For the past few weeks, we’ve considered Wilkie Collins’s advice to writersMake ‘em cry, make ‘em laugh, make ‘em wait.” (If you missed earlier posts about “make ‘em laugh,” see list and links below.)

If you can make ‘em cry, you’ll pull readers into your story.

And you do want them to read your story, all the way to the end.


Because whether readers realize it or not, they’re looking to you for answers and direction. They want to know how you coped with life—sorrows and joys, victories and defeats, despair and hope.

They’re looking for a takeawaythat part of your story they will always hold close because it changed their lives

Be sure your memoir hastakeaways: your insights that they can apply to their own lives, lessons you learned that will guide them in the future, a resource for living life well, a reason to hope, a reason to trust God, a better understanding of themselves.

So let’s get back to making ‘em cry. That’s one way to leave readers with the blessings of your takeaways but, to receive them all, readers have to keep reading, and you can keep them reading if you make ‘em cry along with you as you cry.

Oh, but it’s hard to write about our life’s most painful parts!

The ache. Heartbreak. Grief. Anguish.

So many of us avoid writing the painful stuff.

Am I describing you? Have you been unable to write about the stuff that opens up old wounds?

How many of your stories remain untold?

Mick Silva says writers must be willing to take a chance—to risk examining our hard bits and pieces—and then to risk writing about them.

“That necessity to risk is why writing takes courage above all else,” he says.

Risking pain to seek the deeper truths about yourself and liferisking sharing what you know.

“Risking paying close attention when you experience pain or fear, knowing it means you’ve been chosen to understand, express and explain this particular view of it bestMick Silva

Writing about our sorrows can bring us healing (more on that in coming weeks), but there’s morethere’s another layer to your storytelling: God can use our stories.

God even planned for us to share our stories:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us that the God of all comfort reaches out to comfort us in our troubles so that we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him.

That means writing about how God helped you through painful experiences is a sacred callinga ministry

Take, for example, Dana Goodman’s experience:

During my intense grieving moments, other people’s stories gave me words to describe the ache that was indescribable. They gave me hope that a new day would dawn, and I would not be stuck in the black foreverDana Goodman, author, In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning

And so, we write.

“In a world that groans of brokenness

and screams of injustice,

it matters that we hold our creative candles

right up next to the pain.”

Settle Monroe

A word of caution:

Writing about heartaches and wounds can be excruciating—because to write them requires us to relive themIf we haven’t healed enough to write those stories, we must wait until we can relive them and write them.

Next week we’ll look at one technique to help us write—but only when we are ready.

In the meantime, pray and ask God to help you write the painful stuff. Doing so can help your healing and can help readers, too—maybe in ways you could never have imagined.

Related posts:

Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait

Humor in your memoir: “like a sneak attack”

Using humor the right way in memoir

Make ‘em laugh: an instant connection

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