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Note from the editor: This post is a memoir-writing course. I suggest that you glance through the whole of it, and pick those best memoir-writing tips that you most need to read at this time. Later, bit by bit, you will read the rest.

Click on the links that interest you and study the posts where you land. The links in even just a few of the tips below will uncover articles that pertain to the topic(s).

Following these best memoir-writing tips, your knowledge of memoir writing will grow more certain, and you will write with more confidence. One day, sooner than you think possible, your memoir will be published and in hand.

–––

It’s later than you think. Don’t put off writing your memoir any longer.

Our 21 in-depth, best memoir-writing tips below will help you to start memoir writing today. 

You’ll find these guides will see you through the process of how to write a memoir—an interesting and meaningful memoir—more easily and quickly than you may now think possible.

One day soon, you will have written your book.

The Memoir Network’s 21 Top Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you to memoir success.

1. What is a memoir? Hint: it’s not an autobiography!

Is the difference important to the memoir writer? Somewhat! Knowing what you are writing will orient you from the start! It can be discouraging to realize that you have been headed in the wrong direction when you could have saved yourself time and energy by understanding the difference between memoir and autobiography as you launched yourself. While it’s not huge, but it can be significant.

An autobiography is about a whole life: from birth to the present. A memoir is a part of your life that is characterized by a theme. It might be about the first years of your marriage during which you realized what an immature and selfish person you were and earned to be a giving souse. This may interest many people as it is a struggle many are waging.

The fact is that, while it is totally possible to write a memoir that will interest the public and draw an audience to you, the same is not true of an autobiography. If you are famous: possibly. If you are not, it is not likely that people will be interested in what grade school you went to and how much your grandmother loved you.

(This statement about autobiography is not applicable if you are writing for a family audience. Your children and grandchildren will definitely be interested in an autobiography.)

(more…)

DL: This excerpt is from We Were Not Spoiled, my mother’s memoir which we co-wrote. It was published in 2014 and remains a comforting memory. My mother has passed but I have her words, her story. As I read this excerpt, I can hear her voice and she is with me again. You can read more excerpts here.

Write your mother’s and father’s memoir before it is too late. If they have passed, write your memories before they fade.

_____

My Parents Establish Themselves In Maine.

The Howe Street apartment where I was born was their second home. When they came down, they lived downtown in a tenement on Lisbon Street. My father worked at Dulac’s which was just down the way, and while the mills were not far from their tenement, my mother, who turned 21 on August 15 just a few weeks after marrying, did not seek outside work but kept house.

Language was not a problem because people spoke French in the stores and at church and on the streets. There were French-speaking doctors and dentists and lawyers. In that way, Lewiston was an easy place for my mother to come to, but still, it was an unfamiliar city. In the little apartment on Lisbon Street, she found herself alone all day. She had no friends or family there other than those of my father’s. I can only guess she must have been lonely. Like my father, she was the oldest of her family and had left five brothers and three sisters behind, the youngest of whom, Gabrielle, was only one year old. “I miss my Gabrielle!” my mother told me she said over and over in that first year away.

My mother bakes a pie.

One day, perhaps wanting to please her young husband, she devoted herself to making a pie. When my father returned home and was ready for his desert, she proudly served him. When he pressed into the crust with his fork, the piece shot off his plate and landed on the floor. Then, it bounced away on the kitchen linoleum. My mother was nearby and the piece of pie came to a stop between her feet. My father who was still a young husband thought this was funny, but my mother did not. She was new at being a housewife and, being only 21 and having tried her best, she broke into tears. I don’t think she had much experience in preparing meals because, at the little house on rue Dubé, it was her mother who had done most of the cooking. My mother had worked at the hotel dining room and not in its busy kitchen.

My parents move.

Sometime before I was born, my parents moved from downtown to their Howe Street apartment. Towards the end of July, Dr. Morin was summoned to the apartment to assist in my mother’s first birthing. I was born on Thursday, July 21, 1921. (That made me only two years younger than my aunt Gabrielle.) Now my mother had her very own baby. Making a home must have seemed more important to her now that she had a family.

