A memoir is a literary genre that entails writing about previous events in your life, such as certain life lessons, fascinating stories, miraculous recoveries or rescues, or any other intriguing personal experiences. Unlike an autobiography, a memoir doesn’t describe your whole life, but concentrates on some of its milestones and depicts them from the first person point of view.
Steps for Writing a Memoir
- Decide what your goal is for writing a memoir and what you want to achieve from it. It may be sharing your wisdom and knowledge, leaving a heritage for your children, entertaining yourself, or attempting to learn more about yourself and the reasons for past behaviors.
- Think about the most memorable moments of your life. It may be a single event or a whole sequence of events. Don’t worry—if you can’t think of anything interesting, critical decisions, conflicts, lessons or beliefs can also be used as a basis for your writing.
- Think about people that will be mentioned in your memoir. Prepare backgrounds for each of them. Notify them about your intention to include them in your writing, since they might not be willing to become literary characters.
- Since memoirs are not fiction and are based on real experiences, make sure all facts, dates and events are true and accurate. Organize the material you’ve gathered, and decide on the order it will be presented in and how it will be displayed.
- Write the text. It can be quite a lengthy process, depending on the amount of information, your free time, and your literary skill level. At this point, make a draft and don’t bother with too much detail.
- Edit and proofread your work. Give what you’ve written to your friends or people you trust and let them read over your work. If they comment on the same points, it is an indication of where corrections should be made.
People write memoirs to fixate, analyze, share, or rethink past events. This type of writing refers to important and significant moments. What you choose as a topic may depend on the length of the paper you want to write, or vice versa if you don’t plan how long your manuscript will be in advance. Possible topics for a memoir:
- The most vivid event from your childhood
- A special person you will never forget
- An achievement of a significant goal
- Overcoming obstacles and standing up for yourself
- A trip to an exotic place with unexpected adventures
- A story of personal success or defeat
- An unpleasant or terrible event in your life that suddenly turned out to be beneficial
Key Points to Consider
- You can write only one autobiography, since you have only one life, but you can write lots of memoirs, because your life is full of events.
- A memoir is a kind of autobiographic novel, though it is less formal than an autobiography, and it has a different structure.
- It may be difficult to grasp all of your life’s moments you would like to describe. An easier way to do it is to divide your lifeline into periods, observing each of them instead of as a whole.
- Honesty is the key factor for writing a successful memoir. This means honesty not only towards readers, but towards yourself as well.
- Keep a notebook close to you. This way you can always write down interesting thoughts or observations that will become material for your work.
Do and Don’t
Common Mistakes When Writing a Memoir
– Ignoring a story idea because it could hurt someone. It is important to be polite when writing about other people, but it is senseless to worry that they might become uncomfortable because of the facts depicted in your memoir. You can change names or rearrange details and circumstances, but don’t ignore a great story idea to spare someone’s feelings.
– Trying to write perfectly. Concentrating too much on perfect writing may keep you from writing a single word.
– Forgetting to include the backgrounds of the main characters of the story you are telling. It is not necessary to provide readers with their full biographies, but it should be clear who is who in your memoir.
– Depicting yourself as a flawless hero. It may be tempting to present yourself as a person of worth or, on the contrary, as a victim of injustice, but this may distort the reality of your memoir if it is not true. Instead, analyze your flaws and drawbacks. Expose them along with your positive qualities, and show you understand you were wrong. Your readers will surely appreciate your sincerity. Only purely good or only bad characters look false and boring.
– Forgetting to describe the emotions of the characters appearing in your memoir. The expression of human feelings is one of the most essential aspects of a memoir.
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Samples for Writing a Memoir
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A memoir essay refers to a recounting of your life story, based around a specific focus, or a particular event that occurred in your life. Usually, there is a certain theme to the memoir, such as a specific topic you wish to discuss, related to specific memories from your past. The memoir may be sad, happy or a bit of both. As you learn to In this article, we’ll look at how to write a memoir step by step. However, like all good essays, a memoir begins with some pre-writing tasks.
