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Write hot, edit cold

Updated: Aug 22, 2021

This adage still holds true today. After the rush and, often, exhilaration, of getting down a scene just as you remember it for memoir, or want to create it for fiction, what must follow is the sober evaluation of its probable impact on a complete stranger, the reader.

SSOA writer, Ros Lawson, gives an extraordinary example of the emotional trials and tribulations an author can face ...

On the ABC Radio National program 'All in the Mind' recently, a young woman, Rebecca Sharrock, talked about writing a remarkable autobiography; remarkable because she is one of kind, at least in Australia. She is someone with Highly Superior Autographical Memory or HSAM.

Throw her any date during her twenty-eight years on this earth and she can tell you what she was thinking, doing and feeling on that day. She can even detail what she smelt, felt, and thought even back to when she was just twelve days old. Give her the beginning sentences to a Harry Potter chapter and she can tell you the rest of the chapter and which book it came from in the series.

Rebecca is writing her autobiography, and her power of memory offers an example of how important it is to 'write hot, edit cold' - for us all. How many of us would love to have her recall abilities to make scenes from our lives come alive for the reader in such vivid detail? But this ability comes at some cost. Rebecca re-lives the emotions as she writes about them. For her, the hardest chapters to write were about when she was fourteen and going through depression. Writing those times caused debilitating emotions to come flooding back. Writing about her holidays as an adult made her feel happier.

When it came to editing all the memories, it was back on the roller coaster of those intense emotions. Fortunately, once those memories were in print, the emotions were locked away until each time the Pandora’s Box was opened when she read them again.

The curse of the autobiography! This genre makes plain how every writer needs the 'cool hand Luke' or the icy eye of a trusted editor!

Copyright Ros Lawson; photos Wix.

SSOA writers' blogs are made possible through the support of City of Sydney grant assistance.


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