Did you find yourself wandering along with your memoir writing in 2021 and not achieving your memoir-writing goals? Do you have a sense that you might have accomplished a bit more writing than you have?
At this time of year, it is traditional to review how the past year went for you and to create goals for yourself for the coming year. (A goal is a wish with action steps and a timeline.) These goals need to be written and reviewed periodically.
Studies have shown that people who set goals in writing have a better outcome vis-à-vis accomplishing what they set out to do. Here’s a report on one such study. (The famous Harvard goal-setting study so many of us have heard of apparently never happened, but the concept of goal setting is clearly important and is explored in the linked article.)
22 Memoir-Writing Goals for 2022
Since this is a memoir writing blog, I thought it is appropriate for me to come up with goals that would further your writing success in 2022. And why not play with the year’s number—22?
A writing coach can help you at every step of the process. Having “been there and done that”—and being able to talk clearly about it, a memoir-writing coach can point you in the right direction and gently correct your course.
A coach is a teacher, a cheerleader, a critic, a motivator, a writing buddy, a person who holds you accountable for meeting your goals, a good listener, and sometimes an editor—and a coach can be more if you need more.
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Now, I don’t expect you to adopt all 22 of these goals. But, do read through all of them and choose—perhaps—five goals to incorporate into your writing life. If you do this, at the end of 2022—or at the latest, in 2023—you will have a memoir ready for publication. It’s up to you.
Of course, depending on where you are in your writing process, some of the memoir-writing goals below may seem too easy or conversely they may seem too difficult. I have not ordered them by difficulty because, first of all, I don’t know what is difficult for you and because, secondly, I don’t want anyone to make a rash judgment, after reading a few items, that “this list is not for me.”
Reword any of the goals so that they deliver for you, reframe them to fit your life, make them work for you. Make them bigger or smaller, but don’t make your new reworked goals easy by eliminating the action steps and the timeline. Nothing like” “I’ll write as much as I can!” (See #1 below.)
Here are 22 worthy memoir-writing goals.
- Write 3 to 5 pages per week, every week. In a year’s time, that will have you producing 150 to 250 pages. Won’t that be great! You’ll have a first draft in hand. You can so do this! (Think you can produce 10 pages a week? Go for it!)
- Read one memoir every two weeks. It is my firm belief that writers need to be readers. Read these memoirs as a writer. Ask yourself questions like: how was the dialog handled? was the pacing of the story appropriate? and did the author have a firm grasp of psychology? Let these memoirs mentor you.
- Make a list of local family and friends you need to interview for your memoir. These are people who can fill the background in for you. Ask them to have artifacts, written material, photos available for you to see and get copies of. Write up a list of what you need to know by the end of your time together. Set up interview dates.
- Connect with distant family and friends who can contribute information to your memoir. Set up Skype appointments to interview them. Ask them to send copies of written material and photos. They could also photograph artifacts for you. Also, make a list of questions you need answers to.
- Join a writing group whose members are at your level of skills. Within this group, press for accountability to commitments. I suggest that no one leaves without committing to a number of pages written by the next meeting. This group can be local (your library bulletin board may be a good source for this) or be online.
- Add five how-to-write-memoir books to your reference library. The more you know, the better. Ignorance is not bliss. A little knowledge could go a long way in saving you time and for producing a better memoir. Here’s a start on your search.
- Write your Memory List. Do not stop until you have 300 items on your list. To refresh your knowledge of Memory Lists, click here.
- Write Memory Lists for your father your mother and anyone else who will appear in your memoir. The Memory List will enhance your remembrance of the connection the two of you had. Stay with these additional lists until you have at least 100 items.
- Tell five people (or more) you are a writer and your current project is writing a memoir. Say this with confidence. They will probably ask you what else you have written. You can tell them, “This is my first book.”
- Enroll in an online writing class or course. Alternately, join a writing class locally if everyone is vaccinated and boosted. Here’s a free five-five lesson online course.
