Tips for Writing Memoir

So we’ve been looking at how to write in different genres. This week I thought we could take a step away from fiction and look at how to write a memoir. This is a genre many people, even non writers, are interested in. So here’s some tips for how to proceed.

  1. This isn’t about data or cold facts. You have a message and a story to tell. You’re still crafting a narrative and that’s crucial to remember. You’re not writing a how-to guide, so connect to your readers emotionally.

  2. That said, this also isn’t fiction. Stay true to what actually happened. Be honest about yourself and your story and that genuineness will connect to your readers.

  3. Have a structure to build up the action and to resolve for a satisfying conclusion. Just like writing a novel, you want to have a recognizable story structure.

  4. Employ writing techniques. Develop well-rounded characters, build your scenes, and show, don’t tell. Immerse your reader into your writing.

  5. Develop and stay true to your voice. Your readers are reading your tale for more than just find out what happened. They want to experience your unique and engaging writing style and be entertained by your voice. Learn more about developing your voice here.

  6. Engage in emotions. It’s not just about exactly what happened, but also about what you felt and thought when it happened and in retrospect. That’s what your readers will connect to, so don’t just stick to facts.

  7. Focus on a theme or message. You may have a couple of themes, but you want to stay away from having too many, which is like adding too many spices to a dish. Use theme to concentrate your writing and fine tune your story. Weave it throughout the story. You don’t want to be too heavy-handed with your theme. Trust that your reader will get your message.

  8. Know your audience. As with any kind of creative writing, it helps to know who you’re writing for. Your memoir isn’t going to be for everyone, no story can be, so who will it be perfect for? How would they want you to craft your tale? Write to them.

  9. Read, read, read. Read other memoirs to see how they craft their stories. The best way to learn how to write a different genre is by reading extensively in that genre. Read the really good memoirs. Read the really bad memoirs. You can learn a lot from both as to what to do and what not to do.

Hope these tips help you as you start writing your memoir. Remember to craft your story as you would any other story. Best of luck and happy writing!


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