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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.

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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.)

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Memoir Success

Over the years, I have worked with many writers to help them create and shape their memoirs. It’s my pleasure to bring to your attention once again the success of one such writer: Peggy Kennedy from San Ramon, California, for whom I had the pleasure of providing coaching and editing help that led to her memoir success

Many readers of this blog have been writing for a while and some are despairing of finishing. There is hope. After a number of years of preparation, Peggy Kennedy’s memoir of growing up in a family with a mentally-ill mother, Approaching Neverland, saw print. (Ordering information at bottom.)

While the information below is from over a decade ago, I believe this memoir success story is dateless. Approaching Neverland did well—and so can you. A review in the magazine the Midwest Book Review gave it five stars. Originally fearful of speaking before an audience, she was a guest on a number of radio and television programs. (more…)

Here in Maine it has been gray, rainy, generally overcast, but today it is sunny—cold but sunny. What a welcome change!

The days are short now—how can it be so dark at 4 PM!—but the reversal has begun. The darkness reminds us of the holidays we celebrate at this time of year. These holidays are inspired by the winter solstice which was just a few days ago. After the solstice (in Latin, sol = sun and stice = standing [still]), there is a turn in the sun’s migration, a stop in its descent in the sky. Then, the days begin to lengthen as we make our way through winter. With the longer days comes a prospect of renewed life on the planet. Without sun, we die.

Just about every culture in the world has a commemoration of this descent into the dark and many expressions of our fervent hope that the sun will return to warm us—to save us from freezing. Hannukah is a festival of lights. The ancient Teutons burned a tree in the forest to symbolize the light they so desperately wanted to see return. (The origins of our Christmas tree lights are to be found in this tree burning.) Christians placed their Light Holiday at this time of year, too.

In the dominant Western culture, we call the festival of lights Christmas. (John 8-12: “Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’.”) Early Christians adopted a dominant light imagery to counter the Roman celebration of a winter holiday that lasted 7-10 days.

Their Saturnalia was a festival of light encompassing the winter solstice, with an abundant presence of candles (sound familiar?). The renewal of light and the coming of the new year was celebrated in the later Roman Empire at the Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus, the “Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun,” on December 25. ( Sunday, being the day of the Unconquerable Sun, was a logical choice for Christians to adopt for “God’s day.”) Any wonder that the early Christians, wanting to obliterate and remake the Roman holiday, assigned the same day (December 25) for their holiday celebration of the birth of Jesus and changed the name of Dies Natalis of Sol Invictus to Christ’s Mass?

So much for the origins of Christmas. As memoir writers, aren’t we always interested in where and how things began?

However you name the winter holidays and however you celebrate, we at The Memoir Network wish you and your family a warm and happy time. May the light we all seek—by whatever name you call it—shine on you and yours.

Best,
Denis and the Memoir Network team (in the office: Bruce, Sally, and Shanna; our editors: Sarah, Steve, and Frances)

Promoting books online is one of the most stressful tasks for authors. At its core, it’s about informing people why they should buy your book, and giving them an easy way to do so. When put that way, online memoir promotion doesn’t sound so scary. As with anything else, the complexity is in the details. If you ever find yourself feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do, take a breath and focus on the following fundamental steps of advertising a book online.

1. Determine where your audience resides online.

Rather than try to promote your book to every conceivable audience, it makes sense to focus on readers who already share an interest with you and your story. Try finding such people on  Wattpad, Commaful or other free publishing platforms. You may also see them on social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram or Tumblr.

If you already have an audience, start there and figure out where they currently go to read. That will help you identify where you can go to share your work. If you don’t already have fans, think about an already famous author that has a memoir similar to yours. Find them on social media. Figure out where they go and what sites to visit. That will help you understand how to reach them.

2. Develop deep relationships with your fans.

Engage your readers in ways that focus their attention on your process, not on the product itself. Try having monthly Q&A sessions where fans can ask you about your upcoming projects or dive into the less chummy stuff, like imagining your characters’ memories and personality traits.

If you make it easier to find you and connect with you, you learn enough about what interests your fans about your work. From there, you’ll know which ideas to pursue, how to pitch your book to your target audience, and how to monetize. The cocktail of these strategies makes a potent elixir for sales and brand loyalty.

