Day 6 ~ 200 Words

I have considered writing a memoir, but then I think: who would read it? I am about as interesting as the next person, but do I really want to share my “interesting” parts with the world?

Lucky (memoir)

Lucky (memoir) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the book, “Writing and Selling Your Memoir”, Paula Balzer says: “If there is anything that can be learned from the reading and writing of memoir, it’s this. Life is complicated. It isn’t neat—and it certainly doesn’t always show humanity at its best. But memoir is also where we see the human spirit surviving,…”.

My problem with writing a memoir is the telling (or bloodletting) of the whole unvarnished truth. Joyce Maynard says that “the truth is not always a comfortable thing to look at squarely.” Ya think?

I have come up with a way to write a memoir that would be truthful and intriguing: write it in passages of 200 words. 200 words for grade one; 200 words for your wedding day; 200 words for the birth of your child; 200 words for turning 39 for the 20th time. In so sharing, you would be sharing the human experience—without all the boring bits.

What do you think? Can you truthfully show the “human spirit surviving” in 200 word capsules?

Published in: on July 11, 2012 at 1:09 pm  Comments (50)  
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  1. 200 word segments would be like reading a rolling book, in chapters. I like the idea

  2. Thank you – and broken up into bite size pieces may make it easier to write.

  3. I read the Lovely Bones years ago and it still haunts/terrifies me. 200 words would work because I can only recall the memorable snippets from years ago, My blog is all about my 40’s and kids because it is NOW

    • I understand. When I think about 200 words for grade one I can do it, but for the life of me I cannot remembers grades two and three.
      I loved Lovely Bones too, but the voice of the girl who was dead was mostly comforting – like you knew there was more to life than just this one – weird, eh?

  4. I would say so – easier to write &kinder to the reading eye 😉

  5. I don’t know if you can capture everything, but I like the idea. I’m constantly telling the tall kid to get to the point, so this would force the author to do the same. Chapters of your life in 200 words.. it would be a challenge, wouldn’t it? Though Im not sure mine is interesting enough to make 200 words out of each part.

  6. It would be your memoir – so you choose the parts.

  7. This is a great idea. Ceartainly well worth the try. I must confess I don’t remember reading the lovely bones.

  8. It is a good book — though it is a fictional memoir not a non fiction.

  9. I am usually a get to the point kinda person, except when dealing the juicy bits, then I want all the details. 200 words is an interesting concept.

  10. dealing with…brain malfunction

    • Me too – maybe it runs in the family (lol). I think you could say a lot in 200 words and leave out the angst and complaining and over analizing

  11. Sure, it could work. It might leave the reader to have to think more and you to be extremely precise in the details you choose but why not?

    • I think it could be done ~but you are right it would have to be precise and I would rather a reader want more of my writing than less

      • Leaving a reader wanting more but you don’t want to frustrate them either.
        Good luck with the project.

      • That is true – because sometimes you do want to know more –

  12. I just enjoyed reading all of you 200 word offerings–gosh, it’s delightful to read short blogs. (It would be hard to write a memoir because you’d have to say contradictory things like you love to WRITE long blogs but READ short blogs and it would show all our hypocritical behaviors.) Are you enjoying this exercise? Today I wrote almost a whole 200 words about wilderness survival before realizing there was no way to consolidate into 200 words and it would have to wait.

    • It is a challenge – but I am certainly learning how to edit down. Maybe we will have to go a different route and break things into Part 1 and Part 2–which should maket will the editing process a little easier. We will have to keep each other updated.

  13. I really like that idea of 200 word chapters. Write it! I think you will find a bigger audience than you know. I’d really admire you, because brevity is one of the toughest things I struggle with as a writer.

    Also, I loved both “Lucky” and “The Lovely Bones.” I thought Alice Sebold was incredibly brave for sharing that story, and I have never been able to look at the trauma of rape in the same way after reading her books.

    • I think I will give it a try–I have nothing in my life that is even close to Sebold’s experience.

  14. I like your idea. I think you could, with a great amount of editing, “show the “human spirit surviving”” in 200 words. It would be a challenging exercise. I’d be interested to see how it turns out.

