1. SJKnowles
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    SJKnowles New Member

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    Product of my environment

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by SJKnowles, Jan 15, 2013.

    Hello, I'm new to this forum i was browsing the web looking for some help and advice about my idea and where to go with it.

    For a while i have considered writing a book based on my life and experiences i have been through and witnessed, now I'm at a stage in my life where i have the maturity and time to do so i want to get started. I'm going to write little about the subject of my story and hopefully can be guided in the right direction.

    I grew up just me and my mother on a council estate, my dad was addicted to drugs and my mom was a alcoholic. I experienced years of abuse and neglect in my younger years which lead me to be aggressive and rebellious so i was taken out of school at the age of 10 by my mom. While i wasn't at school i was hanging around on the streets, first it was playing football then following older people and then i got involved in crime and gangs. From 12 i started making money to look after myself, i was introduced into a whole new world of things I'm not going to write about on this forum. After a few years i been through it all, prison, hospital beds, losing friends, everything you can imagine i went through. After losing close friends and being thankful I'm still here i started to question whats the meaning of life and where do we go when we die? After searching for answers i was guided into Islam and I'm in the process of changing my life around, every day is a struggle coming out of a environment and a lifestyle you have known all your life to a straight path which many people experience. Most still let the temptation and bad habits get the better of them and still are involved in these things with the thought that one day they will change for the better, but we're stuck in a never ending cycle unless we change now. My book will be based on a true story, but the ending will be based on how i actually believe my life will turn out if i don't stay on the straight path and i keep on falling into the habit of saying "One day i will change". Many can relate to this and the message behind the story, not just the religious aspect, many are trying to change there lives for the better but are stuck between two paths. I believe the emotion behind it will capture readers attention.

    I know it will take years to write and I'm going to put the time and effort into writing it but where do i go from there? How do i get it published and on shelves ect.

    Any help i will be grateful for, thanks in advanced.
     
  2. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Dont think too much about having it published yet. First you need to write the story. I think you have a good idea, but the details and execution of it is what matters the most. Everyone has something they want to change, or some other direction they want their life to go in, and if you can touch on that subject deeply enough, and be open about your own experiences and your own conclusions, then the book will be interesting to read. So worry about writing the thing instead of thinking about publishing. You can do that once you have written your first draft.
     
  3. SJKnowles
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    SJKnowles New Member

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    Thanks very true. I'm not even thinking about publishing at the moment but in a few years when it comes to that stage where do you go? Surely you can't browse the internet and email people you don't know expecting them to take you serious? Thanks for the advice also.
     
  4. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You also have to decide whether you are writing a memoir or a fictional story based heavily on your own life. There is a difference. And sometimes writing a fictional story allows you to convey more truth than a memoir. You indicate you want to include a section in the future, based on what you think will happen -- if you do a memoir, you have to make it clear that that is your present intent and it won't be all that long. If you do a novel, you can get as detailed and as far into the future as you want.

    As far as thinking about publishing in the future, just start browsing internet forums related to writing, find blogs and websites related to publishing and writing, including those by agents, check out twitter -- you don't even have to tweet, but you can follow agents, publishers, writing groups, and authors, and you'll find a HUGE amount of insight and information from them. Read some of the writer's magazines, go to writing conferences if you can, possibly take a writing class or find a local critique group, so you can talk with other writers, who will also have lots of wisdom to share. The information is all out there for you to find.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there are also many threads here on this site that deal with how to get published... browse those, so we won't have to repeat ourselves... then, if you still have any specific questions that those threads don't address, you can start a thread with a specific question, not asking for the whole process to be explained again, when the info is out there already...

    i have to ditto what liz had to say about what you intend to write... if you make it a novel, it won't have the impact that a memoir would have, since novels are meant to entertain more than to teach lessons... your personal experience would have much more impact on readers than a novel would, but you should first do your homework and see how many similar memoirs there are on the market already...

    most of what you say about your life is nothing new, sad to say... the only difference i can see is that you turned to islam... if islam is not part of your ethnic/family background, that would give your book a new slant that could make it stand out from all the others... that's what you must do, if you want your story to inspire others, because if it's just another 'pancake' in a stack of similar ones, paying publishers won't be interested and if you self-publish, few other than family and friends would buy it...

    i wish you all the best both in your new life and with your writing...

    love and hugs, maia
     
  6. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Much as I love the endorsement from Maia, and as much as I hate to do it now (and seem ungrateful, or worse) I have to disagree a bit with this assertion. Although it is correct that there is something to be said for the "I can't believe this all really happened" aspect to a memoir, novels are frequently intended to and do teach lessons. There is so much of an author in a novel, that it is often said there is more truth in fiction than there is in memoir. Giving thoughts and feelings to a fictional character is sometimes easier than ascribing those feelings to yourself, for any number of reasons, including the reluctance to attribute undesirable thoughts or feelings to ourselves.

    Many novels are even designed to convey a message, which can turn them into obvious polemics, for which one needs to be careful. Sometimes the direct message hits readers over the head and feels like a classroom lesson or lecture rather than a thought-provoking story. Indeed, 'story' is a hard-wired human need -- it's how we learn, how we think, and how we remember. Whether fictionalized or not, a story can do much more than merely entertain. Your personal experience will come through in your writing, whether you're writing it as memoir or as fiction. So, whichever you choose, the most important thing is to write it well.