While this is true for almost any book, this is especially true for memoirs, where the readers will feel a direct connection to you because they are reading your story. Not only do they want to know the story is interesting, they want to like you. By building community, hosting Q & As, and more, you can build that type of relationship that your memoir can’t do on its own, leading to even more growth.

People share public Q&As and people who are on the fence about buying your book will take action because they love you!

3. Start a blog.

Writing your book is a significant investment. As such, you should have a plan in place that will allow people who are discovering you for the first time to “discover you” at other times as well. Blogging sounds like the right answer.

A blog makes it easy to showcase your main skill on a consistent basis. At the same time, it lets you interact with your existing audience.

Almost every author has something to share about their work and writing process. To that end, don’t focus on how valuable your blog might be for your career in the future. Instead, think of how significant it might be for your fans and friends right now.

There’s no shortcut when it comes to starting any blog, so consider taking an online blogging course if you’re nervous about managing such a platform. You can also check out Reedsy and Wired for Youth for blogpost samples and ideas.

While you can blog about anything, for the best result, blog about things that you think people who would want to read your book would like. For example, if your audience loves drama and your memoir is filled with drama, your blog probably shouldn’t just be all your favorite cooking recipes. Instead, blog about your analysis of drama in today’s world. Share some of your stories in a different light. Get creative. If your content is interesting, people who want to read more will buy your book.

4. Leverage your email list for pre-orders.

Email marketing remains effective up to this day. It makes sense to build, maintain and maximize your mailing list for better online memoir promotion.

To build your list, offer something of value to readers in exchange for their email addresses. This could be a free eBook or a chance to get exclusive updates via email. Sending short stories, novellas or book previews is also a popular option. You can continue doing these as your email list grows bigger.

A book preview or sneak peek signals your readers that you’re working on your book. Then, it helps build hype which could prompt your readers to pre-order. With more preorders, your work will get more exposure from Amazon, Goodreads and other sites.

In addition to getting attention early on, email marketing helps demonstrate your genre and content. Thus, you should make it cool, contemporary and cohesive so your author brand becomes recognizable over time. This is essential in maintaining a loyal reader base.

5. Use your podcast as an anchor.

Do you love writing and speaking? Consider launching your own podcast! This is an even better way than blogging to make your relationship with your fans feel personal. If people are used to hearing your voice every week and hear teasers about who you are in a podcast, they’ll buy your memoir to hear your story.

Podcasts are a great way to showcase your personality, reflect on your creative process and develop your brand as an author. They’re also a window into your personal world, and they help you engage with your fans in an interesting way. The format of a podcast is a natural fit for readers in all fields, but like any collaborative medium, recording a podcast is a highly specific and skilled art.

Sticking to a schedule is important in podcasting. As much as possible, dedicate at least five days for your pre-production. Work for a couple of hours on each day. Then do your best on the recording day.

Keep doing the fundamental steps in online memoir promotions. Eventually, if all goes well, you may find yourself too successful—with more promoting work to do, and not enough time to do it, but you can hire professionals by then.

DL— Stories about immigration and citizenship form the backbone of our great American story as much today as in past times.  My ancestors were among the millions who came here in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here is an excerpt about becoming an American from We Were Not Spoiled, the memoir of my mother Lucille Verreault Ledoux as told to me. For many more excerpts of my mother’s life, click here.

Memoir Writing

Joseph Verreault

My father had not come to the US to stay, but that’s what happened. After working here for a number of years first to support himself and then his growing family and eventually buying an apartment building that was his family’s home, it must have seemed obvious to him that this is where he would spend the rest of his life. So, why not give in to becoming an American citizen? Thinking this way, he was able to make the decision be an easy one. He was a practical man with a lot of responsibilities.

Becoming An American

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Today, we wrap up the interview with our guest writer Marilea Rabasa. Her discussion of self-discovery through the hell of substance use disorder continues in Part 2. Her memoir Stepping Stones placed in the International Book Award as a finalist.

For the first half of the interview, click here.

Marilea Rabasa in conversation

Denis Ledoux: Did you envision yourself as a writer before you began this book on substance use? What is your identity as a writer now?

Marilea Rabasa: Writing is a tool I have used all my life to make sense of some the things—like substance use—that had been happening to me. My diaries go back to when I was a child. Whenever I am distressed about something, I write about it. Putting my thoughts down on paper usually helps me to arrive at some clarity. So I guess I’ve always been a writer. It’s been a creative pastime for me. Sometimes it served a therapeutic purpose, but not always. Often—like a painter with a blank canvas—I just write down my observations of what’s around me. Much of my published lifewriting are short pieces drawn from my travels that contain some sort of wisdom or life lessons that I have learned along the way. And, some are humorous.

