For the first three months in the Memoir Incubator, we didn’t write. Not the way I’m accustomed to writing, typing scenes into a computer. Instead, we worked in journals, exploring our story’s structure and characters. In lieu of pounding the keyboard, we sketched scenes on index cards, outlined our story in spreadsheets, and percolated ideas.
During class on Zoom, we discussed the “beats” that make up a story. We pondered how is the “all is lost” beat which is the lowest point of your narrator’s journey, different from the “dark night of the soul” beat which is your narrator’s reaction to everything that’s happened. At first, the beats seemed complicated, but our class discussion helped clear up any confusion.
To be honest, I struggled a bit with the concept of creating the story arc before diving into writing. It’s not something I’ve ever done before. Now I can see the advantages. You learn what scenes are necessary first instead of writing scenes that you end up cutting later. You flesh out your characters and build the setting beforehand so that when you do start typing away you are already halfway there.
Now after three months of filling out our beats, we’re all chomping at the bit to write. Maybe that’s the point of the pre-work, to get us revved up. Our co-leaders presented us with a word count deadline schedule and have given us the green light to start writing. It’s amazing to jump into my story with a plan.
About the Author
Elizabeth Jannuzzi, book inc’s program manager, is a mother and writer living in New Jersey. Her work has been featured in Pangyrus, Cagibi, and Entropy. She is currently enrolled in book inc’s Memoir Incubator where she is working on a memoir about recovery.