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What you do before writing is extremely important. Learn more about organizing your writing before you begin.

formal research

You Need Formal Research

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.

writing prompt

Use This Instead of a Writing Prompt

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

5 Steps to Gathering Stories at Family Events

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.

Gathering stories at family events

When it comes down to it, people love to tell their stories. The family historian’s job is to ask the right questions to get to the heart of the story. Here are five simple guidelines, extracted from both Turning Memories Into Memoirs and The Photo Scribe to facilitate gathering stories at family events. These suggestions will streamline the process for would-be lifewriters: [Free Membership required to read more. See below. ]

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creating a book of memoirs

6 Easy Steps to Creating a Book of Memoirs

Creating a book of memoirs is possible

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. Creating a book of memoirs will leave a legacy your family will treasure for generations–don’t you wish your grandparents had written their memoirs?

Follow these simple writing suggestions and you’ll find the task of preserving your stories is well underway.

1. First, make a Memory List

A Memory List a list of all your life’s important events and relationships. Your Memory List can have hundreds of items. When you sit down to write a story, you’ll have this list of topics handy. The Memory List helps you to focus on things that deserve the most attention. It also primes the pump of memory: the more you write, the more you’ll remember. Your list will grow as you write! At first, just jot things down. As the list gets longer, organize it chronologically. With your Memory List handy to write from, you will never again suffer from “writer’s block!” Creating a book of memoirs will be easier than before.

2. Start anywhere you feel like starting.

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

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memoir pre-writing

Three Tips for Effective Memoir Pre-Writing

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. ]

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jog your memory

(More) Better than Prompts: Five Tips to Help You “Jog Your Memory”

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. ]

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quicker writing

Writing a memoir: how to

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.

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writing a better memoir

Four Tips for Writing a Better Memoir

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.

the best memoir writing book

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

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…

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A gift for you...
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  • Your memoir deserves to be written. We help people get their story down—right!
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