Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! Many of us have stories to tell from our own lives but memoir is a difficult genre to master. Because a memoir is so rooted in the personal and emotional experiences of the writer, it can be difficult to approach with the same professionalism that we would apply to our other projects. Yet, we must. This book isn't your journal. It's your work. If you're writing a memoir to publish, then you're writing for an audience.
Don't spew your stream of consciousness and focus on details that matter only to you. That will create a story that doesn't make sense to your readers or convey the message that you're trying to share. Instead, focus on the lessons that you learned through the experiences in question.
Think about the main point you want to make by sharing your story. How can you best express your point to your audience, so that they can apply it to their own experiences? Of course be nice. But, don't pull punches to the point that it's detrimental to the story. In The Hart Compound, I changed names, tweaked events, and rearranged details to keep from exposing the people who don't want to be a part of the book.
But I didn't ignore a good story just because it was potentially sensitive. Instead, be open and honest with the people around you about your intentions, and they may decide that they're okay with what you're writing. Alternatively, remember that while a few people in your hometown might recognize a character in your book, the majority of your readers have no idea who that person is.
If you're serious about sharing a good story, don't get too caught up trying to keep everybody comfortable. Memoirs exist to express the essence of a moment in time, not to list a series of events. Don't restrict your story to a front-to-back chronology of how you ended up where you are today. Instead, hone in on the most compelling moments, memories, and emotions. Rather than focusing on the events of the story, focus on the purpose of it, and steer what you choose to share toward that purpose. Just as you would in a novel, allow yourself to skip time, ignore meaningless events — and get to the good stuff.
Your characters should be as dynamic as the ones you would create in fiction. It can be tempting to paint yourself the victim or the hero of every situation, but no character can be innocent all the time. Instead, expose your weaknesses alongside your strengths. Sometimes, you have to make yourself the villain.
Memoir Vs. Autobiography
Show where you fail, explain where you fall short, and your readers will appreciate your candor. It's a mistake of any author to try to market to too broad an audience. Don't make your memoir generic in an attempt to draw in the most readers possible. Chances are, your experience is very specific, and if you try to write it for too many different kinds of people, the true point of it will be lost.
Instead, to have the greatest appeal, target a specific audience. Your writing will have a much stronger impact on readers who feel they can relate. Bonus: Pinpointing your target audience will give your book a fantastic boost when you pitch it for publication! Memoir doesn't have to be about digging through old journals and photo albums and piecing together memories of a life lived long ago. Don't hesitate to write your memoir because you think you haven't lived enough yet. Instead, start documenting your life right now. There are stories everywhere.
Write a journal, keep a blog, take notes about the life around you. I'm only 26 years old. Instead of waiting until the end of my life to compile my memories, I write autobiographical short stories as they happen, and my memoir is an ongoing series. When a chapter of my life closes, I publish a collection of those stories. If an editor tells you that a scene doesn't make sense to her — even if it happened in Real Life — it probably won't make sense to your readers, either.
Don't ignore vital feedback because you're too close to the events you're writing about. Write your memoir with the integrity of the story in mind. Choose beta readers, reviewers, and editors who have no connection to the people, places, or events in the book — and listen to their suggestions. Be an artist. Write your story. But, don't be stubborn. The author shares writing advice and anecdotes at her blog by. Great advice! I need to learn all the rules of writing my memoirs so that I may break them all! Wow, this is exactly what my English teacher says. As someone who just finished a memoir, I cannot tell you how much I appreciated your invaluable tips and advice!
Thank you! Dana, Do you feel that some people who read more fiction have a more difficult time comprehending a memoir because of the different structure it follows? What I expected to happen next, never happened in memoir; it was an odd experience. When I started my memoir in , I had no idea how to go about it. I was driving taxi in St. Paul at the time, and one of my regular clients was a writing instructor and career counselor for MSU. Through her, I was led to read specific memoirs, and How To books, which were quite challenging at times — and then I became ill between — from the progression of HIV infection.
It was in my body for at least eight years before I decided to treat it. I almost died three times during that period. And then a whole new idea of subject matter was in the making of my life story, which could be a better subject to write about — possibly captivating a more specific audience. All that work, and I wanted to start over! I only put out three stories last year, and pages in the prior three years. So I went down to the Minneapolis Public Library to Google my option on their computer — then I came across your article.
So, my second question is: Is their such a thing as combo memoir fiction, or is that just considered fiction? Could it be a new venue to explore? What do you think? So, I guess my story is not a memoir, but my biography since it contains some astounding events pertaining to my life. I am 56 years old, and never knew, but found out all my relatives on my parents side knew I was. So my story takes another turn, and found out that the mother I thought was my birth mother and fought with her so bitterly, that I had to run away and join the United States Navy in , but my birth mother was French, from Strasbourg,with no father listed on my birth certificate.
Given all of this, and more, what I think you are telling me, is my story is not a memoir, but my biography. I will continue to document my story and journey and plan to get my story published, similar to the movie and book called Philomena. I have my own story to tell and have so far written pages longhand in my A5 sized journal. I will revisit events in my twenties by going to meet my best friend at the time, my friend Sarah, who used to live in the same house as me in London England back in and is now living in Rigby.
Does this make it a memoir or fiction? Yes, you will lob more balls over the net by lowering the net but it will miss the point of playing tennis. My probably is that my story is TRUE but unbelievable to the extent it is hard to read and comprehend what one person can go through. Again, yes it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth — that sets us free! Mary, If you get this, I would suggest that you do two things: 1 One, let go of any attachment to your story being unbelievable.
If you write from that perspective your unconscious will make the story unbelievable. In the years I have worked with people, I have heard all the stories imaginable.
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- How to Write a Memoir.
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You may have a challenge but you do not have a problem! There is no right or wrong place to start. Now imagine that experience is about to become a major motion picture. What would the title be? Write that on the second sheet of paper. Under the movie title, jot down some things that make this event significant. Try to list at least six details, in any order they occur to you, such as:. Every memoir has a beginning and an end. On a third sheet of paper, write an opening sentence.
Give enough detail to make it interesting without telling the whole story. Your experience probably taught you something about life or about yourself. On the third sheet of paper, beneath your opening sentences, write a sentence that summarizes the significance of the event. At this point you have a title, an opening sentence, a list of important details, and a conclusion.
Next, put all those papers aside. You do not need any of them as you write. Everything you need is in your head, or your heart. You know how the story begins and how it ends.
How to write a memoir: Jeanette Winterson and Helen Macdonald
These six how to write memoirs steps gave you a structure to help you get started-now all you have to do is write it all down. So take out a fourth sheet of paper. Write your title and your opening sentence, and then tell your story, writing in a way that is comfortable and natural for you. Make it as short or as long as you like; there is no minimum or maximum length. Wrap it all up with the conclusion or life lesson. You now have the first draft of your first memoir.
The most meaningful gift for your family – StoryWorth
Repeat these steps for every story you want to tell and before long you will have a treasure to pass on to future generations. Most recently he has developed a site where regular people can publish their memoirs. To succeed in developing a short story, you need to canvas its environment, not just by your choice and arrangement of words, but also by its series of Writing doesn't have to be a lonely, solitary pursuit, holed away in the confines of your study.
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6 Steps to Get You Started Writing Your Memoirs
Step 1 — List several life experiences Take out a sheet of paper. Step 3 — List significant details Under the movie title, jot down some things that make this event significant. Try to list at least six details, in any order they occur to you, such as: Who was involved? When did it happen? Where were you? What were you thinking? Why do you remember this event?
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Step 4 — Write an opening sentence Every memoir has a beginning and an end.