Tips for those trying to write the mental health memoir

Some of my advice stems from author Dani Shapiro, memoirist, who I had the chance to study with at a writing retreat. Dani along with my graduate school writing professors have inspired me that my book can inform, inspire and be written masterfully.

Find your arc and don’t make it totally about mental illness. Your arc is your over-arching themes. You could write a story about your mental illness or someone else’s and you can infuse moments of cooking into it. There you will have something a lot more people can relate too if they can’t relate to your mental illness.

Write about one or several moments of your illness. Don’t give us an autobiography.

Just start writing. Take one moment in your story and write a long essay about it. This is your first chapter.

Break your story down into moments. Write an essay for each one.

Keep a Commonplace Book of your favorite quotes. Some of them may be included in your book in front of chapters. That one’s from Dani.

Where you can, weave science fact into your story. This will make you into not just a storyteller but an expert.

Look for an agent but be prepared to self-publish. There are a surprising lot of people writing memoirs of this type. If you get a lot of rejection and still believe in your project, there are tons of ways to self-publish on the internet. My first novella was self-published. I’ll save self-publishing advice for another post.

If you have other questions, leave them in the comments or drop me a line on the contact page.

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