I also write quite a lot of poetry, but very little for publication. I write a 16-line poem for each of my granddaughters for their birthdays every year, basically a recap of highlights of the previous year that their father is making into a scrapbook. Also, and this I’m carrying on from my father and mother, I write short, 4-line, mystery poems for Christmas presents where the recipient has to guess what the gift is based on the clues in the poem. My father was an extremely talented wordsmith, and I’m proud to be carrying on his legacy.

My identity as a writer? Well, it would have to be as a non-fiction author. But I honestly wish I had more imagination to write fictional narratives. That would be so much fun, and I feel that I would be bound by fewer constraints. As a writer, I enjoy playing with words on paper. It’s one of several creative outlets I enjoy.

DL: Will you write another memoir? Why or why not?

MR: I have already started my third memoir. It’s not about substance use but is a love story about my partner and me. When I was married to my first husband, a diplomat in the US Foreign Service, he showed me much of the world in our time together. Then my present partner of  twenty-seven years was determined to show me the United States with camping trips to many of the national and state parks. What an adventure that has been with him! We are still happy and very much in love through all the ups and downs that have occurred during our time together. The theme of my third book is love and how it has the power to lift us up through anything.

DL: How have people reacted to your book? What sort of feedback have you received? 

MR: People have reacted very well. I’ve received outstanding reviews and was a finlist for an International Book Award. I have a lot of correspondence generated on social media, and there are other upcoming virtual book tours.

DL: Was selling copies important to you? If so, what sort of outreach have you done to pursue sales: did you speak to groups, do guest blogging, do interviews, etc.?

MR: My publisher, Brooke Warner, strongly encourages her authors to hire a publicist and embark on some kind of publicity campaign. With so many books on the market on substance use to choose from, it’s necessary to promote your work. I hired a lovely woman from Nashville who helped me promote my book via  press releases, various blog tours and book reviews. My most far-reaching and valuable book review came from James Cox at the Midwest Book Review: “An inherently fascinating and ultimately inspiring read from beginning to end,…” I think we forget how librarians can be our best friends. They will be reading his review and hopefully buying copies for their libraries.

But I don’t envision myself making public appearances. Covid-19 has precluded that. My writing agenda has always been very simple: to heal from the pain of substance use that was preventing me from moving forward healthfully in my life. Over time and quite a few years in various recovery fellowships, I have learned to live well without resorting to substance use of any kind. And I’m thrilled when I can be of service to others with similar substance use problems.

I imagine fame and fortune drive many writers to seek attention and do everything they can to sell books. But I have been rewarded so much already. I begin Stepping Stones with a letter to my grandchildren. The love that I see in their eyes, and in my son’s eyes, in my partner’s eyes—being able to turn those mirrors back on myself in the form of self-affirmation—and to finally love myself after so many self-destructive years of substance use, well, that may not carry with it a monetary reward, but in my mind it’s the greatest gift of all.

DL: What are your future writing plans?

MR: I’ve lived quite an extraordinary life. As long as my arthritic fingers can still type on my computer, I will write down my stories and thoughts, if only for myself. I have already written my autobiography, minus the substance use theme. That theme doesn’t define me, and I have many more fun and illuminating stories to tell.

I would also like to get back into teaching, and work on lifewriting with seniors. We sometimes underestimate the value of our experiences to those we love. My sister coaxed our mother to write her lifestory for several years before she finally did it. And it’s been a lovely gift to all our family members. Many of us could strengthen our legacies in this way.

[For another interview on therapeutic writing, click here]

Today’s guest writer is Marilea Rabasa for whose memoir Stepping Stones I had the pleasure of writing a book blurb. Her story—a journey of self-discovery through the hell of substance use disorder— is a moving one. Today we offer the first half of the email interview we conducted with her. The second half will follow in the next blog publication.

Marilea Rabasa in conversation

Denis Ledoux: Can you tell our readers what your book is about and why you were impelled to write it? What was driving you to spend the time, energy and money to get this book out into the world?

