7 Essential Memoir-Writing Tips

Everybody has a story to tell, and I think it’s a shame that a lot of them don’t get put onto paper. The main reason behind this may just be fear. Fear to fail, fear to try, and fear to begin. But begin you must! The only way that you can succeed is to step forward.

But enough of the wisdom, let’s get down to the tips! Here’s how to go about starting your very own memoirs…

1.       Pick up that pen and write!

One of the biggest hurdles to starting is knowing where to start. If you’re totally stuck just pick a memory – any memory – and just start writing. Write about what happened, write about how you felt, write about how you feel now thinking about it. Write anything you want to write, just do it!

Once you’ve completed the first one, the next one will come easier. It may not be the next day, it may not be the next week, but when it comes to you, you’ll find it’s a lot easier to slip into the writing frame of mind. After a while, you’ll have a whole pile of memories that you can start to sort through and build your story from.

2.      Make a timeline

Once you feel like you’ve exhausted all the memories that you would want to include, place them on a timeline. From here you’ll be able to see the time in your life that you’re really writing about, and you can ignore the memories that came before and after. Don’t throw them away though, because you worked hard to get them out. Keep them for a rainy day – or your second set of memoirs.

3.       Don’t use your story to attack others

No one will thank you for it. By all means, tell the truth about situations that involve other people, but don’t dwell on the incidences where you’ve been hard done by because your memories will start to read like a moan. After all, your memoirs are about you, not anyone else.

4.       Be honest!

Don’t avoid writing about your mistakes; no one is perfect. Everyone has done things that perhaps they’re not proud of, that maybe they would want to change. But leaving those things out would mean that you are not being true to yourself or to your readers and that you would not be painting an authentic picture, just a censored version. Making no mistakes would mean you have nothing to learn from, and passing life lessons on is an important thing about memoirs. Plus it’s all part of the wonderful story of you!

 5.       Don’t avoid the hard parts

Just because it’s difficult to face, doesn’t mean you should shy away. In fact, you should grab the opportunity to battle some of your demons. Writing is incredibly therapeutic, and you’d be surprised by the number of feelings we repress. Bringing those feelings to the surface, and finally being able to deal with pain that you pushed aside before, will help you no end not only in the writing of your story, but in living your life as well.

6.       Ask yourself questions

You should constantly be asking yourself questions about what you’re writing – should I include this? Is this adding to my story? Am I being honest? If you ask questions as you write, when it comes to redrafting you won’t have to cut out pages and pages of ineffective writing.

7.       And… redraft!

This may sound daunting but it is absolutely vital. Nothing comes out flawlessly the first time and you need that second (or tenth) read-through in order to see where you went wrong the first time. This is the time where you can really see your story as a whole and pick out the things that are adding to it, the things that are taking away from it, and the things that are doing nothing. Don’t be precious about your writing here; be ruthless and your memoirs will be the better for it. It’s tough, but don’t give up. If it becomes too much, you can always hire an editor to help.

Hopefully this has helped clear some fog about the mammoth task that is memoirs. Let us know how you’re getting on with yours.

Gemma Cantwell is a blogger for GKBC Writer Academy and has a degree in Creative Writing.

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