Thursday, August 02, 2012

Querying memoir

A unforeseen but lovely benefit of the New Wrinkle Experiment is that I can hear back from writers about things that were confusing in the directions, on my website, or other places where I've yammered about queries.

One such confusion is about how to query memoir.

Memoir is sold like novels (they have to be finished before you query) even though it is non-fiction.  Several people read that sentence and interpreted it to mean they should write the query letter in the third person.  This makes sense when you think of how many times you've heard not to write your query in the first person of your character (and since your memoir's main character is you) so, ok third person it is.

Except no. No no and really no.  Even Her Maj The Q refers to herself with the Royal We, not the Royal Third Person.

Query your memoir in first person. This is YOUR story.  You can use "I" and be ok. 

And when you query for a memoir, remember you're going to need a plot, just like all those novelists out there.  You need to convey concisely and elegantly what choice you faced, what the stakes were, and how the world is different because of that.

If your memoir is something other than that, you're probably writing what I'm starting to call non-commercial memoir.  There's real value in that too, and I'll be talking about that more in the coming days.  Watch for the blog posts, ok?


Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

I queried my memoir, and got a bite...but was asked to submit a proposal, too. Any suggestions about how to handle this? And what about synopsis? I was told by someone that the synopsis of a memoir needs to be in third person.

Unknown said...

I'm working on a synopsis for my memoir to be submitted to an agent. I'm writing it in first person, like my query letter. But maybe I'm wrong. I'd like to know, too: which is it? First person or third?

Robert Markowitz said...

I have a copy of a proposal written by a literary agent for her own memoir, and the synopsis (or chapter outline) is in the 3rd person.