    Especially after a couple very high profile incidents, wherein memoirs turned out to have fictionalized elements, readers and especially publishers are attuned to memoirs that can't back up some of the factual events that are claimed. It's especially difficult to remember all of the details of past events, especially if one was not planning to write about them, and did not keep some sort of notes or diary or have some other way of preserving facts, thoughts and feelings as they occurred. Our brains are amazingly complex, and memories can be changed over time without us intending to do so or even realizing we have. So, this decision can also be made on a practical basis. There are plenty of novels that are even acknowledged by their authors as being very autobiographical. But watch out for a memoir whose author can't claim that everything in it is a hundred percent accurate. There's always someone who was there and remembers what happened and disputes the truth and veracity of the author's interpretation. Sometimes memoirists will go with a novel just to avoid this sort of thing. At the end of the day, though, it's up to you -- you have to be true to yourself and write it in the style and genre that you believe it deserves.
     
  7. SJKnowles
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    SJKnowles New Member

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    Its nothing new, its everyday life which a lot of people can relate to, which is indeed a good thing when your trying to target a set audience. Even without the religious aspect I've not come across any other books speaking about this and written from a author who has been through it in the UK, most from this background tell there story through Hip-hop over here so it would be very enlightening to read a book similar? Looking from a publishers view, there is a big gap in the market with this subject in the united kingdom, nobody from certain gangs or areas has wrote a book about it for many different reasons and i know a lot of people will pick up a book simply because of who i am and the curiosity of my story. As for making being a Islamic revert the reason it stands out, i feel that will mainly inspire Muslims, i want to inspire everybody who has been led into doing wrong because of there hardship and there environment to better themselves, also for the young generation who is going through hardship not to be lead into crime because of where it leads. Islam is a tool I've used to discipline myself & change for the better, somebody else may have a different tool that will motivate them to change, but i don't want the reader feeling outcasted because they don't share the same religious beliefs. There has been many murders in my community, people are losing lives and we're stuck in the same cycle which will never change with those involved having the mentality of "I will change one day" now is the time to change. Hopefully showing people where it can lead to if we don't change today will wake people up ( that will be the message behind the story ). Thank you for your feedback its much appreciated and i will look into which direction i want to take it :)
     
  8. BallerGamer
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    BallerGamer Active Member

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    Have you read Always Running by Louis Rodriguez? It's also a story about a misguided youth who got himself involved in LA gangbanging that led him to probably the same things that you've been through.

    As for trying to target a general audience rather than just muslims, you have to convey how much Islam has changed your life around, but not send out the message that you have to convert to Islam to change ship. That's easier said than done. You'll have to read a lot of similar books. I know you said there aren't a wide selection available for those that had done it in the UK, but you'll have to seek out books that went through similar situations, but in other parts of the world.

    Although it may not be in the UK, it may share the same voice as yours. By the way I'm highly interested in this book if you ever finish it. I've been through somewhat similar experiences, although I'm proud to say that I chose the right path and didn't fall down a road that I would regret. However I've grown up in those gangbanging environments and I'm sort of "attracted" to it. I never hear about gangbanging in the UK, even though I know it's present, so I have you tagged on future reads :)
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    guess we'll have to agree to disagree, then, liz... much as i hate to do with you, as well, since we usually do agree...

    fiction can be and most often is dismissed as 'that wouldn't happen in real life, which certainly would weaken the author's desired effect on readers of this story... while a memoir can't be so easily pooh-poohed... in a novel, it all happens to a 'fictional character' and in a memoir, it's a real, live person...

    faked memoirs are extremely rare exceptions... and so are novels with a message that have actually changed the lives of their readers, while inspirational memoirs do that much more often for many more people with similar problems... which is why i have to stand by my earlier comments...
     
  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's what makes the world go 'round. How boring it would be if we all agreed all the time.

    My thoughts on memoir are colored a bit by the whole James Frey fiasco with A Million Little Pieces -- I don't think Oprah or the publishing industry have fully recovered from the trauma of that one. And again, it's hard to always be completely honest in a memoir -- sometimes people don't want to be honest to themselves, let alone in a book that they're sending out to the world. Even without any intentional misleading, there's always the danger of self-perception coloring what really happened. Yet, I do love memoir, so I don't mean to indicate that it's invalid or unworthy. It's very valid and can be extremely enlightening, and when done well, can be among the very best of stories. It's just that while in some instances, it can be the very best vehicle for expressing what an author wants to tell the world, sometimes, it's not.

    And as far as a novel -- can you really say that To Kill a Mockingbird didn't have a huge effect on a lot of people?

    I get what you're saying, Maia. Your position has some validity. It's just that I don't think the influence of a story can be so neatly categorized based purely on its assigned genre. Sometimes a novel can have a profound effect on a lot of people and can even influence society as a whole, causing significant thought and discussion. Sometimes memoirs can be nothing more than self-aggrandizing vanity pieces. And of course, the opposite can be true of both, as well -- novels can sometimes be trite, shallow and vapid, doing nothing but numbing the mind for a few hours of pointless entertainment, while some memoirs can be deeply moving and insightful. It all depends on the writing.
     

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