Live Well, Do Good

Memoir Writing: Ten Tips

December 15, 2009 - David McConkey

Why not write your memoir? The story of your life – told by you while you are still around – will be of interest and value to you and your family. Here are ten tips.

1.  Get Started

With any writing, the scariest part is often the blank piece of paper at the beginning. But there is no better way to begin than by just getting started.

2.  See Your Life in Stories
Visualizing your life as a collection of stories can be a way of visualizing your writing as well.

3.  Value the Writing Process
The writing process itself will bring your stories to life in your memory and then be ready to record.

4.  Don't Worry about Form
Get your ideas down on paper, the style can be improved later.

5.  Organize by Timeline or Theme
Write your ideas either in a chronological timeline, or by theme. The important thing is to get them onto the page.

6.  Write for Yourself, not for Publication
For most people, you will write only for yourself, and, additionally, for your family and friends. Getting published is very difficult. After you have written something and if it appears to have merit, however, you could investigate publication. Options include self-publication, either in print (which can be costly), or on the Internet (which can be free or quite inexpensive).

7.  Write an Hour a Day
Writing regularly can be an excellent approach, but make sure it is actually one hour each day. You can't cheat by saving it up and cramming a week's worth on the weekend.

8.  Decide About Controversial Parts
What if you have written something and you can't decide if it is too controversial to include? Leave your writing for a couple of weeks. When you return to it, it will be more obvious what you should do: keep it the way it is, change it, or omit the offending part altogether.

9.  Look for Help
There are resources in the community - such as a memoir or creative writing workshop, a good friend, or a professional - that can be of help along the way.

10.  Edit and Proofread
Come back to your writing at another time and you will see ways to improve it by editing. Look at it yet again with a proofreader's eye and you will likely spot errors. Or have a friend or professional take a look at your work.

* * * 

See also:

“Memoir Man” a Born Storyteller   (The interview that inspired these tips)

From the Résumé to the Eulogy: Describing Ourselves

Write a Life Story

Six Words To Describe A Life?

Having the Last Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One Small Story

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Effective Altruism Poised to Make Major Impact

Ways to Leave a Legacy  

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