Writing a memoir is a great way to reflect on your life and to explore the lessons you have learned through your experiences. It’s also a great way to leave a legacy – either for your family or for posterity.
Writing a memoir may seem like an intimidating process. You may think that only professional writers or those who can afford to pay for ghostwriters can publish a memoir. However, any person with the will to write a memoir can do so.
Here are a few tips to help you write your memoir:
Focus on a Specific Time or Event
A memoir is not an autobiography. It should not tell the story of your whole life, reading like an encyclopedia of you. Instead, a memoir should focus on a specific time or event in your life.
Many memoirists write about their childhood. You could also write about becoming a parent, spending time in the military, teaching overseas, or discovering your faith. Write about any period in your life or any significant event that had an impact in your life.
Don’t Worry about Telling a Chronological Story
Your memoir is not a history book. It is a nuanced narrative of your experiences. The best way to tell it may not be from start to finish.
You may choose to reveal a shocking event right away, then work backward through flashback, revealing what led up to it. You may tell major events in order, but jump forward or backward in time to relate pertinent details for better understanding of the events or just for better storytelling.
The way you tell your story is as important as the events that comprise your story. The best way to present it may not always be in chronological order.
Be Emotionally Truthful
Not very many people remember all the details of events that happened years ago, even if they were significant. Can you remember the address of the house you lived in when you first learned to ride a bike? You might not remember that, but you probably remember what it felt like the first time the training wheels came off your bike. Can you remember what you were wearing when you had your first kiss? You may not know the color of your dress, but you might remember the smell of your boyfriend’s hair.
When you write a memoir, what’s important is the emotional truth behind the narrative, not the factual details. Readers will connect with what you felt, not with placeholder details.
Write for Yourself
When you write a memoir, you won’t be writing just about yourself. You’ll likely be writing about your parents, or maybe your husband or wife, or maybe your children or your friends. In some ways, your story will be their story.
Don’t get caught up worrying about what those people will think of your story when they read it. Everyone will have a different perception of events, and you won’t be able to please everyone with your telling of them. That’s because your experience will differ from theirs. Tell your own story and tell it truthfully, and the people in your life will respect your bravery and your honesty.
Simply starting to write is half the battle. Many of us will procrastinate indefinitely, always talking about writing “someday.” Just start writing, and you will be well on your way to finishing. Write a little bit each day. Don’t think about what you are writing. Don’t stop to outline or to tinker with sentences or to look up a better word choice. Just put the pen to paper – or the fingers to the keyboard – and write without stopping. All of your “real writing” will be done on the rewrite. In the beginning, your job is just to get your thoughts on paper and to build up the momentum that will lead you to the finish line.
Writing a memoir is a fantastic way to document significant events in your life for your family, your children, and yourself. It’s also a great way to connect with others – to let them know: You are not alone. What you have experienced, I have also experienced. Don’t let the intimidation of writing or the fear of rejection keep you from finishing your memoir. Use these tips to help you get started and to finish your memoir this year!
Catie Keeler is the primary researcher and writer for mortgagerates.info. Her most recent accomplishments include graduating from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill with a degree in business and communications. Her current focus for the site involves interest rates today and mortgage calculators.