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 landscape.

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 overwhelming.

To help you stay on track, here are 12 tips on writing memoirs.

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 flow.

5. You Don’t Have to Write

You can use digital recorders, software and video to record your stories.

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? Probably not.

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 down first.

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 wisdom.

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.

Related Resources
Read more about Packaging Your Memoir

Read more about All About Memoirs

Read more about Working With a Ghostwriter on Your Memoir

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