- Hire a memoir-writing coach. Commit to the relationship with this coach. Regular work with a coach will improve your writing. A coach will hold you responsible for your memoir-writing goals.
- If you have progressed sufficiently, an editor—especially a developmental editor—is a great next option. Here’s a link to a free e-book: Before You Send Your Manuscript To an Editor.
- Make a list of people to be part of your beta reader group. Formulate a list of questions for your beta readers to consider. Among important topics would be: Is this story of interest to you? Why? Where does this story lag? What changes would you make? etc. Contact these people and set up a date by which you will send your manuscript. Get a return date decided upon also.
- Upgrade your computing skills so that lack of skills does not get in the way of your creating a great memoir. I know, Shakespeare did not have a computer, but he also did not waste a lot of time trying to make a computer work for him and he did not send PDFs to printers who no longer want hard copy. You can upgrade your skills by following tutorials available with most programs, by following YouTube classes, by taking local classes, by hiring a computer coach.
- Visit the locales of your memoir. These can be places where you lived as a child, or scenes that were important in your parents’ lives and that have had an influence in yours. While there, be sure to take copious notes of physical details and your impressions. Do this either on paper or on a recording device. And absolutely, you are to take photos of buildings and settings.
- Research the history of your community (however you define community). This can be a history of the town, of a religious group, of a class of society, or of an intellectual community. I define community as what you mean when you say ”we.”
- Keep a journal. In it, you will record your thoughts/feelings about writing a memoir, about all the inchoate thoughts and feelings that surface when you consider your memoir-writing goals. A journal need not be orderly. Allow yourself to be as random as you need to be to explore your issues. Subsequently, you may find that you have worked through issues, chronology, and faulty memory. It is even possible that you will be able to transfer material from your journal to your memoir. This can speed up your writing.
- Since words are the tools we writers use to write a memoir, learn 10 new words every week. You can do this by looking up words that you do not know from your reading itself, by working with vocabulary books, by going online to find sites that are devoted to vocabulary development. At 10 new words a week, your vocabulary will increase by 520 new words in 2022. Imagine the increased precision of your writing as an insult! We are not talking big words here; we are talking more precise vocabulary.
- Listen to podcasts interview of writers. Do so at the rate of one podcast a week. You can take notes as you listen to a podcast. If a podcast strikes you as especially developmental, listen to it a second time. Also, if a writer strikes you as important for you, read books s/he has authored. Look up other podcasts with this writer.
- Study the Myers Briggs type indicator to better understand the actions and motivations of the people who figure in your memoir. The MBTI will explain so much of the interactions between the people in your life and you. The MBTI will explain why your parents didn’t get along or why you are not close to your brother! If you do master MBTI, you will probably be asking yourself “Why didn’t I do MBTI earlier?” Factoid: if you are an MBTI “Sensor,” you will find the process meaningless and will probably quit, calling it a waste of time. If you are an MBTI “Intuitor,” the process will be endlessly fascinating and you may even go on to study the Enneagram. As you have guessed, I am an Intuitor—an INFP.
- Have people who figure in your memoir review what you have written about them. This is not to promote writing by committee but to get some input to correct what may be your false, flattering and failing memory. Take feedback of others into account as you rewrite your memoir. But remember, this is your memoir not theirs. If you encounter differences that you are not willing to accommodate, then go with your own version—and perhaps footnote the variant.
- Set a publication date either in 2022 or 2023 to work towards. Break this goal into monthly goals—and in the near term, perhaps weekly. (These are your action steps and timelines.) If you should find yourself falling behind your timeline, why not devote extra time every now and then to catching up. Weekends? Evenings? Be accountable to the publication date. Meet it! Use time management skills you possess and learn new ones. For free time-management booklet, click here.
Below is a comments section. It would be lovely to know which of these memoir-writing goals sound good to you and perhaps which memoir-writing goals are missing here that you wish to pursue.
It is later than you think. If writing a memoir is a bucket goal of yours, don’t put it off.
Write a little bit on your memoir today.
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