Marilea Rabasa: This sequel memoir continues my journey of self-discovery through the hell of substance use disorder. I realized after my first book came out that I hadn’t been entirely aware and/or honest, that I needed to come out of denial and shine the light back on myself and deal with my alcoholism. I needed to finish my story. My immediate family  and friends are the greatest beneficiaries of my recovery

DL: Can you tell us how long it took from the time you conceived the book to the time you had it published? How many years did you spend in active writing? Were there long breaks in between active writing periods? If so, what happened to get you writing again?

MR: It took me five years to complete the writing. There were no breaks; I wrote nonstop but went through many, many drafts.

DL: You must have had periods of time in which you were discouraged or at least less enthusiastic. Can you tell us about how you kept yourself going? What worked for you?

MR: Early on, after a couple of beta readers told me it needed work, I started working with a developmental editor. It’s the best thing I ever did, investing in time with her.

DL: Tell us what the theme of your book was. How did you come upon this theme? Do you feel you were successful in getting your theme across to the reader?

MR: Substance use disorder is the book’s theme. Yes, I reached many readers since it’s a burning epidemic in our country, and even worse now with Covid-19.

DL: Is there anything in particular you would say was the most difficult thing to succeed at in this book? Was it scheduling, research, plotting, point of view, believing in yourself, or what else?

MR: The biggest hurdle for me was in crafting a whole new structure for the unfolding events in my life. I had to distill fifty-nine years into a reasonable book length and make it readable. I remember one of my early drafts had a chapter called “The Seven-Year Itch.” I was attempting to squeeze seven years into ten pages! My editor was spot-on when she told me that these things can’t be rushed; events, feelings, scenes and dialogue. I was hiding so much in summary, and because of the unusual case of my theme spanning so many years, I had to find a better way to recall events. She was an early editor who suggested the vignette structure. Instead of using the traditional chapter format, my memoir is comprised of 132 vignettes. By shortening the pieces, the writing now relies on the power of the images among the vignettes resonating and deepening the emotional impact on the reader.

DL: Was there a success trait you have discerned for the process of writing? That is, are there best practices you would recommend to readers that would facilitate completing her/his memoir? EG.: working on schedule, quitting not being an option, external physical or emotional support from someone, etc.

MR: My only writing experience is in non-fiction. With the lifewriting I have published, the only success trait I can think of is the ability to be fearless and honest. It is absolutely necessary to tell the truth, if only because your readers are smart and will see through you. I read somewhere that “memoir is about the truth of memory, not of history.” It’s not about what happened to us so much as our perception of those events. So our “truth” may be very different from that of others, and that’s all right. One of my early writing teachers told me to dig deep, as though I were hoping to reach China. It can be painful; it’s not for the faint of heart. But the rewards are magnificent. Writing has always been the best form of therapy for me.

DL: How have you dealt with self-doubt?

MR: Self-doubt is part of my life, but I’m glad I’ve let go of the arrogance of youth that had me barreling ahead with my plans, ignoring the advice of others, thinking my way was the best way. This can be applied to us as writers. If I felt that other people (editors) didn’t know anything and that I was the best judge of my own writing, my books would not be as successful. I am deeply indebted to all of my editors who have helped me shape both of my books. I don’t know how writers can manage without good editors. I am, above all, more humble and teachable than ever. There is so much that I have to learn, both as a writer and a human being.

DL: What makes for a successful memoir? Do you feel your memoir was a success?

MR: I’m carrying my message to others, showing on the page how I’m recovering from substance use disorder. I have done this by highlighting certain incidents in my life that shaped my self-concept and made me vulnerable to this illness: in my youth, in middle age, and in recent years. If other women can relate to my story and consider my solutions, then I’m making a difference with them, assuring them that there is a better way to deal with sorrows than by self-destructing. Because of the responses I’ve received, I feel that my journey in self-discovery and healing—which is the essence of this memoir—has been successful.

Also, an objective measure of the book’s success is that it was recognized as a Finalist in th2 2020 International Book Awards. I’ve received some terrific  reviews, as well.

DL: How do you recommend people deal with sensitive material that relatives might take offense at?

