12 Tips on Writing Memoirs
Writing a memoir can be a daunting task. Every day, you are
excavating your memory mines and using those memories to create an artistic
You know some basics of memoir writing, and you have learned
how to write a memoir. You have started to write, but some days, it seems
To help you stay on track, here are 12 tips on writing
1. Be Kind to Yourself
You are not going to remember some things you wish you
could. And you will remember things you wish you could forget. It’s okay. Life is
like that. It is filled with ups and downs, triumphs and despair. While it may
be painful or exhilarating to experience, it is also what makes a good memoir.
Writing a memoir is as much about telling the truth about
your life as it is recording important events. As you write your memoir,
remember to have compassion for yourself.
2. Memory Is Unpredictable
You never know when or how your memories will emerge. You
may remember the strangest details — like the smell of your grandmother’s
kitchen — but not remember other important facts — like your grandmother’s maiden
name. That’s okay. The answers may come in dreams, chance conversations, photos
or letters. Trust that the right memories will emerge.
3. Bad Guys Are Good Guys, Too
If you are writing about someone who did you wrong, try to
find the good in the other person. What redeeming qualities did he or she have?
Why did that person behave the way he or she did? What pain did that person
experience that made him or her behave that way? The more you can present
understanding and even compassion for your “bad guys,” the more
interesting and compelling your memoir will be.
4. Just Write
Maybe you don’t know what to say. Write that down. Maybe you
don’t remember. Write that down. Maybe you think you sound stupid. Write that
down. It doesn’t matter. Just keep the pen moving across the paper; keep typing
those words into the computer. At some point, you will find the words start to
5. You Don’t Have to Write
You can use digital recorders, software and video to record
You can also hire a ghostwriter to interview you, organize
and write your memoir. Many people — including politicians, business people,
celebrities and everyday people — use ghostwriters. Writing a memoir does not
have to be hard.
If you would like to find a ghostwriter, we can help.
6. One Day at a Time
It took you years to live your life and have the experiences
you had. Do you think you can write it down in a few short days or weeks?
But if you can write just a little each day, you will have
something in a few short weeks and months. Like the tortoise who eventually
reaches the finish line, so will you.
One day at a time, you will reach your goal of completing
your memoir. One day at a time, you will achieve your dream.
7. Turn Off the Inner Critic
Sometimes, you need to shut up. Shut up your inner critic,
that is. The one that says, “But that’s not right,” “Maybe I’m
saying it wrong,” “I’m not good enough to do this,” “I
don’t know how,” “I need to eat something,” “I have to
vacuum the floor ...”
For now, just let the words flow. Write whatever is on your
mind, in your heart, from your memories. Let your creativity loose.
You will have ample time to turn on the critic later — when
you’re editing the work. Or letting a professional editor or ghostwriter edit
it for you. But for now, while you write, turn it off.
8. You Can Change Everything Later
Don’t worry about naming people, offending them or being
sued. Don’t worry about getting things wrong. You can change everything later — names, dates, times, places, details, even the story itself. You can run it
by a lawyer, literary agent or publisher later.
When you are writing, your goal is simply to get everything
9. Emotional Truth Is More Important Than Factual Truth
Was he born at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m.? What exactly was the name of that
florist? Which country was that neighbor from? These are all salient details
that you might want to know while writing your memoir. But if you don’t
remember, that’s okay.
More importantly, how did you feel when your son was born?
How elated were you when you received those flowers? How did you feel when that
neighbor gave your family the basket of food that Christmas after you had lost
your job and didn’t have money to buy food?
Yes, factual details paint the story’s canvas. But the
emotional truths comprise the story’s soul.
10. Writing Is Rewriting
Writing never comes out perfectly the first time. Good writing
means rewriting. Give yourself the time and space to rewrite material, until
you have something that is an authentic expression of your life, voice and
11. Get Support
Find a writing teacher, coach, buddy or ghostwriter to spot
you. A coach can guide and advise you, especially when you are not sure how to
proceed. More importantly, a coach keeps you accountable to your own dreams.
If you would like help writing your memoir, contact us.
12. Hold On to Your Vision
When you are stuck or discouraged, remember why you are
doing this. Is it to leave a legacy? To share your wisdom?
Think about how happy or touched others will feel after
reading your memoir. Think about how your story will make a difference in their
lives. Think about how satisfied you will feel completing it.
Hold on to your vision of completing your memoir.
Read more about Packaging Your Memoir
Read more about All About Memoirs
Read more about Working With a Ghostwriter on Your Memoir
Sign up for our E-Zine!
Return to the top of the 12 Tips on Writing Memoirs page
Return to AuthorBridgeMedia.com home page