Every fiction writer writes a certain amount of non-fiction on a regular basis. The two exercises can be like the proverbial apples and oranges. Today, author Christine Lindsay gives her experience in going from fiction to writing a memoir. -- Sandy
Christine: A dozen or so years—well into the stride of writing fiction—my publisher offered me the contract to write my memoirs. I thought that ship had long sailed, but suddenly the opportunity had reappeared on my horizon.
Most of us fiction writers consider ourselves quite capable of switching from novel writing to writing non-fiction articles in promotion of “said” novels, but memoirs presented a whole different playing field.
In novels, we are adept at showing and not telling. In writing non-fiction articles, we acknowledge that we mostly tell to convey important information, and that in those articles we show only a little.
As I started the fresh draft of my memoirs I thought my ability as a fiction writer would easily make my non-fiction come alive. Little did I know that an all new shifting of gears would be required. There was so much to TELL; a lifetime of journals that expressed exactly how I felt at those moments when I discovered I was pregnant (and unmarried), when I first made the heart-tearing choice to relinquish my baby to adoption, and 20 years later to the renewed heartache of meeting my birth-daughter in our adoption reunion.
But as I started writing, I don’t know how many times my critique partner emailed me back with attempts to pry open that deep well of my psyche.
“Go deeper,” she would say. “You’re holding back.”
“How did you really feel in that moment?”
“Can you put this in fresher language so it doesn’t sound like a transcript from your journal?”
My task of showing and not telling had slipped into the accelerated challenge of a bicyclist facing a steep mountainside. I simply couldn’t say what I really wanted to say.
Somehow it’s easier to talk through our fictional characters, easier to let them lose their tempers, easier to let them fail, easier to let them say whatever they please, to convey the truth we want to share. But in real life? How does one do that without hurting real people in the here and now?
I simply could not write a memoir worth reading unless I had on board all those people who were part of the true-life story. Not so easy when one of the most crucial individuals was my birth-daughter’s adoptive mom. This dear woman and I shared so much: The daughter we both named Sarah, my first-born/her first child, the girl we both jealousy hungered for as our own, especially since to this day it is difficult for her to even converse with me.
In addition to that was the fact that the reunion between my birth-daughter and I had not gone well, and that developing a relationship with her was an uphill battle, that I despaired would never happen. For much of our journey I was at odds with the very people I yearned to know and have a relationship with.
In a fictional novel those are great obstacles to have. In a memoir those obstacles bring real and raw pain.
It took almost 17 years for the Lord to soften the path, so that I could approach my birth-daughter and her adoptive mom to share our combined story. I also shared openly and transparently with them everything that I wrote, allowing them to suggest changes. This gave them some ownership of my story as well as their own.
One might think this would take away from my portion of the story. Instead, I found the ownership I granted them enabled me to write more honestly, than if I simply presented them with the fait accompli. Allowing my birth-daughter and her adoptive mom the freedom to say how they honestly felt about me, opened the door for me to go as deep as my critique partner wanted me to go.
Here is an excerpt of some of that raw honesty in Finding Sarah Finding Me:
My counselor’s smile diminishes a little. “Christine, I know you were hoping that Sarah’s mom and dad would be here today.”
“Yes,” I say on a suspended breath. Something deep within me shudders.
“I’ve been on the phone to Hans and Anne quite a bit, trying to encourage them to come today. Don’t take this the wrong way, but they’re not coming. They’re…well they’re quite upset…finding the reunion very hard emotionally. Sarah’s dad especially doesn’t understand why you want to meet Sarah…or them.”
My heart stops. The day I’ve prayed for all these years, and they’re upset…finding it…hard? They don’t understand? The world tilts on its axis. I’m falling off, into the ether, untethered to float forever. I can’t breathe.
David’s hand touches my knee. “Chris? Honey?” He’s reaching across from his chair to mine.
I turn slowly to lock gazes with my husband. Secure in his love, I gulp down some air. Bob and David peer at me where I’m still sitting upright on my chair. Have been all along. I manage to croak through a constricted throat.
“I never wanted to hurt anyone.” But my mind screams, They don’t want to meet me! Why? All these years I thought they’d want to meet me as much as I wanted to meet them. And most of all—I gave them my child!Brutally honest but with the compliance of my birth-daughter and her mom, I think we’ve written a memoir drenched in real hope that just might help others struggling with:
· Adoption issues
· Being unmarried, pregnant and afraid
· Facing the scary option of adoption reunion.
What kind of adjustments have you experienced when switching gears from fiction to non-fiction, or vice versa? When have you needed to be brutally honest in your writing--whether fiction or non-fiction?
Finding Sarah Finding Me
Sometimes it is only through giving up our hearts that we learn to trust the Lord.
Adoption. It’s something that touches one in three people today, a word that will conjure different emotions in those people touched by it. A word that might represent the greatest hope…the greatest question…the greatest sacrifice. But most of all, it’s a word that represents God’s immense love for his people.
Join birth mother Christine Lindsay as she shares the heartaches, hopes, and epiphanies of her journey to reunion with the daughter she gave up...and to understanding her true identity in Christ along the way.
Through her story and glimpses into the lives of other families in the adoption triad, readers will see the beauty of our broken families, broken hearts, and broken dreams when we entrust them to our loving God.
Read Chapter One of Finding Sarah Finding Me: Click HERE
Christine Lindsay is the author of multi-award-winning Christian fiction with complex emotional and psychological truth, who always promises a happy ending. Tales of her Irish ancestors who served in the British Cavalry in Colonial India inspired her multi-award-winning series Twilight of the British Raj, Book 1 Shadowed in Silk, Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, and explosive finale Veiled at Midnight.
Christine’s Irish wit and use of setting as a character is evident in her contemporary and historical romances Londonderry Dreaming and Sofi’s Bridge.
A busy writer and speaker, Christine, and her husband live on the west coast of Canada, and she has just released her non-fiction book Finding Sarah—Finding Me: A Birthmother’s Story.
Please drop by Christine’s website www.ChristineLindsay.org or follow her on Amazon on Twitter. Subscribe to her quarterly newsletter, and be her friend on Pinterest , Facebook, and Goodreads
Purchase links for Finding Sarah Finding Me:
Amazon (Paperback and Kindle)
Barnes and Noble