Everyone Has a Book in Them: Tips for Writing your MemoirOctober 6, 2022
Do you feel compelled to write about some momentous events in your life and tell your story in your own words? Would you like to gain insight into your significant life experiences or share your stories with your family?
Everyone has a story to tell. Writing your life-story could be a fun and therapeutic experience. Here are some tips to get you started.
- 1. Read other people’s self-life stories
Putting your memories of an important event or two down for the record is a way to convey emotional truths about your life and pass a part of your story to your family.
Before you start writing, do the following:
- Read other people’s memoirs.
- Choose a variety of memoirs and not only those memoirs written by famous people.
- Read self-published life-stories, short personal essays, diaries and confessions.
The more first-person accounts you read, the more you’ll learn how to tell your story.
- 2. Focus on specific periods of your life
A memoir isn’t an autobiography. Instead, it’s a written recollection of one or two events in your life that were meaningful or pivotal to your life journey. For example, author Cheryl Strayed wrote the #1 New York Times bestseller Wild about how her mother’s death led her to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
- 3. Start with journaling
If you want to write a memoir but aren’t sure where to begin, start journaling. Write about your life this way first, see what stories or lessons are recurring themes, and consider writing about one or two of these experiences.
Journaling gets you in the habit of writing and reflecting. It’s also an excellent brainstorming technique. Many of the world’s great memoirists filled hundreds of journals before they started their memoirs.
- 4. Begin in the middle or even at the end
A mistake that many first-time memoirists make is writing their story in chronological order. According to the popular creative platform Masterclass, “the best memoirs don’t tell their stories chronologically . . . (they) begin with an immediately compelling story or moment from their life.”
Writing your memoir this way will grab your reader’s attention and make them want to know more, especially the “why” behind your anecdote.
- 5. Think of your memoir as a fictional account of your life
Yes, you’re writing your truth, but you want your story to read like fiction. Use dialogue in your scenes to keep your readers engaged, and show — don’t tell — what you’re writing. A memoir is your chance to write about your life as if you’re a character in a compelling bestselling fiction book.
- 6. Don’t worry about getting it right
A memoir isn’t bound by factual accuracy. Why? It’s simple. No two people remember a life event the same way. Of course, you don’t want to lie when writing your memoir – after all, you’re attempting to write your truth and provide insight into your life. However, you shouldn’t feel compelled to get everything right.
For example, if you’re writing dialogue (and you should), it’s impossible to remember a conversation from 30 years ago. You’re not trying to capture the exact words but the essence of the conversation.
- 7. Write every day
If you’ve been journaling before writing your memoir, you have already got into this habit of writing every day. If not, start this practice. Develop a daily writing routine. Pick an inspiring place to write or a quiet place where you can think. Set a timer and write whatever comes to mind at that time.
What you write doesn’t have to be good, and you don’t need to spend hours writing. Just ten minutes a day is enough.
- 8. Hire a writing coach
Depending on your goals for your memoir, you might consider hiring a writing coach. The ideal writing coach is someone who’s written several books, preferably a memoir or two, and can guide you through the process. These individuals help you explore your story more deeply and understand your motive more precisely for writing the memoir.
Writing coaches hold you accountable; if you choose to publish your memoir, they help you understand your options.
What happens after you write your memoir?
Not everyone who writes a memoir is motivated to have it published or read by anyone other than friends or family. Some people write their memoirs for no one but themselves. But one thing is for sure. You’ve told your story the way you wanted it told, and no one can take that away from you!
Once you’ve finished your memoir, what you do with it is up to you.