The End of Beginnings


Opening Salvos #17  Matilda Butler

Page-one-1Opening Salvos, a topic I've been covering since early November 2008. I was on a trip to visit family when my first blog post was due for Telling HerStories. I wrote it but couldn't get my password to work. It was my first time on TypePad and I was in learning mode. In desperation, I sent my business partner, Kendra Bonnett, the text and she managed to get it to go live for me. Since then, I've posted every month about effective ways to grab your readers in the opening lines of your memoir so that they'll stay with you from your first word to the last. 

And speaking of list, today, my 17th post on this topic, will be my last. 

Most of my blogs posts here have been the outgrowth of an interview with a memoir author who shared her ideas about how you craft a memoir opening. And although there is still more to be learned, I began to find repetition was occurring. Therefore, it seemed like time to take on a new topic, one that is broader and might prove useful to you at multiple stages in your memoir-writing journey, not just when you are focused on your opening. 

Page-one-2 My topic, beginning in June, is called ABC's of Writing. These will be practical, quick tips covering a range of writing topics. The idea came from the research that Kendra and I have been doing for our book titled Writing Alchemy. For one of the chapters, we've gathered books about writing that have been written by well-known authors. There is much more in these books than we can possibly mention in our publication. Yet, there is valuable advice for memoir writers on those pages. Think Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, Rita Mae Brown, Vivian Gornick, Elmore Leonard, Elizabeth Berg, Maureen Murdock, Susan Wittig Albert, Janet Barrington, William Zinsser, and more. 

We decided to take nuggets from these books, ideas that are worth conjuring with, and create brief five minute videos. Each is designed to give you new insights about writing in brief, manageable doses. We've done our first few and finally have a format we think works. We are still mastering how to make these five minutes. My last one was slightly more than nine. However, we will continue both with creating the videos and framing the concepts in five minutes. Just give us a few more tries. Each month when I work on my blog for the ABC's of Writing, I will have finished a video (a series called Writing in Five) that I hope will interest you.

For this last Opening Salvos post, I want to share with you some of the links to interviews I did with authors who talked about effective beginnings. Their ideas included: create a take away, have an attitude, play with your opening until you have the right one, set a scene, use sensory detail, begin with dialogue, create a microcosm of the whole story, use the five senses to convey emotions, and more. Below are the links to some of the short interviews:

In addition to these short audios, Kendra and I interviewed other authors about many aspects of memoir writing. Near the end of these interviews, I asked each woman to read her opening and to discuss her thoughts on writing openings. Below are links to some of the long interviews. You'll find their comments on openings in the last 15 minutes.


Writing-in-Five Want to see what we're up to with our short videos that we're calling Writing in Five? After looking through about 15 books, I found only one that talks about openings. Fortunately, it is a chapter in William Zinsser's book, On Writing Well. Although the emphasis is on general nonfiction writing rather than specifically memoir, I still found it useful and hope you will too. Here's the link to view the video.

While this is the end to Opening Salvos, it is the beginning to a new series that I'll be delighted to share with you each month. See you in June with the ABC's of Writing.


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