rules_of_inheritanceOne of the most common kinds of question people ask me is about the process of writing my book. Did I always know I was going to write a memoir? How long did it take? Did I know the structure before I wrote it?

The answers to these questions aren’t very simple.

Writing a memoir is so different than writing fiction, or even some nonfiction. The hardest part, I believe, is that you—the subject—are always changing. I wrote three versions of my memoir. The first two weren’t very good, but they did pave the way for the third. I absolutely couldn’t have written the published version without having slaved away at those other two drafts.

I changed, my perspective and understanding of my story changed, and my writing changed, over the years I was working these drafts. So when someone asks me how long it took me to write The Rules of Inheritance there are really three answers.

  1. My whole life. I had to live my whole life so far in order to tell this story.
  2. Ten years. That’s how long ago I began writing about the events in the book.
  3. Ten months. That’s how long it took me to write the published version.

This is why whenever anyone asks me for advice on writing, I just tell them, “Write, write, write.” Write as much as you can, as often as you can, even if you think what you’re writing is terrible. The mediocre sentences simply pave the way for the brilliant ones. Few writers are brilliant right out of the gate. It’s a craft that takes years and years of practice and effort. But one thing I can promise is that the more you do it, the better you’ll become at it.


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  1. […] it for the long haul” over and over again. It sounds dumb but it’s important. On the Penguin USA blog Bidwell Smith says it took her 10 years write her memoir and 10 months to write the published […]

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