Writing Your Story


Writing Your Story


Lesson Info

Criticism and Rejection

So one of the things that happens when you send a manuscript out is rejection. And my big fear for you is that that can freeze you and stop you from working, and just make you feel that the work is, that there's no point pursuing the work. So I'd rather see you in that happy state of creating the work and making the work better for as long as possible. But you need to also share your work and there are ways to do it. Of course, I'm talking about your critics, your tribe of fellow writers, but you can also share your work, give readings, create events where other people read their work too. If you're a ham like me and you're comfortable standing up in front of a crowd, go tell a story at The Moth, which is a fantastic storytelling group all over the country now. I started telling stories with The Moth when it was only in New York over 20 years ago. It's all over the country now. Go to a Moth StorySLAM and do something really brave. Put your name in the hat, stand up and tell the story. ...

You'll learn a huge amount from doing that. Send your stories off to places like The Sun, a wonderful magazine that's not about famous, well known, published names. It's about people telling honest stories really well. And one other thing that, and this has really changed, there used to be a kind of, it wasn't thought well of if a person published their own book. It was called vanity publishing. That's not the case anymore. Many writers that I've worked with have published wonderful stories themselves. They've just decided, "I'm not going to be held hostage "by the concerns of the marketplace." There are lots of great books that just aren't the kind of book that a publisher would feel they could sell 20,000 copies of. There are lots of reasons why a good book might not sell. So publish it yourself, and if you've got the energy and the stamina for it, go out and give talks on it to groups and introduce yourself to independent booksellers. And bring your copies along and go to clubs and have that book on the shelf. Just make sure, before you publish it, so often writers that I've worked with send me their self-published books and I think, "Oh, that coulda' been really great. "They shoulda' worked harder first." They might have that i-t-s, i-t apostrophe s problem, or something like that. Just work really hard before you do it. And sometimes, and I think Jon, this is true for you, you self-published your book about losing your daughter first, and then, it was sold to a mainstream publisher. Wow. Yep, and, you know what, after all that happens, you get the agent, you get the publishing deal, the book comes out. Guess what? I'll just tell you. I drive a 1995 Honda Civic (laughs) and I've been driving that car for 20 years. And it's okay because I didn't get in this business to make a whole lotta money. Every now and then I have. A book has been sold to the movies and I had a really good year, but I don't do it for the money. I actually... that's the good news, not the bad news, because if the money was the only thing that was going to make it worthwhile for you, then for most of you, it wouldn't be very worthwhile. But in fact, there is something much more valuable that you can get from telling your story, and actually, much more accessible.

Class Description

Everyone’s got a story to tell. Some are funny. Some are inspiring. Others are tragic. But no matter how compelling your story might seem, it won’t resonate with readers unless you’re able to effectively translate your concept onto the page.

Celebrated journalist, novelist and memoirist Joyce Maynard will give you the tools you need to transform your brilliant idea into an absorbing memoir that readers won’t be able to put down.

Maynard will begin by walking you through the process of identifying your story and how best to tell it. She’ll then help you develop your story through language, story structure, dramatic tension, dialogue, description and editing. Finally, she’ll address the challenges of the writing life, such as how to create a productive practice, design a comfortable writing space, deal with rejection and find an audience.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand the difference between telling what happened and exploring your journey.
  • Figure out what to include in your story and what to cut out.
  • Decide on a point of view, a point of entry and a structure.
  • Get over your fears of revealing embarrassing truths about yourself.
  • Stop worrying about being judged.
  • Deal with loneliness and find your tribe.
  • Develop the arc of a sentence, a paragraph and a story.
  • Listen to the sound and rhythm of your sentences.