How To Write A Memoir

We all have things in common. That is why people – especially older people – should write about their lives. It gives perspective, is widely eye-opening and can be very cathartic. Even if the book won’t sell a single copy, it is still worth doing it.

You don’t need to have had a hardscrabble youth, you don’t need eccentric parents or anything dramatic. You don’t have to publish your memoir. Truth is that 99,9 % of the people lead boring lives. But every single one is trying to make some sense out of his or her existence, to find some meaning in the world, and therein lies the value and opportunity of memoir. It’s therapeutic for the writer, and it eventually helps his or her descendants to understand themselves better.

Writing about your life is also about coming to a fresh understanding of it at an age when you will probably think you know yourself pretty well. Until you set an experience down on paper, until you ponder the perfect words to describe it, you can’t fully appreciate or understand it. If you thread related experiences together, you can see a pattern in the quilt of your existence. This creates a legacy that doesn’t have dollar signs in front of it but has far greater residual value for your family and friends.

Now, when you want to write your memoir, there are a couple of things you can do:

Ask yourself who the memoir is meant for. You need to make out who your target audience is. Perhaps that can be the close family and some friends (in this case you can go for a less formal, more intimate style of writing) or it can be a general audience. In the latter case you need a more professional writing style and deliver some action in the writing.

Decide what would be the best stories to tell. You need to remember that not every single event needs to be told. Better pick out events from your life that were exciting. If you had one big event (like going through a war) in your life, then perhaps you can focus on only this.

Make up a first draft. This is what every author does. They first write the story (in this case: those events that had impact on your life) in notes. These notes will be used to write out the full story.

Expand the ideas. Once you’ve got all your notes, it is time to write them down chronologically. If you write for a broader audience, keep in mind that your story should be lively enough to hold the attention. See to it that your story has a beginning, a middle and a conclusion.

Have a deadline for completion. It is also good to set yourself a deadline – this will keep you from only writing some small pieces at a time. Perhaps this deadline could be a family event (a golden wedding, for instance) or another special occasion (going on your pension).


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