Writing about past trauma in a book is not an easy task. It can be difficult to relive painful memories and experiences, but it can also be therapeutic for you and create a meaningful piece of literature for readers. This was my experience when I penned my memoir, Everybody Kneeling Ain’t Praying. It was such a breath of fresh air to release my story. My first draft was for me to let it all out, and then I edited it for public consumption. You don’t want the wrong tone with your writing, so do not publish your first draft.
When writing about trauma, it’s important to remember several key points: first, prioritize your own mental health – take breaks if you need them; second, focus on the healing value of storytelling – recognize how this gives you an opportunity to work through difficult emotions; third, aim to be as honest and accurate as possible – write with respect for yourself and the subject matter; fourth, consider involving other people in your writing project who can provide support and feedback; and lastly, stay connected to the present – try to ground yourself while focusing on the tasks at hand.
Before diving into any major project like this one, it helps to have some plan or structure. Understand that there’s no right or wrong way to do it—but having some goals or milestones will offer structure throughout the experience, which many find helpful. Some tips include: developing an outline that works around your story arc, using setting and tactile details to evoke powerful emotions without overtly describing them, setting boundaries with family members who may be affected by what you’re sharing in your story—and lastly, giving yourself permission to recognize that revisiting trauma does not mean completely resolving all of it.
Everyone’s journey is unique, and so is their writing process when dealing with past trauma. Keeping these few points in mind will help guide you through their projects while taking care of their mental health along the way.
SIDEBAR: A story arc is a structure for narrative writing, which typically involves five key steps: exposition (introduction of characters and setting), rising action (development of conflict or tension), climax (apex of conflict), falling action (resolution of conflict or tension) and resolution (ending). These steps help to create a logical sequence of events and carry the reader through to the end. In addition, each step must build upon the one before it, so the stakes are constantly being raised. This increases tension and keeps readers engaged in the story.