I’m coaching a woman who has gathered lots of stories and wants to turn them into a memoir. A month or so ago, I realized our most pressing need was to get specific about what she wants her book to accomplish, so we can identify a path forward.
My proposed solution: Sketch out the back cover copy for the book she envisions.
Below is the exercise I put together for her, inspired by my experience working with Lisa Cron’s Story Genius.
If you are beginning to draft a memoir — or exploring the possibility — this might help you narrow your scope and gain some clarity. (In this case, the exercise worked. We’ve got a “back cover” in hand, and have moved on to organizing content!)
Back cover exercise
Consider the following questions, and draft answers.
1. What is the primary challenge you are writing about?
2. Why is this challenge a problem? (How would you explain it to someone who has not shared this experience.)
3. How does the challenge increase in intensity over time?
4. What factors make the challenge difficult to overcome?
5. What has this challenge required of you, emotionally, to resolve it, or to make it less problematic in your life?
Once you see your answers in black and white, whittle down your response into a summary of the story you’re working on.
Read the back covers of a few books in your genre, and use those story descriptions as inspiration as you draft a back cover blurb for the book you envision.