12.15.2005

Memoirs of a Platypus

My question is: what exactly should be included in a query for a personal memoir? A cover letter obviously, and I believe I've read that sample pages should be included as well. What about a synopsis? And if so, is this the one exception to your "NEVER write the synopsis in first person" rule? Thanks so much.

oh yes, the platypus of the publishing world: memoir. Non fiction that is written and sold like fiction--the "normal" rules don't always apply here.

yes you need a cover letter, and yes you need sample pages.

You'll need a synopsis at some point so it's better to start work on it now cause they are (as we've seen from various comments here) a snarl to write.

Memoir synopsis may be the exception to the first person rule (ya ya I still think chick lit should be in third, but there are people who disagree). Personally I think third person lends distance and objectivity to the synopsis and that is a good thing in a first person memoir.

You might write it both ways and see which sounds better.

I actually wrote the synopsis to the memoir on my list right now cause the author's version was crap. I wrote it in third person using Mr. Pitt and Ms Jolie to refer to the "characters". It works.

The crucial thing I want to know about a memoir is WHY this memoir is important to read, and WHAT does it say about a larger world than just the subject of the memoir.

Memoir is one of the few places that good writing doesn't trump all: you have to have something new to say for a memoir to fly. It can't be "this is my life, it was hard, I survived, you can too" kind of thing.

4 comments:

Stephen D. Rogers said...

I sent a title and two-sentence summary for a memoir to an editor. She said she loved the idea and to send her a proposal. I said that I owned several how-to proposal books and asked if she had a favorite. She mailed me her favorite. [Insert paragraph break here.]

The proposal book divided books into fiction and non-fiction. When I asked the editor, she said memoir was treated like non-fiction. [Insert paragraph here.]

What has me stumped is the marketing and competing books portion of the proposal since it seems as though memoir, like fiction, owes more to voice than hard, usuable information. [Insert paragraph break here.]

What do you think?

kitty said...

I'd love to take a gander at Frank McCourt's synopsis for Angela's Ashes.

Brady Westwater said...

Memoirs require... a synopsis?

Why didn't you tell us/me this.... 75,000 words ago?

As it is, I see myself five minutes to midnight Christmas night - knocking out 1,000 words for my novel's synopsis.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone will read this, since 12-15 is so yesterday. My memoir/narrative nonfiction book's proposoal has an outline/synopsis that is over 15,000 words long; and this is under the care and feeding of an agent.