10 Tips For Writing a Memoir
by Mandee Sears
Are you writing a memoir or considering writing a memoir? The hardest part is getting started. We all have a lifetime of memories, things we'd like to share -- mistakes, triumphs. How do you make the decisions necessary to write memoir?
The 10 tips below is designed to give you assistance and encouragement as you start down the path to writing life story -- memoir.
- Focus - What differentiates memoir from autobiography is that it deals with only a slice, a portion or event in your life, rather than your whole life. Memoir is a story within the story of your life. Stay focused on your chosen topic. Avoid meandering off in another direction.
- Breaking the Ice - Write. You can't write about your life if you don't start writing, everyday. Try to get into a routine of same time, same place, spending the same amount of time writing. As Lou Willet Stanek says in her book, Writing Your Life - "The magic words for fiction writers are 'what if', for memoir writers 'I remember' breaks the ice."
- Collapse - Collapsing characters or events that are not important to your stories theme will help you concentrate on the people and events that are important. Just because Uncle Joe is your favorite uncle doesn't mean he needs to be in your story. If your memoir is about your career or marriage/divorce, boot Uncle Joe. A character or event needs to further the story line.
- Use Fiction Writing Techniques - Today's memoir readers -- whether your family and friends or the general public -- want a story to move them, involve them and keep their attention, just as fiction novels do. Nothing is worse than a boring "First I did this, then I did that. " type book. Use dialog, build suspense, write settings that will bring a scene to life for a reader.
- Classes and Groups - Join a memoir writing group locally or online. Search Google for suggestions. Take a class at a local college or online. Writers helping writers is one of the best ways to improve your skills.
- Use Showing and Telling - In all other
genres the motto is "Show, don't tell". But, a memoir writer gets the best of both worlds. It is expected of you to tell in addition to showing. This exposition helps move the story along or fill in gaps for relevant but not as important information. Don't "tell" to the exclusion of "showing". Use both techniques.
- Write in the first person - It's your story. No one but you can tell it. Write it from your point of view.
- Details - After deciding what events and people are important and should be included in your story, write the details. Details are what draw the reader in and allow them to picture your story happening in their mind. Were you in a restaurant or were you in a quaint Paris cafe with checkered tablecloths and the aroma of fresh eclairs in the air? Which description would make you want to read more?
- Keep Your Audience in Mind - Who are you writing for? If it is family and friends then inside jokes and more vague references can be used. But, if you want anyone to be able to read your memoir don't refer to something they have no record of and will not understand.
- Don't Edit, Write - Finish your story before you start editing. You can't edit if you haven't written anything. Also, when you get on a roll, you don't want to stop to edit. It will rob you of your train of thought and direction. Save your editing for later. If you can't stand the thought of writing the entire memoir without some editing, limit yourself. Today, only look at what you wrote yesterday and edit. Then continue on with your writing. Sometimes this method will actually help re-ignite your memories so you can start writing again today.
These 10 tips will help and encourage you as you start on your memoir. Keep them close by. There are also a large variety of books at your bookstore to help with your writing. The main thing is to start. Now, go, WRITE!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mandee is a perpetual student of life and has been writing personal narrative for most of her life. She continues to research and write in the non-fiction category including articles, memoir, personal essay and opinion as well as dabbling in poetry. Visit her webpage at Writing Life Story or her blog at Life Story Writing