MR: I used a pen name with my first memoir, and I changed the names of several characters, most importantly my daughter’s. That book was a harrowing journey through the hell of her substance use disorder—from methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin—and I left nothing to the imagination as I detailed her life under the influence of drugs. By changing her name (and mine), I wanted to protect her from such candid exposure. There were some honest details of my life growing up, as well, that my siblings are unable to discuss openly. I changed their names, too; I was being cautious. The possibility of lawsuits, fortunately, was not a fear of mine. But it is a real fear in the lives of many others where anger and open conflict within the family are present. Protect yourself by any means possible; the legal department of your publisher can help.

This sequel  memoir, however, focuses mostly on me. There was less need to protect others, and I didn’t care about exposing myself. My parents are both dead. The little exposure of my siblings is compassionate and hopeful. My daughter, too, is viewed with compassion and understanding that she is a victim of a cruel illness—substance use disorder—and not a flagrantly immoral human being. At the end of the day, the only villain in both my memoirs is the family disease of substance use disorder, which I make clear in Stepping Stones.

In the next issue of the Memoir Writer’s blog, we will run the conclusion of this interview.

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

During the summer, I took a longer supper break and, after returning to the shop — where I had over a hundred and fifty employees — I might stay until the second shift went home at 11. The evening of July 18 was no different.

When I was young, I used to take care of emergencies at the shop myself, but no more. My summer camp’s telephone number was unlisted, and I had given it only to family and friends so I usually had a lot of quiet when I was there.

That night, however, the phone startled me awake at about 3:30. In the darkness, as I reached for the lamp, right away, I had a bad feeling. A middle-of-the-night call was not a compressor gone wrong. It was something much more serious. Could it be one of my parents was sick? Or, my wife’s? We had a lot of salesmen out on the road. Had one of them been in an accident? I stumbled through the camp to reach the phone in the large family room. When I answered, I heard a woman, announcing herself as a telephone operator, asking if I would take a phone call from a police officer. “He said you would want to be disturbed,” she added.

I said immediately, “Yes.”

Had the police caught a thief in the shop? But, what would a thief want with conveyors? I knew, of course, that was not what a thief would have come for—a thief would have been looking for cash in the office.

But it was not a thief the officer was calling me about. What he said next shocked me.

“The Diamond Machine plant is on fire, Mr. Verreault.”

“What?” I shot back stunned.

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Over the years, I have both worked with people to help them write a memoir and have heard from people who have done the work of writing theirs.

Often these people had never written anything before—not memoir, not fiction, not creative non-fiction. They did not think of themselves as writers. One day these people—as you are now doing—decided it was time to write a memoir. They set about to compose a lasting record of their personal and family stories in writing. (more…)

As an added bonus for November Is Lifewriting Month, we are pleased to be able to include a guest post by Nina Amir, “Write Your Memoir as Sacred Text.” Nina is a prolific writer whose site you will do well to visit. Be sure to purchase her How to Blog a Book. Enjoy her post and please leave your comments below.

Write Your Memoir as Sacred Text

November Is Memoir Writing Month offered so many opportunities for writers to tell their stories. And we each have a story that will, indeed, inspire someone.

Here’s a process to help you put multiple-layers of meaning into any memoir, vignette or essay you write that’s based on your lifestory. It comes from the tradition of reading sacred texts on a variety of levels. I suggest you use this exercise to read your life like a sacred text. Then you can write about it in the same manner. That’s sure to inspire many people who read your work.

This process is also one you can do quickly and easily post November is Lifewriting Month or National Nonfiction Writing Month, also known as the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge. Put it to use and you’ll quickly have the makings of an inspiring memoir, essay or lifestory of any type.

Understanding Our Lives as Sacred Text

The first step in the process involves acquainting yourself with the four levels on which you could understand any life event or experience. When you find you study your life, it’s really like reading your life like a book—like a sacred text. Once you understand the meaning of any event on a deeper level, you can then write about it like a sacred text as well.

The four levels of meaning are:

  1. the intended or simple
  2. the allegorical or hinted
  3.  the metaphorical or interpreted
  4. the secret or mystical

1. The Intended or Simple Meaning

Choose a life event to write about. First, try writing about this life event from the perspective of its simple meaning. This is a literal representation of what happened. Be a journalist. Simply report the facts as you know them. You can describe the places and the people as well as the dialogue and the events, but don’t embellish with anything that creates an “angle” that would sway a reader one way or the other (positive or negative.)

Like a journalist, include the who, what, where, when, and why. For example: In 1967, my father had a massive heart attack and died before he hit the bathroom floor of the apartment he rented in Manhattan.

