Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Voice of the Writer in Memoir

This past year, ever since we came back to the States, I've been all wrapped up in work for WiDo Publishing. It's our ten-year anniversary and we are very close to having our 100th book published.

We also started a new imprint, E.L. Marker, a hybrid company that offers traditional publishing services to self-publishing authors.

It's been a crazy busy year. The only writing I've done is journaling (my personal psychotherapy) and writing emails to authors whose work I'm editing and/or preparing for publication. So many emails.

I've edited a number of memoirs this year for both WiDo and E.L. Marker, and it's got me thinking about the writer's voice. In any kind of writing, voice will attract or repel readers. But in memoir it's especially important. If you dislike the voice of the narrator, you won't keep reading, since the memoir is about the narrator.

There a few tricks of the trade in editing a memoir to make the voice more appealing. Strangely enough, one of them is to tone it down. You might think, "But why? It's about this person so why not put as much personality in there as you can? So the reader can feel like they know them?"

A good question. The entire book is about the individual, in first person, their story, but it's also about other people they've included in their story. And those other people are part of what makes the memoir whole and balanced.

Putting in too much of the writer's personality, in the form of little asides or sarcasm or other types of humor, can quickly turn the reader off. It tends to make the narrator come across as self-absorbed and thus unlikable--the last thing we want to see happen in a memoir.

If you'd like to take a look at WiDo's selection of memoirs, click on this link to our bookstore and see the tab for Memoir.

Memoir is currently my favorite genre. I can't get enough of them, which I guess is why I've chosen to edit so many lately, rather than passing them along to other WiDo editors.

How do you feel about memoir, either writing or reading them?