As was the custom, because I was the first born, my paternal grandparents, Eugène and Zélire Dulac Verreault, were chosen as godparents. I don’t know if they came down for the baptism or whether they were represented by proxies. Saint Peter’s parish had only a basement church then. Work was in progress for the upper church but it was often halted for lack of money. (Many of the Canadians could afford to give only dimes and quarters and so the money was slow in coming.) I was baptized in what was later to be called the lower church but then was the only church.

My maternal grandparents, the Lessards, did not come down. My young mother—she was after all only 21—must have been sad not to be able to present her new baby to her mother for her approval and blessing. I know it was important for me to have my mother around when I had children.

Want a big boost learning how to be a better memoir writer? Invest in yourself. Invest in the Memoir Start Up Package.

 

This is a perennial question: can I make something up in my memoir? It would help with the drama / or the flow of the story / or salve someone’s feeling by not telling the truth.

The short answer of course is, of course, you can make anything up that you want because it’s you story but why would you want to dilute your memoir by not telling the truth?

A memoir is the true account of a time or an experience in one’s life. Your adding fiction for the ease of the telling (or for whatever reason) is akin to lowering the net when you are playing tennis. Yes, you will lob more balls over the barrier by lowering the net but it will miss the point of playing tennis.

Telling the Truth — The Whole Truth

When you adhere to telling the truth—the whole truth—in a memoir, you will find yourself forced to consider, and reconsider, your lifestory and so come to a new understanding that fiction, even a little bit of it, permitted you to avoid. The reader may not know the difference (most likely since you are so clever!) but you will have missed the opportunity to know your life and yourself in a way that you might have known it had you not taken the easy way out of memoir writing and opted to “lower the net.”

I urge you to commit to telling the truth—100% of it—in your memoir. It’s the only way you will get to the truth—and as they say, the telling the truth will set you free.

Spontaneity can be exhilarating and bring zest to your writing, but if you are a new or uncertain writer, you are well advised to schedule your writing.  Without a time set aside, it become to easy to “forget” or find an excuse—”I’m just too busy today.”

To get a good start on your memoir, you will need to schedule your writing.  Today is a good time to begin the habit of writing every day on your memoir whether you are seeking to do a rough draft or polish your text. (more…)

Note from the editor: Below is the text of an email I received from a member of My Memoir Education asking about which was best: self-publish or traditional route. I have edited it for brevity and to preserve the writer’s anonymity.

Dear Denis, I finally finished my manuscript. What a long journey it has been! I think it is in good shape, and I am ready to publish. However, I am finding deciding on the next step to be quite challenging.

I have received conflicting advice: some people have suggested that I find a literary agent who would then find a publisher for me to go the traditional route; others have said that this traditional route—agent or publishing house—has little chance of success unless I have a large social media following for the company to market to so I would better do the self-publishing route.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Dear writer,

My own experience has been with self-publishing so whatever I can tell you is going to be colored by that choice.

Finding an agent

I believe a regular route for many writers is to publish with small house first and, when they have a track record, to then look for an agent. You are not however there in your publication history to be ready for the larger houses—possible but not probable.

(more…)

One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is courageous truth telling and objectivity. In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle—and not so subtle—messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal authenticity.

“The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.” — Sam Keen, writer

At its best, this is what a memoir is — a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”

Lest you think that courageous truth telling is only about revealing scandals and unmasking sexual abuse, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues. The issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. Perhaps you were never ambitious of worldly success. This has embarrassed you but you would like to make a statement for another set of values other than financial success. Or, perhaps you have been attracted to people of your own gender and would like to bear witness to that but still fear repercussions. Or, perhaps you were a parent but, if the truth be told, you and your children might have been better off if you had not parented. As you can see, “courageous telling the truth” need not be earth shattering, but it is about incredibly essential features of ourselves. (more…)

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family but “making nice”—not telling the truth in memoir—will trip you up.

How do you write truth in memoir?

