How to Craft an Excerpt From Your Book
Publishing an excerpt is a great way to promote your upcoming memoir. But figuring out how to do it can be a challenge. We asked four successful writers to share their process.
Last month, I received an email from nonfiction book coach Joelle Hann sharing the one question she gets a lot from clients: “How do I shape a part of my book for publication as a standalone essay?” She wondered if Narratively had a resource that spoke to this. We didn’t — yet. We’ve also had a lot of writers reach out to ask if they can submit an excerpt from their book to the Narratively Memoir Prize. The answer is yes! But the question remains: how to craft the very best excerpt from a book-length work?
I attempted to write an essay from my in-progress memoir a few years ago but felt like the first draft didn’t quite work. The way I’d constructed it left too many questions, which I wasn’t sure how to answer without the piece ballooning into something much longer. I put it in a drawer for another day. But faced with the question head-on now, I wanted to know, too. So, I decided to pick the brains of four nonfiction writers who have written excerpts I love — and successfully placed them in The New York Times, The New Yorker and Narratively — to see how exactly they did it.
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