The one word you should never use to describe your memoir

“Never, ever use that word.” This was the advice given to me by a hardened, retired veteran editor, who had perused my query letter as a favor, before I sent it out to the list of agents I’d culled from Writer’s Digest’s Guide to Literary Agents.

Inner journey, outer journey, long journey, complicated journey, violent journey, slow journey, intoxicating journey, revelatory journey, whatever journey you’ve been on, use another word to describe it, if you want your query letter to be read and not tossed in the wastepaper basket.


Out came the thesaurus. Was there a word that I could find to replace the one that I felt captured my narrative? What could be better than journey–c. 1200, from Old French journée “a day’s length, a defined course of traveling, one’s path in life.”

One by one, I tried them on, like a new hairstyle or outfit, each one worse than the next. All fifty-five of them.

I typed “journey” back in. Tomorrow’s another day.

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