Memoirs usually depend on some sort of chronological timeline. But just because you’re telling the story of your life, your business, or how you scaled Mt. Everest, doesn’t mean you have to write the pieces in order.
First-time memoir writers can get caught up on this when they try to view their book through the eyes of their anticipated readers. For example, they might think: “How can I write about my big promotion before I’ve even written about my first day at the company?” In the writer’s mind, the meat of the story centers around the unfolding of events. And this is absolutely true…when it comes to the final draft.
Mosaic Method is a way of working with your rough draft that frees you from the restrictions of writing according to any sort of timeline. You can write the pieces as certain memories come to you, or as you decide to focus your attention on particular emotions or turning points. You have complete artistic license to write what you want, when you want. For first-time memoir writers, this freedom is sometimes the most valuable tool to increase creative flow.
Here’s how to do it.
Create the Pieces
Writing a book using Mosaic Method is like stitching together a big, colorful quilt. First, you’re going to create the pieces by gathering your memories. Start with your most vivid, emotional memories. The memories you can still go back to in your mind and see every bright (or bleak) detail. Every time you sit down to write, write down one full memory, just as you see it in your mind. You don’t need to go back and reread these sections, although if you like you can make a note of them so you know they’ve been covered. Once you’re done with a section, file it away.
Take Inventory of Your Pieces
When you’ve finished writing all of the pieces (i.e., all of the sections you want to include in your book) you’re going to catalog them in a visual framework. You might choose to make a list of all the pieces by title in a Word doc (e.g., Piece 1: First Day at Work, Piece 2: Meeting My Boss, etc.). Or you can actually use the handwritten or printed sections, label them with post-it notes, and arrange them around a room or on the dining room table to get an idea of the story structure. It doesn’t matter how you choose to do it, just so long as you can physically see all the pieces in front of you.
Note Any Missing Pieces
Once you’ve arranged the pieces visually, it will be pretty easy to see if you’ve left anything out. For instance, if you look at your bedroom floor where you have all your pieces spread out and you see: First Day of Work right next to Getting into Trouble with the Boss, you can evaluate if there needs to be a bridge between the two, like Meeting My Boss, that might help clarify things for the reader. Make a list of any and all missing pieces that could be helpful to the arc of the story.
Create Fill-In Pieces
Your next task is to write down the memories that will serve to fill in the gaps you noticed when you arranged things visually. Once you’ve written each of the sections listed on your missing pieces list, you’re ready to roll with a second inventory to double-check that everything is where it should be.
If you’re handwriting your book, arrange the sections in order, in a stack, before typing it all up. If each of your sections is on your computer, open a new Word Doc and cut and paste each one in according to the order you decided on during inventory. When you’re finished, you should have a sloppy first draft that’s in your choice of best chronological order.
Mosaic Method does take a little work. But if you’re writing a memoir, you’re going to be doing this sort of work anyway. Writing a book requires a good deal of editing, revision, and fine-tooth-combing as par for the course. Using Mosaic Method helps memoir writers to definitively separate writing vs. editing during the actual creative process.
When you don’t have to worry about fitting your memories into a preconceived outline, your creativity has much more room to include spontaneity and expressive emotion—two magic ingredients for any memoir.
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