that builds, a climax and a resolution at the end, as well as you, as the main character, undergoing some sort of transformation during the story. Whether we’re aware of it or not, we instinctively look for these elements when we read any type of story.
Then we’re into the nitty-gritty – writing the book. Herron talks us through the perennial issues of carving out writing time, getting rid of distractions, keeping yourself motivated and busting through your worries. Then we’re on the home run – tips on revising and editing, and finally, P (Publishing) Day!.
Rachael Herron's Writing Style
A big part of this book’s appeal is the author’s writing style. Her information and ideas are expressed in a clear and conversational style and her author’s voice shines through – warm, witty and down to earth.
She understands what it’s like being a first-time memoir writer because she’s been there herself – she tells us about her writing journey in the introduction.
Reading the book is like sitting down with your big sister and having a conversation with her about memoir writing over a cup of coffee. (Or a glass of wine, depending on the predilections of your sister).
And like a big sister, she’s not afraid to use some tough love when she thinks it’s needed. Hence the chapter titles Write the Damn Book and How To Get Out Of Your Own Way and Write.
The next chapter after Story Structure and Character Arc is called Do I Have To? It begins:
‘I just want to tell my story. Is that so wrong? Do I really have to think about this crap?”
‘Yes, this stuff is hard. Like I said, structuring your memoir is one of the hardest things to do when working in this genre. This is where my students struggle the most.’
She’s not shying away from the fact that it’s hard, and she’s saying, neither should you.
In the chapter on Worry Busting, which deals with some common problems, one of them is:
‘I’ve started but I’ve lost my mojo. I don’t think I’ll get it back.’
Herron’s reply illustrates her vibrant turn of phrase:
‘Brute force, my friends. Brute force…Bash the words out. Claw them out of your soul with a pickaxe. Promise yourself the best scotch you can afford if you can just finish five more scenes. Get a writer friend to meet you and while you’re pounding out your quad-shot venti latte, tell him he can’t let you go to the bathroom until you’ve written a thousand words.’
If that doesn’t motivate you, nothing will!
As I said earlier, Herron covers all bases in this book. There’s a chapter on Pro Tips, including dialogue, point of view and using the senses, advice on curly issues such as family conflict and truth-telling, and she also shares her wisdom on self-care if writing your memoir triggers distress or trauma.
About Author Rachael Herron
Rachael Herron has published more then two dozen books in various genres – thrillers, mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir and non-fiction about writing.
She has an MFA in writing and teaches writing at US universities.
She is a dual US and New Zealand citizen and lives in Wellington, New Zealand.
You can find out more about her and her books here. https://rachaelherron.com/
Rachael Herron Podcasts
In this episode of Rachael's podcast, How Do You Write? Herron discusses the book...
And here’s a conversation with her on the podcast D2D (Draft 2 Digital) Spotlight.
Fast-Draft Your Memoir Review Conclusion
Even though this book is aimed at beginner memoir writers, it’s still a valuable resource for those who are more experienced.
I find it useful as a book that has all the necessary information about memoir writing in the one place, and I can dip into it when I need to refresh my knowledge or spark new ideas.
If you are a first-time memoir writer, I would certainly recommend this book as a must-have tool in your writing arsenal.
After reading this book, I also read Herron’s memoir A Life In Stitches – Knitting My Way Through Love, Loss and Laughter.
Yes, it’s obviously a memoir about knitting, but as someone whose only yarn creation was a scarf for my teddy bear, (a very long one, because I didn’t know how to cast off), I can attest that you don’t have to be a knitter to appreciate it.
It’s a tribute to Herron’s skill as a writer that it’s a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging book.
It has earned even more good reviews than Fast Draft Your Memoir, with 905 reviews and a 4.3 star rating.
Fast-Draft Your Memoir
Other Books By Rachael Herron
A Life In Stitches
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