Guidelines for Writing a Memoir

Memoirs are about sharing your personal experience. However, it is important not to get caught up in a vengeful account of the past that will only cause readers to feel negative emotions about you and your story. Begin your memoir by focusing on the most compelling aspect of your experience. Then, build a narrative arc around this event or incident.

Know Yourself

Like a novel, your memoir must hook readers by telling the outer story (what happened) and the inner story (how it impacted you). Your memoir should also include the theme of your story or what you want others to take away from your experience. It can be done subtly through a character arc (you as the protagonist) or how you’ve changed due to your experiences, especially those involving other people. You can even use the same techniques that make fiction compelling to shape your memoir: combine events, omit certain details, fictionalize dialogue, and compress or combine time in the interests of telling a more compelling story. You should identify the broader themes in your memoir—like resilience, self-discovery, or parenting—and center your book around those themes. To do that, you must know yourself well enough to decide what aspects of your life interest other readers.

Involve Others

Memoirs can get overwhelming with all the details from an entire lifetime. By outsourcing the writing process, you may save time and effort and concentrate on other areas of your organization. Your book will be expertly written, interesting to read, and educational if professional memoir ghostwriting services are in charge. To make a memoir more impactful, narrow the period you want to cover and focus on a key theme. For example, if you remember childhood holidays and traditions, brainstorm with family members who may have fun anecdotes to share, fresh perspectives, or new details. Also, consult a lawyer before publishing any memoirs that could expose family members to real embarrassment or legal issues. It will help preserve that sense of intimacy that makes a good memoir memorable. Remember to bring your memoir to life with character development and vivid settings like a novel. It will keep readers engaged. Identify and alter key details to give the story a more engaging feel.

Make It Personal

Memoirs often touch on some of the most painful parts of life, and they require courage to write. But they also need to be honest. If you hide anything or make up stories, it will be clear to your readers, and the memoir won’t work. It’s also helpful to hone in on a key theme and remember that your reader needs to connect with your story. Please focus on the people who matter and how they have shaped you. Interview family and friends from different perspectives, peruse photographs, visit meaningful places, and research dates, weather, and history to add depth to your memoir.

Memoirs need a storyline, chapter-length setups and payoffs, and characterization (yes, your family members are characters now). Don’t be afraid to let your ego go, but don’t embellish or bend the truth. People are drawn to memoirs about experiences they can relate to.

Make It Inspiring

Memoirs aren’t fiction but need to hook readers from page one. A great way to do this is to begin in media res or the middle of things. Another way is to portray yourself as a relatable protagonist who struggles but ultimately rises to meet life’s challenges. This is often done in fiction by showing versus telling, but memoirs can do it by subtly describing your emotions and actions. A strong memoir also has a clear theme and an overall message that can be summed up in a sentence or two. When reviewing your stories, be ruthless and put any that don’t work with your theme in the reject pile. Consider interviewing family or friends for insights if you have trouble determining your theme. Be careful not to turn your memoir into a preachy, condescending tome.

Make It Compelling

They will never stick around if you do not grab readers’ attention. Memoir is not the place for flippant, sarcastic or condescending humor. Your memoir is the truth about who you are, so if you try to cover up the dark side with jokes that make your readers groan, you will quickly lose their interest. Be ruthless with which stories you include. If a story doesn’t directly relate to or naturally flows from your theme, put it in the rejection pile. It can be not easy, especially if it is one of your favorite memories, but you must focus on the theme and what you want to share with your readers. The reward in a successful memoir should leave the reader wondering what will happen next, just as in fiction. It is not always as dramatic as a climax, but it could be as simple as revealing that you overcame your struggles.

Make It Memorable

Many memoirs suffer because of a lack of dramatic tension. Even in a nonfiction book, readers must care about your main character, be drawn into their struggle and experience the satisfaction of untangling the tension. You can create this drama in your memoir using a theme that binds your stories into a narrative. From the start, it may need to be clarified what your theme is, but if you reread your manuscript with an eye for structure, you will often find that it emerges. You can then use the theme to decide on each story you include. Those that fit the theme should go in, and those that do not should be put into a separate pile. It can be hard, especially if you have a favorite story. However, if it does not serve your theme or tell a story you want to share, it is best to let it go.

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