After you’ve written a chapter for your memoir, set it aside for a week, or for at least a couple of days. Don’t think about it for a while. Instead, work on another chapter.

Distance and time are your friends—they do wonders for objectivity—because the fresher the story is in your memory, the harder it will be to catch things you need to change

Later, print that chapter. Reading on paper is different from reading on a computer screen. I haven’t yet figured out why, but it’s true. I always notice glitches and hiccups on a written page that I miss on a computer screen.

Read your story aloud. Read it as if you were a stranger. You’ll be surprised at the changes you’ll want to make—changes that will improve your story for your readers.

When you say something,

make sure you have said it

says E.B. White

The chances of your having said it are only fair

He’s right. Rarely do we write a clear message the first time, or even the second or third times.

I’ve heard that 80 percent of what we communicate is misunderstood

In other words, we communicate accurately only 20 percent of the time

That’s scary.

Read over your stories to be sure they’re clear. Be sure you’ve said what you meant to say

Listen to this advice from a long-time mentor of mine:

You write to discover what you want to say

You rewrite to discover what you have said

and then rewrite to make it clear to other people

Donald Murray

And remember:

Revision is not punishment,” says Murray in The Craft of Revision

“Writing evolves from a sequence of drafts,” he says. “Scientists . . . experiment. . . . Actors and musicians rehearse. Retailers test markets, politicians take polls, manufacturers try pilot runs. They all revise, and so do writers. Writing is rewriting

Instead of thinking of revision as punishmentthink of it as an art—it’s polishing your manuscript and making it sparkle

Remember, your stories are importantThey can change individuals, families, communities, towns, nations—even the world!

Write your stories!

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