MEMOIR WRITING TIPS
MEMOIR WRITING TIPS
by Anne Curtis
Top Tips for Writing Your Memoir
Memoirs have become incredibly popular in recent years, with a huge surge in the number of memoirs that are being both written and bought. Whilst our fascination with celebrities and celebrity culture is no doubt driving the number of high profile memoirs on the market, some of the biggest memoirs are produced outside of this arena. Memoir writing has a long history that is woven into our literary heart: the earliest novels, which appeared in epistolary form, where created in a form of confessional faux-memoir style: we crave memoir because we crave truth. Do you have a story to tell, or a journal full of notes you think would make a fascinating memoir? Here are some top tips for writing a memoir that people will want to read:
Write What You Know
Firstly, you don’t have to be famous to write a memoir. In fact, the best memoirs are written by individuals without fame or infamy, because it allows the reader to approach their story with fresh eyes and without preconception. Think about what makes you unique, and what story you have lived through that you could share with others that might delight or excite them. Perhaps you had an unusual childhood, have travelled the world, or have worked in an interesting profession. Perhaps you simply have a unique outlook on a human experience you share with many others, such as parenthood or your relationship. Whether it is your experience or your perspective, find out what is unique about your story and write what you know. Your memoir is the story of you, which makes you the expert in the field: make use of having that expert consultant on hand during the writing process, and create a story rich in detail.
Be True To Your Story
Enthusiastic readers of memoir say that they choose to read around the genre because of its honesty: they are able to walk inside someone else’s shoes and experience life from a different perspective. Most keen readers of memoir, therefore, are very good at telling whether the tale they are reading (the shoes they are walking in) is real or whether it has been born from a good imagination. Don’t be tempted to embellish your story, or add details that are fictional in order to give your story more depth if you want to create true memoir (there are, of course, many faux memoirs that are brilliant, but these would fall under the category of fiction). Memoir is a difficult genre to master, mostly because the story you are trying to breathe creative life into is your own, and human nature dictates that we doubt ourselves and our ability to hold the attention of others on our own merit. Many people aren’t sure if there will be any interest in their memoir, if there story is interesting enough, or if they even have enough to say to fill a whole book. This is natural and it is important to be confident: you wouldn’t have sat down to write your memoir if you didn’t think that you had a story others would want to hear. The key, no matter what your story, is to be authentic. Be true to who you are, your past, present, and future, and have faith in that story being something others will want to share.
Keep a Journal
Many good memoirs begin life as a journal: journaling is a popular pastime both for individuals with an interest in the world of writing, and for those using their journal as a therapeutic tool to help them reduce their stress levels or aid in the treatment of drug addiction, alcohol abuse, or any other mental health condition. Many memoirs about abusive childhoods (such as Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the Only Fruit) began life as a series of short journal entries. Whilst most journals are written for personal use rather than with an audience in mind, and therefore are unlikely to be printable in their current format, they can prove useful as a reference to give your story a chronology, to remind you of what you were thinking or feeling at certain points within your story, and to help you flesh out details and memories that the passage of time may have lead you to forget. If you are interested in writing and suspect that you would like to write a memoir of your own life at any point, then some very pertinent advice would be to start writing a journal, today.
Thanks to Anne Curtis for this excellent and informative article. Do you have views on how to write memoir? Would you like to share how you wrote yours? Use the CONTACT link on the menu to ask me about submitting your article just as Anne did! We love hearing from writers and followers of MEMOIRABILIA.