Interviewing family members and friends is clearly a form of research, but interviews alone are usually not enough to give your stories the depth they require. For that, you need formal research.
What you do before writing is extremely important. Learn more about organizing your writing before you begin.
In this video, Work With or Through Pain: Writing Painful Memories, I talk about writing through painful memories. Pain is often a barrier to memoir writing. Who wants to revisit difficult times? Although delving into the past is a generally pleasant experience and promotes healing and growth, it can also be painful. In fact, sooner or later, pain seems to come with memoir writing. This pain if not handled well, can inhibit—and even stop—you from continuing with your writing. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
A writing prompt in my estimation leads to nothing. I’m not a great fan of a writing prompt. Sure, they get you to writing something. And many people will insist writing something is better than writing nothing. Well, I’m not so sure of that.
Gathering stories at family events—interviewing—is one of these basic steps you can master for writing your memoir. Following these basic steps, anyone can succeed at writing interesting and meaningful memoirs.
As a memoirist, you must always double check the information you already have, and seek new material to flesh out your stories. Reunions, weddings, funerals, birthday and holiday celebrations rate well on both of these tasks: scattered relatives, each of whom has a piece of the family history to share, are in one place at one time. Gathering stories at family events is an opportunity not to be missed. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Celebrating and honoring your life by remembering and writing both big and small stories is very rewarding. It is a significant way to understand your life and to come to peace with it. Your memoirs are a legacy your family will treasure for generations–don’t you wish your grandparents had written their memoirs? Follow these simple […]
Before you begin to write your memoir, there are a number of non-writing tasks which you must undertake—this phase of compiling your lifestory is called memoir pre-writing, and it is essential to writing better stories. People often think of pre-writing as a waste of time, but it is not. It will get your stories written more quickly and more interestingly. [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
When starting on a memoir, it can be difficult to remember all the stories and memories you would like to include. You naturally want to jog your memory.
When you are intent on writing “from the inside out” as we at The Memoir Network hope you will, there are some useful techniques you can use—to add to compiling your Memory List and perhaps even to stimulate it.
[Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]
Writing a memoir is not easy.
Writing a memoir requires a lot of time and energy—but you can do it. You can succeed in writing a memoir. Many people just like you have succeeded in doing so already.
I want to share a system with you for getting started on writing a memoir.
As with so many projects you might undertake, you can reinvent the wheel or you can plug into a system that has been shown to work. My Memoir Network has been helping people just like you to write personal and family stories since 1988 and our proven system can help you, too, to write a memoir.
The system that I have found to be best for launching new writers—and many practiced writers, too—has three parts to it.
1. When writing a memoir, create a memory list.
A Memory List is a list of everything you remember either in your life or in the life of the person you are writing about or, instead of memory listing an entire life, you can choose a part of a life—the period you are currently writing about. In fact, I usually ask people to chose some small period of their intended memoir and To make a Memory List of that time.
To write a better memoir, make use of the core memory list. The extended memory list does not make value judgments about the quality of your memories. The core memory list, however, distinguishes between two sorts of memories— the important from the unimportant.
DL: 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.
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…