Writing a Memoir: 7 Tips

Writing a memoir is definitely a challenge. Here are some tips to help keep things
moving along.

Tip #1 – Think themewriting a memoir - six tips

Begin by thinking carefully about your theme. The theme is your memoir’s through
line, the central question, problem, issue or situation that drives the story forward. A well-crafted theme turns a collection of random stories into a compelling memoir. For more on developing a theme, see “Memoir Ideas Are Everywhere.”

Tip #2 – Fit stories to theme

Mentally sort through your stories, selecting only those that truly fit your theme. Be willing to sacrifice stories. If a story doesn’t work with your theme, toss it aside. If it doesn’t help to build upon your central idea, it will bomb – and damage your memoir. See “How To Write a Memoir: Getting Started.”

Tip #3 – Breathe life into your characters

Remember that while you know the people you’re writing about, your readers don’t. Find the actions, words, characteristics, habits or other things that will make your characters come to life on the page. Otherwise, they’ll bring your story to a grinding halt every time they appear. For more, see “Bringing Your Memoir Characters to Life.”

Tip #4 – Reveal, reveal, reveal!

Focus on your feelings and don’t hesitate to reveal them. Don’t hold back; the whole point of a memoir is to let the readers see how you struggled with your emotions and changed as a result.

Tip #5 – Follow your pen

Let your writing take you where it will, especially in the beginning. Yes, it’s a good idea to plan things out and work from an outline, but if you find yourself going down a path you had not considered, see where it takes you. It might be a better approach. If not, at least you’ve learned what doesn’t work.

Tip #6 – Keep reader expectations in mind

Always keep in mind that the top things readers want from a memoir are: theme, emotional engagement and entertainment.

Writing a Memoir: Tip #7, the Winning Tip

The best tip of all for writing a memoir is simply write, write, and write some more. Don’t worry if you haven’t tracked down all the information you need, if you haven’t completely laid out your story, if you’re not sure you can do it, or if what you’re producing isn’t perfect.

Just keep writing. Most problems will eventually sort themselves out.

Many times, your theme will become sharper as you write, or a new and better theme will emerge. You may come to realize that a certain story doesn’t work as well as you thought it would – and another one works better.

Think of the writing process as journeying down a long and winding pathway through your mind and memories. Enjoy the journey! It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about yourself, your development and life in general. If that’s all you do, you will have accomplished something wonderful.