Making Memoir True and Vivid

A ruthless tenderness. That’s what it takes to write and revise an intimate memoir. I suppose there are people who keep themselves guarded from tenderness (I think of Running With Scissors). But I do want to write about the changes of my heart, which involves risk. Sometimes it’s harder to write the loving parts than the painful ones.

So now I’ve written the whole damned thing, the story of my discovery of memories of sexual abuse and of my recovery through love and therapy (Writing on the Water). My discovery of lost and wounded little girls inside me and my redemptive love for them. I wrote and cut and snipped and rewrote. Then I sent it off to an editor on the opposite coast, a stranger, and he’s shown me more work to do. After three more months of revising (but who’s counting?), I have revised most of it. I have come to be both tender and ruthless.

Ruthless in spotting the soggy places, the places where the prose is flabby or inert. Tender in keeping the heart-felt, lyrical parts. Ruthless in cutting down repetition. Tender in going even deeper into the emotional scenes, into imagery and bodily sensation. Damn! I feel I could spend years more in polishing it. My heart and craft are dancing together. I guess that’s good.

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