Now, before you get all huffy puffy with me, hear me out.
Let's start with fiction.
I wrote my first novel (YA fantasy). The plot was mediocre, the characters were weak, and the voice was nonexistent. So after going through it with a cp who pointed all of these things out to me, I sat it aside and began my next novel. Now I knew what I did wrong the first time around and I was going to conquer those weaknesses.
So novel two flowed out of my fingers and onto my screen. If I do say so myself, the plot was pretty solid and I loved the adventure. The characters were awesome, unique, and each had their own personalities. The pace was even great. BUT my mcs (2 alternating povs) lacked voice. I wasn't sure what I did wrong though. All over blogger, and in every contest was that word "VOICE". Some people had it, but I just didn't.
So enter novel #3. I knew I had a great memoir in me. And I felt I was now ready to write it. I'd learned through my other 2 novels how important pace and plot were. So I plotted out my memoir, making sure I really focused that bad boy. And because I wasn't writing fantasy now, I really had to make sure to keep the reader's attention.
So I channeled my inner fifteen-year-old and wrote out my memoir (age 15-17). I flew through it and in 2 months it was ready for betas.
The very same betas who kept saying "where's your voice?" in my other 2 novels, were now saying "hahaha!", "oh I love this!", "You go girl, tell them to go to hell!", "Yes, yes, yes!" And my favorite "This is so good. There's no way this won't get published! Do you want me to pitch this to my publisher?" And "Oh you are so going to get an agent with this. I can't believe that was all true!"
It seems I had to write myself as the mc to find my voice. So whether you have a publishable memoir or not, I say write out the most tragic year of your life--or even just a few chapters. FIND YOUR VOICE--THEN write your fiction. Now that I've finished my memoir (which got two R&Rs from agents and is now back in their hands for consideration) I started writing fiction again and I can tell it's a thousand times better!! I know how to feel what the character feels now. I know how to insert my personality onto the page.
Now, for the nonfic. And please hear me out (I know what I'm talking about).
I have been asked to beta a few memoirs. And across the board, my response is the same b/c they all make the same mistakes. YOU ARE TELLING ME THE STORY. STOP. JUST STOP. SHOW ME THE STORY!!!! WRITE IT AS IF IT WERE FICTION!
It's not that there isn't a story there, it's that because the writer doesn't understand fiction, they aren't able to write their nonfiction in a gripping way. And by skimming the surface and telling me things in time jumps, I'm bored, and an agent will be too. And the others things I see are backstory (please, just stop) and they want to tell their entire life. BUT we don't want to read it. Focus that stuff. Pick just the most important time in your life and hone it in. In fiction you write to an age group. You don't write the entire life of your mc, you start at 12, or 16, or 20 and then you write a few months, or a year. Maybe even 2 years, but not their entire life! FOCUS PEOPLE!
Did you know I had an abusive father? I haven't seen him since I was twelve. (TRUTH)
Did you know I had a tumor in my chin that kept coming back? It disfigured my face for a year and I talked with a lisp. I had 4 surgeries over 1 year! (TRUTH)
Did you know I've been married twice? We won't even go into the details of the divorce. (TRUTH)
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT????? NONE of those things were needed or wanted in my memoir. Why you ask. Because my memoir was about rape, having to learn to trust men (b/c they aren't all rapists), learning to be "touched", and even falling in love, and then the trial. Yes there is faith in my memoir, and relationships with my kid brother and mom--but I only told 2 years of my life and only the absolutely most interesting parts of those two years.
So my point, if you can't figure out how to write your memoir like fiction--then write some fiction and come back to your memoir later.
If you're having trouble getting to the heart of your mc, and you can't find your voice, write out YOUR story, just for the purpose of becoming a stronger writer.
Write both nonfiction and fiction so that you can learn from both. Do it as a writing exercise. Now go. Write. Be brilliant.