Author Archives: John Sloan

In a memoir, you’re the protagonist.

“You can also never forget that you are the protagonist in your story. Not the hero; most writers are uncomfortable with that– they weren’t trying to be a hero and they don’t feel like a hero. But you are the central actor in your story.” (William Zinsser. Writing About Your Life, p. 163)

Don’t usually disagree with the king of style and craft. But I do on this one. What’s the use in writing about a loser. You can. Most memoirs are sad. But in the good ones, the central figure — you — winds up looking at a rising sun or a flower beginning to bloom. There is hope. Someone’s getting out of something, beginning to believe again, and beginning to hope. Life can rise up out of the depths. No matter what you’ve had to go through to get to this point. John

A New Beginning


As a writer, sometimes you need a new beginning. Pascal said, “The last thing one settles in writing a book is what one should put in first.” As an editor that’s one thing we always looked at. Did the story begin in the right place? Maybe it didn’t. Maybe it began one chapter after the first chapter you wrote. Maybe two chapters after the first chapter. Maybe you had to write those first chapters to settle into the real first chapter, eliminating the little things here and there that you need to get out of the way for the real story to begin. I learned this in a really tough way. I hung onto those first two chapters through the first two drafts. And the story didn’t come that way. It had to come a third way. I dropped the first two chapters. Then things opened up.




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