Have you ever wanted to write your own memoir, but don't consider yourself a writer or memoirist?
Are you worried about how to go about writing the memoir?
Do you think that you can’t remember enough personal stories over the years to tell a story?
What Is a Memoir?
Before we start talking about writing a memoir, it’s first important to know what a memoir is, and what a memoir is not. Many people use the terms autobiography and memoir interchangeably. The truth is that they are both very different accounts of one’s life. An autobiography is a self-written interpretation of one’s life—a life story. A good memoir, by definition, is an accounting of something noteworthy—perhaps a time in your life when you faced a great challenge or when your life took a different path than you had planned. Of course, there are other focuses of a memoir, but these are just a few ideas.
To best understand the difference between the two, it’s a good idea to read both an autobiography and a memoir—either about the same person or about two different people. You can purchase them online or at a bookstore or check them out of your local library.
How to Write a Memoir
Like any other project in life, it’s best to have a plan before you start writing your memoir. By following these eight easy steps, you’ll have all of the tools necessary to write your own memoir.
8 Essential Steps to Write a Memoir
- Narrow Your Focus – A memoir serves as a story about a certain period in your life, not your entire life. When writing an autobiography, you may opt to skim over several times in your life and provide a basic overview of the events and circumstances that you encountered. A memoir essay allows you the opportunity to go into deeper detail about an event, a series of events or a time when you learned a valuable life lesson. By taking the time to discuss a portion of your life in depth, you’ll uncover a universal theme that most people can relate to.
- Find Your Inspiration – Dig out objects, notes, cards, and mementos from that time period. Talk to others who were a part of your life during that time. Don’t worry that you can’t remember the entire story. Once you start talking to others and writing, your memory will return.
- Be Honest and Allow Your Emotions to Flow – This is not a time to hold back. Writing a memoir can be a time of great self-discovery. And a memoir can also serve as a cathartic healing process, if it is necessary for you. In addition, to make a memoir truly readable so that the reader will take away some valuable notion or words of advice, you’ll need to take the time to be real. No one wants to read a fake or superficial accounting of an event or time period. Everyone wants to know what really happened because it is through others’ experiences that we can adapt or improve our own lives.
- Dig Deep – Tell more than just the facts about the story. Put your readers in your shoes. Think about why they would want to read your book and what they would hope to get out of it. Talk about how you felt, how others felt, and how your life was affected by the events or time period. Discuss your hopes, fears, dreams, desires, worries, and problems. It’s through the most trying times that we, as humans, experience the most growth. And it’s through these in-depth accounts that your readers will feel most moved.
- Check Your Facts – Checking facts is another great reason to talk to others who either witnessed an event or time period, or knew you during that phase of your life. It’s entirely possible for two people to have different accounts of the same event or different opinions or vantage points regarding an outcome. Take the time to understand both sides to a given story, and perform a self-check to be sure that you have the facts straight and that your recollection is not skewed in any way.
- Add Details – Perhaps you don’t recall every detail about a story. It’s O.K. to embellish within reason. Think about your five senses. Sensory detail and scene setting are what pulls a reader in. So maybe you don’t remember how the air smelled, the exact pattern on the wallpaper or how that pie tasted, but you remember your emotional reactions. Add the details that go along with your emotions during that time. You’ll find that the rest of your story will fall into place. And you’ll create an emotional journey for both you and your reader.
- Organize and Review Your Memoir – Now that you’ve done your research and talked to all people who can corroborate an event or story, it’s time to pull all of this information together. Decide how you want to tell your story: chronologically, in flashbacks or in letter format. Some stories might be best told by starting at the end and working your way back to how it all started. The choice is yours. And each story may dictate how it wants to be told.
- Enlist a Few Readers – Now that you’ve organized your story into a cohesive and readable narrative, it’s time to put it to the test. Enlist a few different readers to critique your story. It may be best to select people from different age groups. You’ll also want to enlist one or more readers who are either part of your story or were alive during that time, as well as one or more people who know nothing of the events and time period. Ask them if they understood the story, if it touched them in any way, and what their takeaway from the story might be.
Get Started Writing Your Memoir Today!
When you follow these eight essential steps to memoir writing, you’ll create connections with your audience and leave them with a valuable takeaway or two. But most importantly, you’ll be sharing your own authentic story with the world and gaining peace in the telling of your story.
Sadly, the story of most people's life will die along with them, including their hopes and dreams, their struggles and achievements, and of course, the times of one's life that would make for a great memoir.
Lastly.com enables you to easily capture the stories and special moments throughout your life (or that of a loved one) so that you will be remembered and cherished by future generations. Get started today!