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Genre focus: life writing and memoir

How to write real lives

Real life doesn’t always fall neatly into classic story arcs. So, how do you go about transferring real life to the page in a way that is realistic, but also keeps the reader gripped?  

UPDATE: Jericho events in light of Coronavirus

Real life is throwing us all some curve-balls right now. We’ve been monitoring the situation closely and although we had a spectacular Self-Publishing Day this weekend, we are now looking to move some of our larger physical events to a digital space – including the upcoming Getting Published Day.  

We’ll soon be sharing more details on how you can get involved in that, and we hope that these events will provide some welcome respite for you all. Until then – stay safe and keep an eye on your emails for more soon.  

NEW on Jericho Writers 


MASTERCLASS: Life Writing, Memoir and Biographical Fiction (FREE) 

Join writer and tutor Emma Darwin as she looks at the fundamentals of transferring real lives to the page – and what techniques you can steal from fiction.  




BLOG: Developmental editing  

What is developmental editing? And do you need it? This new blog aims to clarify a muddy term, and tells you where to go to find help.  



WEBINAR: Slushpile LIVE with the Soho agency  

Unfortunately, we have had to cancel this webinar on Wednesday and will be rescheduling for a later date. Sorry for any inconvenience caused by this – we're working hard behind the scenes to bring you more meanwhile.  

Content corner: How to use theme in memoir 

One of the biggest mistakes I see first-time life-writers make is not having a set theme.  

Theme (as well as character) is often the component that ties a story together. When you’re writing real lives, it’s easy to get distracted with all the wonderful things that go into making someone human. But all of those things don’t always combine well on the page.  

When you look at other trailblazing memoirs, they all excel at theme. Adam Kay’s ‘This is Going to Hurt’ is based on real diaries, but all around the topic of being a junior doctor. Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is for Hawk' masterfully combines falconry and grief.  

So, when you sit down to turn your real life into a story, try focusing on what it is that you’re trying to say through the medium of your character (or in the case of memoir – yourself!) 

So – memoir and life writers – how do you use theme when writing your true stories? And what is the central theme or topic you explore in yours? Sign up to the Townhouse and share your thoughts here.

Sarah J 

Plus, don’t miss:


Complete Novel Mentoring (Discounts available for members)

Work with an expert tutor as you write or edit your book. We have three world-leading authors at your disposal covering everything from children’s books to sci-fi.  

Manuscript Assessment  (Discounts available for members)

 Our most popular editorial service matches you to your dream editor and gives you tailored feedback on your work. It doesn’t get better than that. 

Community Writing book club (Open to all)

Join the Townhouse community for the first writing book club! We’ll all be reading 'Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them' by John Yorke by the end of March. 


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