I am a writer. I have a degree in Journalism. I learned a couple of things during my college journalism classes. The first was that I was not going to be a reporter. I did not have a knack, let alone a desire to be a fact seeker and then report on whatever the news was. I’m not good at remembering facts, even though I followed the 4 W’s and H. The second learned lesson was to not bury the lead, a common command in the newspaper business. This concept is not just for newspaper writers. I needed to apply this concept to my writing today.
After college, I leaned toward wanting to write persuasively, not to prove a point, but to sell things. Though my days with Ad agencies lasted 10 years out of school, disappointment and self-defeat caused me to leave. Perhaps it took another 10 years to work for a bank, the antithesis of a place where I started out, to realize I needed to pursue the writing thing. I wanted to tap into my creative flare to create ideas, images, and to instill thoughts. I immersed myself in studying creative non-fiction, specifically memoir. This was to be my place, my niche.
I started my memoir, “Under the Birch Tree” over 10 years ago. During those years, my written pages have been overhauled countless times. My first draft was – I don’t know what it was – only what it wasn’t’ – thematic, having direction or purpose. I just wrote my thoughts and interspersed simple stories. I was confident my lead was somewhere, but I didn’t know where.
Though my writing grew to sparkly prose and lyrical writing, it was not going to make up my literary composition. I understand I obscured the real “grabber” at the onset, failing to engage my readers’ attention with story that was someplace else other than at the top. I just needed to keep cutting away, working on structure and development to see the core of my theme
“It takes the time it takes,” is a yogi expression that best described my writing process. I, as well as my memoir, needed to take the time it took to uncover my universal theme. Going back in time to relive my memories, one scene at a time, allowed me to dig deeper, and eventually uncovering my memoir’s intention. Rewrite after rewrite, inclusions and exclusions of work, I was getting there and over time, after peeling back the layers, my book’s purpose started to be revealed.
My memoir took time and rewrites but eventually its focus became clearer. Answering “What is your book about?” and excavating scenes contributed to a sharpened focus. Just because my memoir is in chronological does not mean I should start with my birth. I needed to start with a lead, giving reason for my reader to continue.
I want the best beginning for my memoir and for my reader. I just don’t want it to be buried somewhere in chapter 3.
One thought on “I Buried the Lead”
What great advice for creative nonfiction writers! I too learned the hard way that I’m not cut out for hard-facts-only journalism. Here’s to flowery reporting peppered with humorous insights! 🙂