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As soon as you begin to think of writing a memoir, you are involved in the writing process. You have begun to be a writer—even if only with a small “w.” Welcome to the “gang.” (We memoirists are all in this together.)

This “Writing Process” category covers a range of material. It is a compendium of disparate materials that together will help you to write more easily and deeply.

Writing a memoir takes skills that you may not now possess. This category, as all of the blog on the Memoir Network site, will help you to acquire what you need to know to write with more skill and pleasure.

As elsewhere, all the articles are included chronologically in the parent category. Like every writer you have challenges that might leave you baffled as to how to respond. Scanning the list will reveal to you posts that you need to read now for answers to the questions that are stumping you.

What you’ll find in “Writing Process.”

If you are just starting out, we have posts on pre-writing. In fact, if this topic interests you at your current stage of memoir writing, go directly to the subcategory called “Pre-writing.”

At the other end of the writing process, we have posts on completing a memoir. These articles are both scattered chronologically in the parent category or they can be found under the subcategory “Completion.”

In conclusion

These articles on writing process will help you, the aspiring the memoir writer, at every stage of your commitment to produce an interesting and meaningful memoir for yourself, your family and—perhaps—for the world.

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. ]

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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.

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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?

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the best memoir writing book

Should You Create an Outline or a Memory List for your Memoir?

DL: An outline or a Memory List? This is a perennial favorite with the search engines. I consider it to be a foundational post whose info can guide you to success. I hope you enjoy it.

A Memory List is far superior to an outline!

For some writers, there comes a moment in writing a memoir when the audacity of the undertaking hits them. Perhaps they think doorslammers like: “This can take forever.” “Writing a memoir will never pay for itself.” “I can’t afford to do this!” They reach for certainty. And that certainly if often a reversion to essay and report writing. They want an outline to assure the task gets done right. So, an outline or a Memory List?

The following is a comment to someone who asked in the Memoir Forum if she should create an outline and how to know when the page and chapters were the right length.

1. Do not write a memoir from an outline.

I do not write from an outline. Instead, I create a Memory List as outlined in Chapter 2 of Turning Memories Into Memoirs. The Memory List helps you to follow the promptings of the unconscious rather than the dictates of the conscious mind as happens with an outline. (An outline is great for an essay—”The Three Causes of the American Civil War”— but it is the death of an exploratory memoir.) So…

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shaping theme

Shaping Your Theme

It is important to spend some time shaping your theme as the theme is the message—the why—of your writing.

You imbue the whole of your story with your theme, and it, in turn, influences the choice of every element in your story—even when you’re not aware of it. In fact, all writing carries a message from the writer, an index of the motivation of the artist. Theme can be as broad as “There are good guys and bad guys, and you can tell them apart” and as subtle as “I want to tell others what it was like to live at a certain time of my life.”
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Don't let writer's blok stop you

The Importance of Facts in Memoir Writing

The importance of facts in memoir writing The importance of facts in memoir writing such as dates, addresses, names, and relationships, are one of its special feature. Memoir writing cannot, without deleting from its value, omit dates and specific identification of locales, names of individuals and their relationships to one another. Memoir writing is factual writing: […]

lightning bug words in memoir

Lightning Bug Words

Are You Using Lightning Bug Words? How do we write in lightning and not in lightning bugs? Using the right words when writing your memoir will illuminate and inform your readers.

Begin Writing Your Memoir

Where Do You Begin Writing Your Memoir?

Is there a best place to start writing your memoir? It’s a quandary: where do you start writing your memoir? Many people may say: from the beginning. But, I don’t think that is the best place to start composing. The answer is actually quite simple.

the best memoir writing book

Add Depth To Your Memoir

It’s time to add depth to your memoir. Here are links to five information-packed articles that are sure to make you think more deeply about your writing—and help you in the important task of re-writing your stories and vignettes so that they form a more coherent and meaningful whole.

A gift for you...
...because you need to get your memoir written. This little book will focus you to complete your memoir.
  • Your memoir deserves to be written. We help people get their story down—right!
  • Writing a memoir or want to improve one you're working on? Download Memoir Writing 101: How to Craft a Compelling Memoir or Lifestory / 10 Steps and a Bonus.
  • Memoir Writing 101 comes with The Lifewriter's Guides, a biweekly "workshop in an email.".
  • If you are already a member of The Memoir Network, this e-book and others are available to you free in Member Resources.