(more…)

Don’t let writer’s block stop you from producing a great memoir!

“What can I do about writer’s block?” I am asked regularly by stumped writers.

“Pretty much the same as plumber does with a plumber’s block,” I’ll respond.

People twitter at this reply. Perhaps it’s because they take my response for a joke and they’re anticipating a good punch line.

Do what you have to do if you don’t let writer’s block stop you.

(more…)

Many writers agonize about just where to start a life story, where to begin a memoir. There are, of course, many places where a story can be launched.

1. The place in the story at which you begin a memoir writing manuscript is almost never the place at which readers will begin to read your story in its book form.

A writer begins someplace because beginning someplace is the way it is done. It is only much later that the writer will know where to place this initial piece of writing — at the beginning or elsewhere in the memoir.

2. The first paragraphs in a story may be only a warm up and not worth preserving.

The real beginning of your story can sometimes occur in a later paragraph. Move the paragraph that ought to serve as your lead to the beginning of your story and consign your warm-up paragraphs where they belong — in the wastebasket! You’ll be glad you didn’t hide your true lead under unnecessary false starts.

3. Once you know the crisis point of your story, the place where the action is at its most intense, where a turn around has to occur, you then know what in your memoir has to be built up to.

Sometimes people know this crisis before they begin to write; sometimes they have to write a while before they know what it is. Either way, knowing the crisis will be essential. Choose scenes that lead up to the crisis. The first of these scenes is perhaps your beginning.

4. To begin a memoir, choose a moment that is the zenith or the nadir of your story for the opening chapter.

The last sentence in the introductory chapter is something like: “How did I get to this point — zenith or nadir?” Chapter Two and the rest of the book then answer this question.

In conclusion

Good luck writing as you begin your memoir. Let me know what your experience has been.

If you are looking for printed material to add to your library, visit our bookstore or Smashwords.

(more…)

When you’re writing memoir, the project typically starts with a burst of energy. “This is going to be a good piece of writing! What am I saying, ‘good?’

“It’s going to be great!”

So we write for a month or two or even three and the energy remains strong but…

There comes a day when the demon that plagues all writers raises its ugly head and snaps at you.

“What in the world were you thinking of committing yourself to writing this horribly insignificant piece! And worse yet, what were you thinking of alerting other people that you were writing a memoir? Now, they’re going to expect something and you’re about to make a fool of yourself!”

Or, something equally terrible and intimidating goes through your mind. When that happens, what do you do?

(more…)

What makes you into a writer? Is it publication? Is it writing income? Is it declaring you are a writer?

Does saying you are a writer make you into a writer? Well, of course, the answer is no. Not ipso facto. Thirty-five or so years ago when my wife said, “When people ask you what you do, why don’t you tell them you are a writer instead of telling them you are a teacher? You are always writing. It’s how you think of yourself instead of as a high school teacher.” But, I did not feel comfortable saying publicly “I am a writer!” I had been writing a long time at that point and devoted considerable time and energy to its pursuit—but still I could not call myself a writer.

What was stopping me?

Even with her cogent and appropriate urging, it took me a while to call myself a writer. What was stopping me was not income or publication—well, perhaps a little bit of that. Something was missing. I began to ask, “What would I need to experience in my writing life to feel I could call myself a writer?” In short, I began to notice and make adjustments that I needed to feel comfortable to declaring myself a writer.

In large part, it was a matter of self-concept. I needed to appropriate the idea that I was really and truly a writer. I was a writer in the same way that parents are parents. There’s no certification. There’s only taking on the responsibilities of the task at hand.

Calling myself a writer

In time, I did call myself a writer. Just as Emily Dickinson, who sold little while alive, was very much a writer, I was a writer even if I was not selling my words. Like Dickinson, I spent much time every day thinking of words and how they go together. It made me happy to do so, but I even so, I saw the separation between money and my vocation and I wanted to unite the two.

I worked my way gradually to being a writer who earns income. It did not make me more of a writer, but it paid the bills and made me feel integrated in my life. I’m a better writer now but not more of a writer.

