I never understood what writers meant when they talked about a book changing forms over and over. When I started writing a memoir about the decade my grandmother and I wrote letters to each other, it all fell into place immediately. I found that the story stayed pretty consistent throughout drafts and I couldn’t imagine making any great plot alterations.
Then, in one day the book went from memoir to fiction.
And I understood.
When I hit Chapter 5 of writing the memoir, I found that although the story was personal and meaningful to me, it might not hold that same value to readers. I found that it lacked the humorous voice that I pride myself on. It lacked… well… me.
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of what I have written. I am grateful to agents and publishers that have complimented me on it and showed interest. But her letters don’t tell a story to anyone else but me and I don’t want to force them to do that. I found that I was looking for bits and pieces to connect to a story that could possible be of interest to readers, when in reality, it is of greatest interest only to me.
So I took a break from writing for a few weeks. I took a break because my dead computer told me to. And right before my new computer arrived, I sat on the edge of my bed and saw one of my grandmother’s letters peeking out of a book. I had used it as a bookmark in a book I keep next to my bed. And it hit me.
Use her letters as inspiration. Use your story – through all your obstacles in life – as inspiration. Tell about a girl whose grandmother writes her hilarious and heartwarming letters in a coming of middle-age story that makes you laugh at her falls and cheer her successes. Start each chapter with one of those entertaining letters and let the readers fall in love with both characters. Let that grandmother say all the inappropriate things you wish you could say. And let the granddaughter show readers what life in your 30’s can be like – from divorce, to dating, to struggling through parenthood with a Goldfish cracker stuck to your ass.
And when I sat down, the words came flowing. And they were my true voice. My sarcasm, my spin, and my ideas.
And yes, you’ll still find my grandmother in the story. She’s just a version of her that I think she’d even find entertaining to read.
So now I’m entering into the world of fiction. It’s a scary new place for me filled with adjectives and superlatives. But looking around, I think I’m going to like it here. Yep. It kind of feels like home.14 Comments