Five Tips for Writing a Memoir

Human beings are laced with narrative. Every year marks a new story to tell, new experiences to share with others, and new hardships to learn from. We all have a story. We can all identify with Maya Angelou when she said, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” We desire to be known and to know others. What better way to tell your story than by writing about it? Here are some tips to think about when writing your memoir, especially when you are just starting out.

1. Write your story in 3–4 sentences.

A good exercise to begin with is writing your story in three sentences. What is the main point you want to get across in your story? You may not even know the answer to this when you are starting out, but as you continue to play with this exercise, you’ll start to realize what it is you truly want to communicate to your audience. Write down the reasons you wanted to write a memoir in the first place or think of a specific scene of your life that inspired you to tell your story.

2. Tell the truth, no matter how painful.

It is a difficult and grueling process to write a memoir. You have to deal with memories you may have been suppressing, or don’t necessarily want to uncover. Especially when writing the first draft, it is important to tell the whole truth, no matter how ugly or difficult that may be. This process makes it possible for you to weed out what is or isn’t important. Usually, there is a tendency to leave out the painful experiences, but most of the time, those experiences are the ones worth telling.

3. Your story is important.

As you write your story, you may question why you thought your story should be published. There often comes doubt when dealing with your own life. But the truth is, your story is important. You don’t have to be a celebrity or a hero. We want to read about everyday people who do the extraordinary. People can relate to anyone who shares their story well.

4. Think about how you want to tell it: tense and style.

In the beginning of the process, it’s important to know how you want to tell your story. Are you going to be writing from the past or the present? Are you writing from your childhood-self or from your adult-self? It might be confusing for readers if you jump around between the past and the present. You should also consider telling your story linearly. Memoirs are usually easier to follow when readers can see how your story has progressed over time.

5. Know where you want to end up.

 

It is important to know where you want your story to go. You might not know all of the details in between, but it is crucial to know where you want to begin and where you want to end. Ask yourself questions like: “Why am I telling my story?”, “Who do I want to tell my story to?”, “What have I learned?”, and “Where am I going now?” These questions will help you to narrow down what you should definitely write about and what you shouldn’t.

 

Writing a memoir has many benefits. The process may be difficult and frustrating, but also enlightening and therapeutic. Stick with it and be heartened; not everyone has the courage to shed light on their past and share it with the public.

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