Can You Write A Memoir That People Care About?

StoryThere is a lot of debate on the difference between an autobiography and a memoir and I think I covered my opinion on this post. Basically, a memoir revolves around one or a series of memories, rarely is it all-encompassing. Think about a memoir as an event that changes your life with a possible moral tossed in. An autobiography spans one's entire life with multiple themes.

Are you thinking about writing a memoir? Here are some tips on how to write a memoir that people care about! Click To Tweet

Your Memoir Is Not About You

This can be tough for a lot of people to understand, but a memoir is about a lesson you've learned and can safely share with others. The truth is people will get bored hearing about you (unless of course, you've lived an extraordinary life); it's the book equivalent to being at a party with someone who drones on and on about themselves.

People would rather read stories about things you've learned that they can apply to their own lives. When you sit down to start a memoir, think about events in your life that had a profound impact on it. Once you have the events, pick one and write down what you have learned from it. You don't need a long list; just a few bullet points will do the job. Now comes the hard part, put that list away don't look at it until you've completed the first draft. Now, go back and look at your lists and see if the lessons you've learned are clearly presented in the writing. If not, edit accordingly.

Don't write it so you're “ramming” your lessons into the reader's mind. Always err on the side of subtilty. You should be using a whisper and not a bullhorn.

Start From The End First

Getting started can be hard; you want to write but you're not sure where to begin! A lot of people will tell you to start at the beginning, but I think starting at the end can help.

For example, you are now living in your dream location (that's the end), how did you get there? Did you find a job first or just move? Did your family support you? Once you have the ending, it can be easy to work backwards to the start.

Follow The Rules Of Fiction

Remember, a memoir can be based on facts, but it is much more a story you're telling with a lesson or moral. So following a few rules of the fiction writer can help craft a more compelling story.

Start in the middle of the action, not from the beginning. Don't start with boring demographics like your age, gender, or upbringing that will come as you continue the story.

Use flashbacks to bring the reader up-to-date.This is a mechanism to share some necessary information with your reader. Your memoir doesn't need to be a linear re-telling of the event.

Show, don't tell! Use descriptive language to build the world within your memoir. Don't make conclusions yourself, set it up so that the reader can.

Create well defined characters. Your secondary characters should be realistic and not all good or bad. You want to define the characters “warts and all.”

Read it aloud. Your words should flow and hearing them helps you identify unnatural sentence structure and poor word usage. If you use a computer, it can read it for you.

Should You Use Real Names?

I am not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV. So, if you want legal advice, talk to your lawyer.

With that disclaimer, I suggest you use caution when it comes to naming people in your memoir. When you write the first draft, go ahead and write things exactly as it happened, using real names and places. It's hard enough just to get started without self-censoring. So, for the first draft let it just flow onto the page.

Now that that first draft (or two or three) are done, it's time to decide what to do about the name issue. You may have more clarity on the pros and cons of using real names. Before you publish your memoir, get some feedback from others and if necessary, talk to an attorney. Also, you might ask the person you're [not] naming, if it's alright to use their name. And get it in writing.

Remember To Hire An Editor!

I know, you may think you're story is perfect and you need every, single word you've written; otherwise, you wouldn't have written it! When it comes to killing elements of your story, it is very hard. You want to protect your memories, as we all do, and the idea of deleting something can be incredibly difficult.

Why can't we edit our own work? They may have happened a while ago; it's still part of your experience. Most of us don't have the objectivity needed to strip away parts of our story to find the true catalyst. That's where a professional editor comes in!

Now Let's Get Writing!

Writing a compelling story isn't hard once you get started. I suggest you sit down with your journal first and start writing out ideas.

Do you want some help in getting started? Let's talk!

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