2. The Allegorical or Hinted Meaning

Using the same life event for this second exercise of memoir as sacred text, now write about it again but this time hint at the possible meaning the event had in your life or in the lives of others. We say hindsight is 20-20. If you have some idea of why this event occurred, the lesson it imparted, how it changed you or others, find a way to show this using allegory.

An allegorical treatment of a life event might use symbols or symbolic characters, which means you must weave symbolism into your real-life events; this makes your work creative nonfiction to some extent. You’ll want your work to portray truths or generalizations about human existence, some sort of universal message, but don’t do this blatantly. Just hint at it. For example: In 1967, my father died. Like a charioteer disappearing into the heavens, he took with him so much more than just his physical presence. I would spend much of my life not only trying to reconnect with but also emulating what I lost that October day.

3. The Metaphorical or Interpreted Meaning

In this third exploration into the same life story of memoir as sacred text, try being more outspoken about your own interpretation of the experience you are describing by using metaphors. This means you must retell the story, this time finding words and phrases that take one thing and refer it to another to show or suggest that they are similar. In this way you infer meaning, you give your piece an “angle.” You interpret your story in a descriptive manner. You show, don’t tell. Yet, you clearly let the reader know what you think your story means. This gives it, once again, a universal meaningful and inspiring message. For example: In 1967, my father’s heart ruptured. When his body hit the floor of the bathroom in the Manhattan apartment, his dead 6-foot, burly frame shook more than the building. I’m not sure how long it took his spirit to flow out of his body, but the reverberation of that moment and the constant stream of ways that his death affected my life continued and continues as I both sought out and emulated the masculinity, entrepreneurship, and zest for life he demonstrated in the seven short years I was his daughter on this plane.

4. The Secret or Mystical Meaning

In the fourth, and last exercise of memoir as sacred text, telling of your story, creatively recount your life event by searching through your memory for the secret meaning you’ve never before found. The mystics throughout the ages have found elements in sacred texts, such as words with similar numerical values that they claim have similar meanings, and they have used these to find deeper meaning and inspiration from the stories. Using that special sight, we have only when we view the past from the present, study your life event to find a message you might have missed previously. Is it one you can share with others to inspire them?  Can you now infuse your story with a deeper, mystical or spiritual element you’ve uncovered?

Writing Memoir as Sacred Text Takes More Than a Sentence or Two.

If I were to retell my story again from a mystical perspective, I might write about how:

  1. I followed in my father’s footsteps as an entrepreneur
  2. I display many masculine traits that make me stronger as a person
  3. I was told my father is one of my spirit guides and I call on him for guidance
  4. I’ve carried on my father’s chosen name
  5. I found my spiritual path quite differently without him here.

All of this shows how my father’s death molded me to become who I am today. That, in and of itself, is an inspirational message and one that requires looking deeply into your story for hidden meaning—for memoir as sacred text

Explore a Level a Week of Memoir as Sacred Text

Exploring your life events from many angles, or from many levels, can help you find one that works best for you or that has the most impact for your readers. And you may learn something new about yourself or the experience itself in the process that helps you create a story that’s more inspiring to tell.

This process is a great one to use. Write about your life experience from one level each week. You’ll end up with four unique pieces about one event by the end of a short while. If you prefer, try the exercise with four different life events (perhaps one each week). If you need some inspiration, check this workbook. Let me know what you discover. I’ll answer your comments below.

Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir.

Below are some notes on how to prepare for the best memoir interviewing you’ll ever undertake!

1) Select whom you will be memoir interviewing.

If your time is limited, or your family is large and offers many choices, it will be all the more important to identify a manageable number of knowledgeable relatives and friends to interview.

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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.

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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.)

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memoir success

Memoir Success: Approaching Neverland

Memoir Success

Over the years, I have worked with many writers to help them create and shape their memoirs. It’s my pleasure to bring to your attention once again the success of one such writer: Peggy Kennedy from San Ramon, California, for whom I had the pleasure of providing coaching and editing help that led to her memoir success

Many readers of this blog have been writing for a while and some are despairing of finishing. There is hope. After a number of years of preparation, Peggy Kennedy’s memoir of growing up in a family with a mentally-ill mother, Approaching Neverland, saw print. (Ordering information at bottom.)

