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How to Write a Memoir for a Broader Audience: 4 Tips

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Would you like your memoir to attract a broader audience?  While family and friends are a worthy readership for your memoir, are you one of those many writers who aspires a larger public? Writers will admit, if pushed, that they would enjoy a public response to their efforts. Your story can appeal to strangers—if you […]

Would you like your memoir to attract a broader audience?  While family and friends are a worthy readership for your memoir, are you one of those many writers who aspires a larger public?

Writers will admit, if pushed, that they would enjoy a public response to their efforts. Your story can appeal to strangers—if you pay attention to these four tips—and may even move these strangers to new insights and motivations. And how knows—this broader audience may write you a fan letter.

My newest You Tube video offers you four easy-to-implement tips to help your story to appeal to a public beyond family and friends.

It can be done. You can do it.

Here are four tips to help your story to appeal to a broader public.

Tip 1) Write a story that is truly well-written and whose reading—the prose itself—will bring pleasure to a reader in the broader audience your book deserves.

To do this, you will need to make effective use of a number of fiction writing techniques. These techniques include images, metaphors, similes, suspense, foreshadowing, dialog, etc. into your text.

You will also strive for clarity, coherence, conciseness, completeness, and much more. If you enjoy playing with language and have an ear for it, you can succeed at creating a well-written memoir that will bring pleasure to your readers.

Using fiction techniques is not to say that you ought to fictionalize your memoir. At the Memoir Network, we are very much against making things up in your memoir, fictionalizing your story.

Let me offer you a process to write for a larger audience:

Print your story out. For most writers, a print-out changes their experience of the text. A printed story is somehow provides you with more of a sense of the public. Go ahead and give printing your memoir a try.

Having printed your story, read your story out loud to yourself and preferably to someone else. Note how your story sounds. Experience the flow of your language. Reading aloud will make you more objective about your writing.

Keep a pencil or pen handy and make notes of proposed alterations to the wording and the style. Keep your ego out of the way and let yourself experience hearing your story as a sympathetic listener. Would you be able to tell the writer—who, of course, is you—how you have appreciated the memoir excerpt or would you have to “make nice” when asked what you think of the story you have just read?

Tip 2) Find what is truly unique about your story and explore that thread. These “unique”qualities will appeal to a broader audience.

Perhaps you were experimented on with drugs or perhaps you were a prisoner of war or perhaps you have given birth to sextuplets.

People love to read about a personal experience that is different and unique. And…

It is highly probable that you have done something in your life that is unique—even if it is only during a small portion of your life.

Perhaps there was a time when you tried to reconcile a liberal political view with a conservative religious group or perhaps you were afflicted with a malady that vanished when you took a special cure.

It may take you time to identify what you have experienced that was unique, but be patient with yourself. Linger with your story a while and your uniqueness will come to you. Remember that the uniqueness does not have to appeal to the masses—a niche appeal will do.

Tip 3) Set your story in a historical context if you want to write for a broader audience.

  • Perhaps you were the first person to do something in your group or community—the first man to graduate from a hitherto all-women’s college. You might write about the history of change from single sex schools to mixed gender schools.
  • Perhaps you were in the Vietnam War and you wish to write a memoir from the point of view of an ordinary soldier or perhaps you were a pacifist who opposed the war. Again you will need to include a broader view of what you were involved in.
  • Perhaps you were among the first women to become a financial advisor in your state and want to write about the dissolution of gender barriers in banking.
  • Perhaps you were a housemaid to a significant political family and have stories to tell about national figures who frequented the house where you worked.
  • Perhaps you have a story to tell about what it was like to be a newly arrived Muslim living in North America.

To succeed at setting your story in a larger historical context, you will obviously have to learn about that historical context and be able to write about it with ease. The “bigger picture” gives context to your individual experience. Begin by reading about the historical context, and from that may come how your story can be situated.

Action Steps to help you write for a larger audience:

Make a Memory List of all the differentiating elements of your life—or the particular experience you are writing about—and explore the relationship with the more common experience. How to make a Memory List is elaborated in another video on this Master Class channel.

Tip 4) Find the psychological, the spiritual, the cultural drama in your story.

It often happens that writers who write about the psychological or spiritual unfolding of their own personality, hit a chord that is “universal,” or the typical or normative unfolding and development of a personality. Your memoir then sets your life experience as a possible model. Again, we urge you not to fictionalize your experience for the sake of drama.

A word to the wise: It is in the rewriting stage, as you struggle with the story that is trying both to remain hidden and to come out, that you will most likely achieve the insights that will appeal to a broader readership. So… keep writing. It is possible for you to produce a story that is not only worth your time to write but also worth someone else’s time to read.

In Conclusion

These are your four memoir tips:

1)Write a story that is truly well-written and whose reading—the prose itself—will bring joy to your reader.

2) Find what is truly unique about your story and explore that thread. “Unique” appeals to a public audience.

3) Set your story in a historical context.

4) Find the psychological, the spiritual, the cultural drama in your story.

These four tips will make it possible to go about making an otherwise ordinary life into a story that can appeal to a larger audience.

If you would like to explore receiving help with expanding your reach—or any aspect of memoir writing, we offer a 30-minute complimentary get-to-know-you coaching consultation.

Good luck writing for a broader audience!

Remember: inch by inch, it’s a cinch; yard by yard, it’s hard.

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