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Archive | Technique: the tools of your memoir writing “trade”

Memoir writing techniques refer to the “tools” of writing. Tools are instruments people use to make or facilitate fashioning something. Often, we cannot make what we want to make without the proper tools. So tools are not only helpful, they are often necessary to our success.

If you were a carpenter, you would use hammers and saws and levels, etc., to create solid, beautiful objects. The carpenter who uses stones and tree branches and kicks materials together with his feet, however, is not likely to  produce a solid, beautiful result. (Not that I would know from personal building experience!)

A range of tools is also true with writing. There are “tools” which we call memoir-writing techniques. If you use them, they will help you to write a more elegant, more interesting and more impactful memoir. Other tools—or lack of them—will produce crude, uninteresting pieces of writing.

How to Use this Category

This section on memoir-writing techniques is our most visited category on the Memoir Writer’s Blog. Rightfully so as it contains a  cornucopia of suggestions for better writing—or should I say “tools” for better writing.

If you have a specific inquiry—for instance, “which point of view should I write my mother’s memoir in?”—go directly to that subcategory in the right hand menu of “Blog Categories” under “Techniques.” In most subcategories, you will receive plenty of insights to help you with your issue. (Beyond this, you ought to consider coaching. Coaching has helped many writers break through impasses—of technique, motivation, insight.)

There are other visitors who may not have a specific need and so may prefer to read through the different titles to select one to learn about various memoir-writing techniques they may eventually need.

Consider this category as a university-level reading list for you to inform yourself on the possibilities of memoir writing.

Below are articles which present many different memoir writing techniques. This list does not, by any means, exhaust the possibilities of techniques. Learn to use these and other tools of writing.

One more thing…

One article in this category, 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, ought to be bookmarked for continuing reference. It’s that good.

In conclusion

The posts below ought to be persuasive in getting you beyond spontaneous writing into writing that helps a reader understand what you have written.

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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book publishing tips

Don’t Wait To Write Your Story!

It is later than you think. In the years I have been helping people write memoirs, I have seen people die and people grow too old. The energy not only to write deeply but to write a memoir at all has been lost to them; their stories have been lost. We go through our days […]

dialog in a memoir

Dialog in a memoir: “So what did you say?”

Dialog is important in a memoir because it allows us to “hear” the subject, but using dialog is also fraught with problems. It can throw your memoir off. Pitfalls of using dialogue in a memoir Essentially, most writers use dialog that is too long. A memoir, of course, is a remembered story. When the writer […]

Point of View in a Memoir

The Wrong Point of View in a Memoir Can Throw the Story

In 1996 and 1997, I composed about 200 pages of a memoir of my high school years and then it wasn’t going anywhere more than where it had been—mired in facts and details with no spirit. What I didn’t know was it had a wrong point of view problem

I merely stored it in various computers for years.

In the fall of 2013, I completed my mother’s memoir (We Were Not Spoiled). Because I was looking for a writing project I might devote myself to next, I picked up the high-school memoir again.

(Lest you think that I went to a high school like yours, let me assure you that I did not. I attended a Catholic high-school seminary. No, I’m not writing about sexual shenanigans—there was none of that whatsoever. I am writing about my life there between 1960 and 1964 and how it shaped me. This theme of identity is usual stuff for a memoir, but the setting is exotic in many ways and not at all usual. Almost none of you who are reading this have “been there”—trust me.)

Suddenly, after more than a decade and a half, the memoir spoke to me again!

“Write me! Write me!” it shouted. The text seemed “alive” again. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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create vivid characters

What everyone ought to do to create vivid characters

Five easy, proven tips for adding feelings to a memoir and creating vivid characters

As a memoirist, do you accept that your family, your friends and your acquaintances are characters in your story? This is a first step in creating vivid characters.

“But, I’m writing about my mother, not about a character,” you say.

Yes, you are writing about your mother and she is a character in your story. If you can’t incorporate that notion into your approach to writing, your memoir will not soar and you wil not create vivid characters—not of your mother or of anyone else.

Without the interactions of and with other people, our lives and memoirs risk becoming dull. Although ideas are pivotal for many individuals, relationships are even more commanding.

We are intrigued with who other people are and how they function. “Who’s that? What are they doing? Where did they come from?” These are questions we want answered.

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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.

–––

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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how to be a better storyteller

How to be a Better Storyteller

In this YouTube video on how to be a better storyteller, I share with you how you can learn to make effective use of a variety of technical skills to shape successful lifestories.

memoir theme

Three Ways an Inauthentic Memoir Theme Will Trip You Up

As you articulate your memoir theme, ask yourself if this memoir theme is really yours—does it reflect your present understanding of your story and of life itself? Or is it a residue of the accepted “wisdom” of someone else: a parent, another adult figure, society at large?

1) A theme that is authentically yours makes for better writing.

It comes from your center of experience. Writers who recognize, acknowledge, and explore their authentic memoir themes in their writing are more apt to present us with clear, to-the-point stories than those who repeat inherited memoir themes or who think they can ignore the issue of theme.

Early in our lives, you and I were naturally and rightfully the recipients of someone else’s—a parent’s or grandparent’s—understanding and interpretation of life. As long as these interpretations correspond to our own adult views, we can write easily within their context. What often happens, however, is that we continue to espouse a point of view inherited from another without realizing that it has ceased to correspond to our own. When challenged, we will say “Well, I guess I really don’t believe that anymore. Isn’t it something how I wrote (or said) that!”

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too much backstory

Too Much Backstory–Are you making memoir writing more difficult than necessary?

How much backstory is too much? Today we will discuss how to avoid too much backstory in your memoir.

I hope this is not you…

You are memoir writing about a time when you—alas—got fired from your job. As you write about this, you throw in your college studies, how much you loved your major and how eager you were for the workplace. Then you go on to write about the catty politics of the office from which you got fired. You even throw in a vignette about your boss’s spouse who came onto you and another snippet about the wasteful (and tasteless) redecorating your boss commissioned. For good measure, you describe the company’s history and…

STOP!!!

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