Oct 29, 2021 • 45M

I Have This Idea...Structuring Non-fiction and Memoir: Episode 287 Coaching Call with Emily Henderson

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Entertaining, actionable advice on craft, productivity and creativity for writers and journalists in all genres, with hosts Jessica Lahey, KJ Dell'Antonia and Sarina Bowen.

The hardest part about writing a book is … all of it. Or, arguably, whichever part you’re doing. For our guest on this episode, listener Emily Henderson, it’s something like “I know what I want to write about, but I don’t know how.

Structuring memoir or non-fiction (or, for that matter, fiction) is hard, y’all. And I think it gets talked about less in many ways that other elements of craft. We have this illusion that you come up with an idea and then you write it and it’s the writing that’s hard. But taking that idea and even getting it into a writeable shape is also hard. Are you writing a how-to book? A chronological story? A series of essays? An exploration of a big idea through a smaller lens?

You may not know until you try. We talk about exploring all the iterations and then—ironically, since what Emily hopes to do is explore her “Covid project” of running every street in Santa Barbara—we helped Emily build a NaNoWriMo-style “project” around finding her book’s structure and getting some words on the page. In the process, we talked structural failures, revisions and the importance of choosing a book and topic that you want to live with for a few years.

Talked about on the pod (again): The Art of the Book Proposal by Eric Maisel


Emily: Sue Grafton’s alphabet series C is for Corpse

Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy

KJ: Carnival of Snackery by David Sedaris

Theft By Finding also by David Sedaris

Jess: The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Boyfriend by Sarina Bowen (and then we list all of our favorite Sarina Bowen books and discuss the importance of finding a book that’s your particular flavor of ice cream)

Find Emily: emilykathleenwrites.com IG: @Emilykathleenwrites

Want a “coaching call” of your own? Email us at amwriting@substack.com. We can’t promise to respond to every email, but we might answer your question on an upcoming episode—or invite you into the hotseat like Emily.

Think you’d be pretty good on the other end of a coaching call? Then you should consider becoming a certified book coach through Author Accelerator’s book coach training program. It’s everything you need to know to begin working with clients on writing, planning, revising and querying (and then learning more and getting better with every new client and with Author Accelerator’s support and team behind you). Choose a fiction or nonfiction specialty, study with a cohort and design a new business or side-gig that works for you. Learn more at bookcoaches.com.