And you? What makes you into a writer? What has made you feel like a writer in your life? What has freed you to declare to the world that you are a writer?

best memoir-writing tips

How to write a memoir: our 21 Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you writing your memoir—quickly and well—and getting it into the hands of your public.

Note from the editor: This post is a memoir-writing course. I suggest that you glance through the whole of it, and pick those best memoir-writing tips that you most need to read at this time. Later, bit by bit, you will read the rest.

Click on the links that interest you and study the posts where you land. The links in even just a few of the tips below will uncover articles that pertain to the topic(s).

Following these best memoir-writing tips, your knowledge of memoir writing will grow more certain, and you will write with more confidence. One day, sooner than you think possible, your memoir will be published and in hand.

–––

It’s later than you think. Don’t put off writing your memoir any longer.

Our 21 in-depth, best memoir-writing tips below will help you to start memoir writing today. 

You’ll find these guides will see you through the process of how to write a memoir—an interesting and meaningful memoir—more easily and quickly than you may now think possible.

One day soon, you will have written your book.

The Memoir Network’s 21 Top Best Memoir-Writing Tips to get you to memoir success.

1. What is a memoir? Hint: it’s not an autobiography!

Is the difference important to the memoir writer? Somewhat! Knowing what you are writing will orient you from the start! It can be discouraging to realize that you have been headed in the wrong direction when you could have saved yourself time and energy by understanding the difference between memoir and autobiography as you launched yourself. While it’s not huge, but it can be significant.

An autobiography is about a whole life: from birth to the present. A memoir is a part of your life that is characterized by a theme. It might be about the first years of your marriage during which you realized what an immature and selfish person you were and earned to be a giving souse. This may interest many people as it is a struggle many are waging.

The fact is that, while it is totally possible to write a memoir that will interest the public and draw an audience to you, the same is not true of an autobiography. If you are famous: possibly. If you are not, it is not likely that people will be interested in what grade school you went to and how much your grandmother loved you.

(This statement about autobiography is not applicable if you are writing for a family audience. Your children and grandchildren will definitely be interested in an autobiography.)

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

ghostwriting a memoir

Making a Home at the Howe Street Apartment

When my parents came down, they lived in a tenement on Lisbon Street. My father worked at Dulac’s which was nearby, and while the mills were by their tenement, my mother did not seek outside work but kept house.

Schedule Your Writing

Spontaneity can be exhilarating and bring zest to your writing, but if you are a new or uncertain writer, you are well advised to schedule your writing.  Without a time set aside, it become to easy to “forget” or find an excuse—”I’m just too busy today.”

To get a good start on your memoir, you will need to schedule your writing.  Today is a good time to begin the habit of writing every day on your memoir whether you are seeking to do a rough draft or polish your text. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

Self-publish or Traditional Route?

Note from the editor: Below is the text of an email I received from a member of My Memoir Education asking about which was best: self-publish or traditional route. I have edited it for brevity and to preserve the writer’s anonymity.

Dear Denis, I finally finished my manuscript. What a long journey it has been! I think it is in good shape, and I am ready to publish. However, I am finding deciding on the next step to be quite challenging.

I have received conflicting advice: some people have suggested that I find a literary agent who would then find a publisher for me to go the traditional route; others have said that this traditional route—agent or publishing house—has little chance of success unless I have a large social media following for the company to market to so I would better do the self-publishing route.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

Dear writer,

My own experience has been with self-publishing so whatever I can tell you is going to be colored by that choice.

Finding an agent

I believe a regular route for many writers is to publish with small house first and, when they have a track record, to then look for an agent. You are not however there in your publication history to be ready for the larger houses—possible but not probable.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

truth telling

Courgeous Truth Telling — A Revolutionary Act

One of the most transformative statements an individual can make is courageous truth telling and objectivity. In a world where we are constantly being bombarded with subtle—and not so subtle—messages about who we ought to be, it is a bold statement to take a stand for personal authenticity.

