Finding Distance in Memoir Writing

In this writing lesson at, I talk about how to get distance on yourself when writing memoir.

"I never set out to write a memoir. I’ve been writing fiction for twenty years, and when I began the piece that would end up as the first chapter of The Next Scott Nadelson: A Life in Progress I did what I normally do when I sit down to write, which is to start with a seed of autobiography and from it improvise a story. Usually my characters’ lives and mine diverge after a few paragraphs, and I spend much of my effort trying to get under their skin, to understand their fears and desires, to unearth motivations and drives about which they may have only vague impressions. I first try to scrutinize my characters as honestly as possible, with a relentless but non-judgmental eye, and if I’m lucky, that scrutiny brings me to a complex view that leads to genuine compassion. In other words, to paraphrase Flannery O’Connor, I put my characters through hell and then love them as if they were my own children."

Read the entire lesson and excerpt.



Scott Nadelson