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How Long Does It Take to Write a Memoir?

Sometimes, years after I’ve heard from someone that he is writing a memoir, I will connect with the writer again. Perhaps it’s three or four or five years later, but the writer is working on the same memoir. I don’t get it. So I ask politely, “What has snagged the memoir?” In short…

I has taken that writer too long to write his memoir!

How long does it take to write a memoir?

Well, I don’t actually know the answer  to “how long does it take to write a memoir?” What I know is a memoir needn’t take so long to compose. A memoir—and interesting and meaningful one—can be written in 12 to 24 months.

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If that’s so, then why do some memoirs drag on?

Here are some reasons your memoir may be taking you too long.

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4 Responses to How Long Does It Take to Write a Memoir?

  1. Niki Smart October 7, 2013 at 7:05 PM #

    My memoir (Hell Camp) took roughly four years to write as I only worked on it part time. I don’t think you should set a time limit on writing. It takes as long as it takes. Shantaram took roughly 5 years to complete and I’ve heard of books taking as long as 9 years. I’d rather focus on telling a story really well than rushing to get it done. Still, I think your points are valid and worth thinking about when embarking on a writing project.

  2. Denis Ledoux October 9, 2013 at 10:43 AM #

    Dear Niki,
    Yes, in some fundamental way, memoirs take as long as they take to write. That said…

    Any project—from writing a memoir to painting the livingroom— will take up the time you allot to it. I painted a guest bedroom that needed painting, but it was not a room that I anticipated using in the next months. As a result it took me months to paint it! The livingroom, larger by half, was done in one weekend. I needed the space for my own lounging and for receiving short-term guests.

    Undertake a too-open-ended task and it will take you forever.

    When I have worked with writers in coaching or editing, I have found that 2 to 3 years is often max needed for finishing a memoir. Keeping in mind the bedroom-livingroom experiences, I believe a writer does well to think in terms of a time frame.

  3. evelynalauer October 25, 2013 at 9:51 PM #

    Love this post. Thank you. I started my memoir in Feb. 2012. Then I took a break from May 2012-May 2013 (I had a baby). I’ve been back at it since then, with a year-end deadline for a draft that I’m ready to show some beta readers and an editor. I love #3 on the second list. I need to remind myself of that.

  4. Denis Ledoux October 28, 2013 at 11:56 AM #

    Dear Evelyn, Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, as regrettable as it is, we always miss something in our memoir writing. That’s why we need to start another piece of writing. Many writers and artists have made statements about finishing art. The French poet Paul Verlaine wrote; “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.” Evelyn Waugh, whose birthday we celebrate today as I write this, and Leornado DaVinci have also said something in the same vein.

    Good luck to you in finishing your memoir.

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