Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Guest Blogger Ruth Madison: Writing Your Story

Hello Friends. I am so excited about today's post. I recently asked a fellow blogger friend, Ruth Madison if she would be interested in guest blogging for I Look Good Today. I met Ruth a few months back and just adore her caring and cheerful personality. She happily took me up on my offer and has written the most wonderful post that I know you are going to enjoy. Be sure to check out her blog, Ruth Madison to get more from this incredible gal!
Writing Your Story
There's a saying that goes "Everyone has at least one story in her." I believe that to be true. Life is such an adventure and, as one of my favorite writers, Flannery O'Connor said, "Anyone who survives childhood has enough material for a book." We all have experiences the telling of which can help others who come after us.

Whether it's showing how you built a happy life for yourself after abuse, or how growing up with a disability gave you good perspective in life, or what it was like having many siblings, perhaps what it was like being an only child, maybe how you manage to be fashionable year-round. We can all learn from each others experiences.

Many people talk about writing a book someday, but it can be overwhelming to think about how to even start.  As the author of two books and another on the way, I want to offer you a few tips on how you might get started in this journey.

1) Write down snip-its.

We tend to want to start off with everything perfect.  To sit down at a heavy oak desk with a legal pad and a fountain pen and start exactly at the beginning with "I was born." You might write down a sentence or two and then become frustrated. It doesn't sound like great literature or great memoir, it's just a couple stupid sentences.  It's not going to start out great, revising is necessary!

To avoid frustration what I usually do is start out by writing down bits and pieces out of order. Before I start a book there are usually pieces that I know I want to go into it. I write down those first. Any parts of the story that are particularly compelling for me, I write just those parts.

I also let my brain soak in thoughts about the topic and jot down whatever ideas and tangents come to mind.

2) Outline

Every writer is different. There are as many different ways to write a book as there are people. Outlining works really well for me, but it might not work for you. It's worth giving a try, though.  

If you're telling a story (even if it's memoir), my favorite outlining method is called the Snowflake Method ( This is a way of expanding a story to make sure that there is a solid beginning, middle, and end. If you're writing non-fiction, or advice, you may want to gather ideas and bundle them by what they have in common. 

3) Start joining the bits and pieces together according to your outline and fill in the gaps to transition smoothly from one to the next. Make sure you read it out loud to make sure that the language flows.

If grammar and syntax are not your favorite things, it's okay to get someone else to proofread it for you. You're still the author.  

4) The most important thing is to keep yourself honest. People recognize and respond to you as you really are, not who you wish you were. When you try to write something idealized, it comes off sounding pretentious and not believable. When you are willing to put yourself on the page with your flaws, people are relieved to find a kindred spirit, someone as human as they are. It is the most personal and searingly honest stories that really take off in popularity. It's counter-intuitive, but the more personal and specific to yourself you are willing to get, the more relate-able your story becomes.

This is different from writing down everything that happened exactly as it was. Beginning writers get caught in the trap of being afraid to change little things. Even memoir is part art, and you do need to arrange things in the best order for the story. Life is far too complicated to be written down exactly as it happened and be a compelling read. Learning which parts can be left out of your story is important too. One piece of advice from Elmore Leonard is "I try to leave out the parts people skip."  

Once you have a full and overflowing draft written down, then you can go back through and think about each section "Does this support the main idea of the book?" (Helpful to have done the one-sentence summary from the Snowflake Method for this).

I hope that this will encourage each one of you to give writing a try. You may have a great book in you, but it won't help anyone if it's caught inside you. Give it a chance to come out into the world.

Ruth Madison is the author of books and short stories on disability and devotee themes. She believes that there aren't enough books out there with characters who have disabilities and she's on a mission to fix that. Find out more about her fiction at 

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