“The telling of your stories is a revolutionary act.” — Sam Keen, writer

At its best, this is what a memoir is — a statement that declares “this is who I am, who I think of myself as being.”

Lest you think that courageous truth telling is only about revealing scandals and unmasking sexual abuse, let me assure you that it is more often about smaller issues. The issues more within the realm of the everyday experience. Perhaps you were never ambitious of worldly success. This has embarrassed you but you would like to make a statement for another set of values other than financial success. Or, perhaps you have been attracted to people of your own gender and would like to bear witness to that but still fear repercussions. Or, perhaps you were a parent but, if the truth be told, you and your children might have been better off if you had not parented. As you can see, “courageous telling the truth” need not be earth shattering, but it is about incredibly essential features of ourselves. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

truth in memoir

“Making Nice” Will Trip You Up

We all have family stories that we have heard over and over again. When they are told in family gatherings, no one expects any contradiction. After all, the stories are the “truth” about someone in the family but “making nice”—not telling the truth in memoir—will trip you up.

How do you write truth in memoir?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

Don't let writer's blok stop you

Don’t Let Writer’s Block Stop You

Don’t let writer’s block stop you from producing a great memoir!

“What can I do about writer’s block?” I am asked regularly by stumped writers.

“Pretty much the same as plumber does with a plumber’s block,” I’ll respond.

People twitter at this reply. Perhaps it’s because they take my response for a joke and they’re anticipating a good punch line.

Do what you have to do if you don’t let writer’s block stop you.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

begin a memoir

How to Begin a Memoir

Many writers agonize about just where to start a life story, where to begin a memoir. There are, of course, many places where a story can be launched.

1. The place in the story at which you begin a memoir writing manuscript is almost never the place at which readers will begin to read your story in its book form.

A writer begins someplace because beginning someplace is the way it is done. It is only much later that the writer will know where to place this initial piece of writing — at the beginning or elsewhere in the memoir.

2. The first paragraphs in a story may be only a warm up and not worth preserving.

The real beginning of your story can sometimes occur in a later paragraph. Move the paragraph that ought to serve as your lead to the beginning of your story and consign your warm-up paragraphs where they belong — in the wastebasket! You’ll be glad you didn’t hide your true lead under unnecessary false starts.

3. Once you know the crisis point of your story, the place where the action is at its most intense, where a turn around has to occur, you then know what in your memoir has to be built up to.

Sometimes people know this crisis before they begin to write; sometimes they have to write a while before they know what it is. Either way, knowing the crisis will be essential. Choose scenes that lead up to the crisis. The first of these scenes is perhaps your beginning.

4. To begin a memoir, choose a moment that is the zenith or the nadir of your story for the opening chapter.

The last sentence in the introductory chapter is something like: “How did I get to this point — zenith or nadir?” Chapter Two and the rest of the book then answer this question.

In conclusion

Good luck writing as you begin your memoir. Let me know what your experience has been.

If you are looking for printed material to add to your library, visit our bookstore or Smashwords.

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

writing memoir

Writing Memoir Is Not Easy

When you’re writing memoir, the project typically starts with a burst of energy. “This is going to be a good piece of writing! What am I saying, ‘good?’

“It’s going to be great!”

So we write for a month or two or even three and the energy remains strong but…

There comes a day when the demon that plagues all writers raises its ugly head and snaps at you.

“What in the world were you thinking of committing yourself to writing this horribly insignificant piece! And worse yet, what were you thinking of alerting other people that you were writing a memoir? Now, they’re going to expect something and you’re about to make a fool of yourself!”

Or, something equally terrible and intimidating goes through your mind. When that happens, what do you do?

[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

We'd love to have you access this content. It's in our members-only area, but you're in luck: becoming a member is easy and it's free.

Already a Member?

Not a Member Yet?

book publishing tips

What makes you into a writer?

Does saying you are a writer make you into a writer? Well, of course, the answer is no. Not ipso facto. Thirty-five or so years ago when my wife said, “When people ask you what you do, why don’t you tell them you are a writer instead of telling them you are a teacher? You […]