While the information below is from over a decade ago, I believe this memoir success story is dateless. Approaching Neverland did well—and so can you. A review in the magazine the Midwest Book Review gave it five stars. Originally fearful of speaking before an audience, she was a guest on a number of radio and television programs. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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becoming an American

Becoming an American—Why Not?

DL— Stories about immigration and citizenship form the backbone of our great American story as much today as in past times.  My ancestors were among the millions who came here in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here is an excerpt about becoming an American from We Were Not Spoiled, the memoir of my mother Lucille Verreault Ledoux as told to me. For many more excerpts of my mother’s life, click here.

Memoir Writing

Joseph Verreault

My father had not come to the US to stay, but that’s what happened. After working here for a number of years first to support himself and then his growing family and eventually buying an apartment building that was his family’s home, it must have seemed obvious to him that this is where he would spend the rest of his life. So, why not give in to becoming an American citizen? Thinking this way, he was able to make the decision be an easy one. He was a practical man with a lot of responsibilities.

Becoming An American

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How to Write A Successful Memoir: Stepping Stones [Part 2]

Today, we wrap up the interview with our guest writer Marilea Rabasa. Her discussion of self-discovery through the hell of substance use disorder continues in Part 2. Her memoir Stepping Stones placed in the International Book Award as a finalist. For the first half of the interview, click here. Marilea Rabasa in conversation Denis Ledoux: […]

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How to Write A Successful Memoir: Stepping Stones [Part 1]

Today’s guest writer is Marilea Rabasa for whose memoir Stepping Stones I had the pleasure of writing a book blurb. Her story—a journey of self-discovery through the hell of substance use disorder— is a moving one. Today we offer the first half of the email interview we conducted with her. The second half will follow […]

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Going Up in Flames: My Dream Shop Was Burning to the Ground!

This excerpt is from Business Boy to Business Man the memoir of Robert Verreault as told to Denis Ledoux. The memoir was published in 2013.

During the summer, I took a longer supper break and, after returning to the shop — where I had over a hundred and fifty employees — I might stay until the second shift went home at 11. The evening of July 18 was no different.

When I was young, I used to take care of emergencies at the shop myself, but no more. My summer camp’s telephone number was unlisted, and I had given it only to family and friends so I usually had a lot of quiet when I was there.

That night, however, the phone startled me awake at about 3:30. In the darkness, as I reached for the lamp, right away, I had a bad feeling. A middle-of-the-night call was not a compressor gone wrong. It was something much more serious. Could it be one of my parents was sick? Or, my wife’s? We had a lot of salesmen out on the road. Had one of them been in an accident? I stumbled through the camp to reach the phone in the large family room. When I answered, I heard a woman, announcing herself as a telephone operator, asking if I would take a phone call from a police officer. “He said you would want to be disturbed,” she added.

I said immediately, “Yes.”

Had the police caught a thief in the shop? But, what would a thief want with conveyors? I knew, of course, that was not what a thief would have come for—a thief would have been looking for cash in the office.

But it was not a thief the officer was calling me about. What he said next shocked me.

“The Diamond Machine plant is on fire, Mr. Verreault.”

“What?” I shot back stunned.

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write a memoir

Write a memoir: practical how-to information to ace it.

Over the years, I have both worked with people to help them write a memoir and have heard from people who have done the work of writing theirs.

Often these people had never written anything before—not memoir, not fiction, not creative non-fiction. They did not think of themselves as writers. One day these people—as you are now doing—decided it was time to write a memoir. They set about to compose a lasting record of their personal and family stories in writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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write your memoir as sacred text

Writing Memoir as Sacred Text

November offers so many opportunities for writers to tell their stories. And we each have a story that will, indeed, inspire someone. Guest blogger Nina Amir offers a process process to help you put multiple-layers of meaning into any memoir, vignette or essay you write that’s based on your life story. It comes from the […]

memoir interviewing

Memoir Interviewing: how to prepare for one and carry it off!

Memoir interviewing is an integral piece of research. Although you may assume you can depend on your memory when you write your lifestories—memory isn’t always as reliable as you want it to be. Interviews with relevant family members and friends can supplement your memory and broaden the perspective of your memoir.

Below are some notes on how to prepare for the best memoir interviewing you’ll ever undertake!

1) Select whom you will be memoir interviewing.

If your time is limited, or your family is large and offers many choices, it will be all the more important to identify a manageable number of knowledgeable relatives and friends to interview.

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