1. erik martin
    Offline

    erik martin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    San Diego, CA

    Writing someone else's memoir

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by erik martin, Aug 16, 2010.

    I was approached by an older relative who expressed interest in writing a memoir and wants my help. He actually might make a publishable memoir--retired navy SEAL who served from Vietnam through Afganistan and is an extremely colorful character, navy experience notwithstanding.

    I was curious if anyone has had experience writing in collaboration like this and if anyone had any tips on things to keep in mind, mostly from the business side.

    I am not completely certain what he wants from me. He might just want advice, he might want a ghost writer, he might want to do it in tandem. I'm going to meet with him in a couple of days to discuss what he has in mind.

    I trust him as much as I trust anyone, but if we are going to work together on something that he wants to sell, then obviously I am going to want our relationship defined contractually before we begin.

    Any thoughts or past experiences to relate?
     
  2. ojduffelworth
    Offline

    ojduffelworth Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2009
    Messages:
    236
    Likes Received:
    2
    There are many books out there already written by ex-military men. Ask him why his will be any better.
    Who does he see as his audience? If it’s just a memoir for family members, he should write it himself then, and let you edit it, and help along the way.
    Do you want to spend your time writing a book for someone else that in all likely hood won’t make much, or even any money? If he wants you to be a ghost, he should pay you up front—think of the hours you would have to put into it—would he be prepared to dish out for all of that?

    My feeling people should write their own memoirs rather than use a ghost.
    That's like an artist paying someone to paint his ideas. ( just my opinion)
    If they haven’t the writing skill, and have a story is worth telling—then a biography—even an ‘official’ biography the if person concerned wishes to endorse its accuracy.
     
  3. daisydaisy
    Offline

    daisydaisy Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2007
    Messages:
    79
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    Well you first need to find out what it is he wants you to do. If he is not a writer, then he might want you to ghostwrite the whole thing, or he might want your help to edit as he writes. Both jobs are very different.

    Right now I am in the process of helping my mother write her memoirs. She has no experience or confidence to write them herself, so I have begun to interview her, using a dictaphone. This way, I get the story in her own words, and I can type them up later. I have set out an initial set of questions, so that we can record in cronological order, and at the end of each session, I write a fresh set of questions to prompt her to speak about specific periods in her life.

    In our first interview, before we began recording, I made sure we both understood the time line she wanted to concentrate on. A memoir can cover a persons whole life, their childhood, their working/carrer life....so it's important to know where they wish to start, and where they wish to end.

    Hope that helps some.

    T xx
     
  4. erik martin
    Offline

    erik martin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks both of you. I am going to find out exactly what he wants tomorrow.
     
  5. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Never collaborate without a contract.
     
  6. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    ditto that!... in spades!!!

    never write a word, or exchange an idea without having a collaboration contract in place first... otherwise, it's the best way to kill a relationship and cause all kinds of legal wrangles later on...

    i've both ghostwritten and 'helped' with memoirs, so email me for more details on the pros and cons of your choices... meanwhile, here's where you'll find the best collaboration agreement:

    http://wga.org/uploadedFiles/writers_resources/contracts/collaboration.pdf
    [mods... could this link be made a sticky?]

    it only takes a few minor word changes to make it work just as well for books as it does for scripts...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  7. Peerie Pict
    Offline

    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Scotland
    Just out of interest, how formal would the contract ideally have to be? Verbal, signed informal contract or lawyer job?
     
  8. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    NOT verbal!
     
  9. erik martin
    Offline

    erik martin Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2010
    Messages:
    249
    Likes Received:
    8
    Location:
    San Diego, CA
    Definitely not verbal. Maia, I liked the contract blank you posted. I'm going to go talk to him in detail tomorrow and post more when I have more info.
     
  10. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,684
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Mitch Albom's book, "Have a Little Faith" in part details what happened when his childhood rabbi asked him to give the eulogy at his funeral when he passed away. Your work involving the memoir may lead you into places you never expected to go.
     
  11. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    you really won't find a better one, erik, since this is from the writers union's own legal department and thus the focus is on protecting the writers from more than just each other...
     

Share This Page