  15. You know, I think that’s a really good idea. One could always at least start with that concept and expand if absolutely necessary. It would be like a flash-biography (rather than flash-fiction). If I were you, I’d copyright it! 😉

    • I like that- flash biography – and I could footnote like crazy and the footnote portion of the book would be longer than the book itself

  16. I think that sounds like a fun way to challenge yourself! With so few words it would definitely require a tight focus, so it would be interesting to see what people feel are the most important parts of each experience to highlight.

    Thank you for your fun posts on the writing experience, and life. I really enjoy stopping by your blog – so I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award. Check it out at:

    (“Lucky” and “The Lovely Bones” are great books, as well!!)

    • It would be a challenge but one I think I may be up to (I should wait though until I give it a try before I say this). Thanks for the Lovely Blog Award – and I am still trying to find that crown (LOL).

  17. I’m not sure if it would work but I think you should try. Interesting concept.

    • it is still in the concept stage – will have to think on it and give it a try

  18. Maybe some memories since they’re few and far between as a child could be done in 200 words or less but definitely not most of my adult years….too much happened…Diane

    • You break the years down into bite size pieces – or that is my theory. It is all very individual–if your memories do not fit into 200 word sections (and I am not sure mine do either) then write it how you like and what fits you–althouth I do not think I really need to give you this advice~ 🙂

      • I don’t mind any advice…I don’t think I would be trying to do it though.. My blogging and reading of same is enough for me right now…..Diane

      • it can be time consuming – good time consuming–but time consuming nevertheless

  19. My advice is to spill it all out and edit down later. I’m writing a fictional memoir (believe it or not, my sisters would sue me if I wrote it as an autobiography… interesting family, no?!) 200 words sounds good, but if you’re doing an entire chapter on a grade of school, I think you’ll be in trouble. Make your school days a chapter; then another chapter reflecting on the worst and best parts, maybe? Then go on to the next phase? Hope this helps! Thx for coming by my blog, and peace, Amy

    • Some grades it will be easy to write 200 words because I do not remember much -I seriously do not remember grades 2 and 3–but I like your approach re: chapters. Thanks for the help. Enjoy your blog

    • reply number 2 – I understand the fictional autobiography – that is what I was talking about re: TRUTH – she is a hard taskmaster

  20. I like your idea and think it has merit as long as it all combined to make a great read. Less is more they say. Good luck with it I will be interested to read your memoir are you going to blog it? 🙂

    • a bit of it to get some feedback, then I will see how it goes –thanks for your encouragement

  21. having grown up in nyc in the late 70’s and early 80’s, trivial stories of my adolescence are usually met with a combination of incredulous awe, a hint of envy and more than a hint of distaste.

    a friend is always egging me on to write a memoir and suggested just as you mention ~ short stories, small bites rather than taking on the whole thing. i love the idea.

    • The small bits would have to do with specifics –I think that may work

      • yes i agree ~ i prefer details, vignettes i guess, as opposed to rambling. rambling i leave to the master cormac mccarthy

      • love the word vignette
        have to look up cormac

  22. It’s hard to say…what may be boring to you may be interesting to someone else. (Everybody’s life seems boring to them.) So, the 200 word idea may be good, but it may leave out the interesting parts.

    • It will be a balance for sure – right now it is in the theory stage. The put it into practice stage may be more difficult that I think.

  23. You never know what people might find interesting about your life. I have wanted to write a book for so long. Not particularly a memoir but a fictional story intertwined with bits of personal experience. I am, unfortunately, going through some troubling times at the moment so you never know. They say your best work comes when your emotions are raw. It will be interesting to try the 200 word thing. Brilliant blog, I am glad that my being freshly pressed led you to me which in turn has led me to you.

    • nice how things work out. I have been involved in a nasty lawsut for 8 years now and it has not affected my writing in a bad way – sometimes the writing is an escape. I am still hoping to be FP’d, but then again I think I am going to win the lottery

  24. No, not unless you are interested in the new trend, to write a story so small that it can be read on an I phone or such nonesense…. still, you could give an image, a glimpse, of something in 200 words to make someone want to read your ACTUAL memoir… what happened with the Autumnland creepy book you were writing?

    • you have given me something to think about
      my “Autumnland” story is in the midst of a little reconstruction – will let you know when it is ready for prime time – thanks so much for asking

  25. I’m really enjoying your 200 words a day LouAnn.

  26. Thank you anna – that means a lot –you made my night.

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