Before You Begin
While some memoirs are rambling affairs that have very little direction, you will probably want to do a little planning. Choose your focus before you begin yourmemoir. What point do you want to get across? Which of your memories are most relevant to this? An outline will help you write more efficiently and will ensure you actually make your point, rather than get lost in ramblings.
Once you know what point you want to share, sit down and write a list of events in your life that pertain to it. Choose one or a series of these memories and events to cover in your book.
Some memoirs cover an entire childhood. Others cover a single journey or event. The choice is yours. Take a look over a memoir example or two so you have a better idea of what it entails. Remember that a memoir is not an autobiography. It doesn’t cover your entire life, just certain parts of it.
Step One: Create a Memoir Outline
Having a basic memoir outline to work from will help you stay on track. Decide how you plan to structure your book and then go from there. You don’t have to build up a full outline, just note down what you want to write about in each section or chapter. A student memoir outline can serve as an example to get you started, or you can use one of our templates. For some people, using a memoir graphic organizer helps organize those elusive memories.
Staying on track can be difficult when you’re writing up your memories. It’s easy to follow the thread that leads to a less enlightening memory. For the sake of the article, stick to a specific focus and pare your recollections down to fit that focus. Stay on topic and you can make your point.
Step Two: Write the Memoir
Writing can be the most difficult part, especially since writing about your life can be an emotional experience. Getting the words down on paper is the most important part, so set a specific time each day to get writing and then do it.
The trick to writing out your first draft is to simply write, without judgment or editing. Get the words down and then you can fix any mistakes later.
Step Three: Revise and Edit
Once you have your first draft completed, leave the writing for a few days. This lets your brain refresh and you’ll be able to look at the memoir with new eyes. Read over it, editing for clarity and eliminated errors. This step will go faster than writing, but it can still take some serious time.
Step Four: Polish Your Memoir
Before you send your memoir out into the world, you should make sure it’s the best it can be. This means a final pass to find the last of the mistakes and to ensure the wording is just right. Grammatical and spelling errors should be sought out and fixed. Nothing looks less professional than using the wrong tense or verb in your writing.
Have someone else read over the memoir before you publish it for everyone to see. Often, someone else can see mistakes that you can’t find, thanks to being so close to the project. If you have a friend or professor who can check the document before it goes public, make use of them.
Step Five: Publish the Memoir
Now that you’re sure the memoir is as good as it can get, you’re ready to publish. This step is scary, but it is worth it to share your work. You have now polished and perfected the memoir and it’s ready to go out into the world.
How to Write a Memoir People Will Love
If you plan to publish your memoir, as most people do, you will want to follow a memoir format. The format ensures you end up with a professional result. It’s what you’ll get when you work with a memoir template.
Add some dialog. Memoirs can get a bit boring when you’re talking about yourself the entire time and dialog can break it up a bit. You don’t have to recall every word that was said, just use the general gist and write it up as dialog to make the story better.
Use vivid language to describe your scenes. A bland retelling of a memory won’t keep the reader interested, but if you make them feel like they were there, you’ll have a great chance of people continuing to read the whole article. Don’t use words like “very” when you can expound on the actual word. For example, use “enormous” instead of “very big.”
Finally, be sure to leave your readers feeling like they’ve learned something. Whether they laughed or cried, they should feel like there was a reason to read what you wrote. The better they feel about it, the more likely they are to share it. The trick to making a memoir memorable is to create emotion and build a lesson into it. When someone finishes the book, they should have knowledge of something new.
Once you’ve completed the memoir, look back and decide if it drives home the original point you decided to make. This is the real test of a good memoir. Did it accomplish its purpose? If so, you’ve done a great job.
Still not sure how to begin a memoir? Use our memoir template to get started with prompts to help you every step of the way.