Friday, November 20, 2020

Writing: Memoirs

I was asked recently for some suggestions and help in writing a memoir. Since this is a type of writing I don't ordinarily do, I honestly haven't thought much about it. But, since the request came from one of my relatives, I didn't just blow it off. Instead, I researched the subject a bit, and thought I'd share the information with you.

It's amazing how much "research" we can do by just entering "writing a memoir" in the search engine of our computer. I did, and the first page was filled with suggestions (plus not a few "pay me and I'll publish it" sites). Putting those sites aside, here are my suggestions.

1. Decide the purpose of the memoir. A "memoir" differs from an autobiography in that it simply focuses on one theme or event of a life. So, what's your theme? What's the central truth you want to convey? Settle this in your mind before you start typing.

2. Is this written for publication, or just to get the words down on paper, perhaps for yourself or for your family? There's nothing wrong with the latter. I've often said that if only one person reads what you write, be it a novel or a non-fiction book, perhaps you're the only one who needs it. If the audience is wider than that small circle of yourself and perhaps your family, keep this in mind as you write.

3. Start with something that will pique the reader's interest. For goodness sakes, don't just tell it chronologically. Start with something that will get your reader interested. Then add scenes, both long and short, that illustrate your point. Diagram your life--or the parts you want to emphasize--and choose what will be the opening scene, what will continue the reader's interest, and what will be the concluding scene and truth you want to convey.

4. Be prepared to start over, again and again. It's not easy to write something knowing it will be read by others, and you'll be tempted to shine it up a bit and make yourself look better than you are. But folks aren't going to read the perfect story...they may start it, but tell them about yourself, warts and all.

I haven't said anything about finding a publisher or getting involved with the writing world. That comes later. It's enough to start. If you finish, then you can get into that part of it.



Patricia Bradley said...

Great advice, Richard. I have a friend I want to read this, so I'm sending her the link. I've tried for years to get her to publish her memoirs, but someone told her once she wasn't famous enough for a memoir. :-/

Richard Mabry said...

Patricia, as I said, I don't know anything about memoirs, but a little internet digging pays dividends. Hope this helps your friend--I've been told by my niece who asked me the question that it was what she needed.